Reappraising the Representation of the People Act, 1918 Conference, 14 September 2018

Contributed by Amy Cross, University of Central Lancashire The passing of the Representation of the People Act in February 1918 was a defining moment in British history. By extending the franchise to all men over 21 and women over 30 who met the qualifying criteria the Act transformed the electoral system in Britain, tripling the electorate to nearly twenty four million. To mark the centenary year of this landmark reform a one day conference, ‘Reappraising the Representation of the People Act, 1918’, was held at the University of Central Lancashire. Organised by Dr David Stewart, Dr Nick Mansfield and Dr Jack Southern, the conference drew on themes of gender, class, nationhood and local identity in its examination and reappraisal of the Act. Professor Karen Hunt from Keele University opened the first panel with an engaging paper on Class and Adult Suffrage during the Great War. The paper detailed how the war, and the rhetoric of freedom and inclusiveness which came with it, galvanised the fight for adult suffrage and encouraged many to move from campaigning for limited women’s suffrage to full adult suffrage. The paper concluded with a call for greater recognition of the important role played by adult suffragist organisations in the campaign for the extension of the franchise in order to counterbalance the heavy emphasis on women’s suffrage movements in the histories of this period. Dr David Swift followed with a paper that touched on similar themes, exploring the interaction between gender and class through the lens of working-class women of the Left and the vote. Focusing on left-wing working-class women who campaigned for the extension of...