In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many European women were still struggling for basic rights such as choosing who they married, obtaining full citizenship and having the right to vote. Because so many women were fighting for the same thing, many formed groups or alliances that were designed to fight against the male-driven political parties that wanted to deny them their rights. As the “woman question” became a bigger deal in politics and society, people began to form stronger opinions about whether or not they thought women should be allowed to vote.
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The eighteenth century in Europe began a revolution on the topic of women’s suffrage. An overwhelming amount of feminist groups argued for women’s suffrage and fought against the leading political parties to voice their opinions and try to incite change in the European governments. Starting in the eighteenth century, women and a few men like John Stewart Mill began fighting for more women’s rights and women’s suffrage in Europe. John Stewart Mill believed that the institution of the family was very corrupt because it was based on subordination and suppression of women.
He believed that letting women vote would promote social strength and a moral regeneration (Document 1). Female political activist also fought for women’s rights by saying that, if women are nearly half of the population, excluding them from voting was a complete contradiction to the idea of universal suffrage (Document 2). Continuing with the idea of the expansion of universal suffrage, many people argued that allowing women to vote would broaden the base of democracy and weaken the traditional vices in European governments (Document 4). Many feminist groups emphasized the connection between domestic politics, society and the government.
If women aren’t allowed to vote, they lose control over their domestic responsibilities as well and the high-class society begins to slip away (Document 5). The idea that social and political roles of women were very much connected allowed for a steady argument in favor of women’s suffrage. Allowing women to vote would also allow for new ideas and could open new doors for the government and begin a change for the better (Document 9). People also believed that allowing women to vote would be the political step that could help to tear down social barriers as well.
Women’s suffrage would lessen or eliminate male superiority and therefore lessen the limits that were put on women’s educative and professional opportunities (Document 10). People fought for women’s suffrage because they believed it could open new doors politically as well as allow women to grow and contribute socially and economically to society as well. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there were many groups and organizations that fought for the right for women’s’ suffrage, however there were just as many who also fought against them.
Many men that were already involved in the government were opposed to women’s suffrage because they feared that it would lessen their power and diminish the importance of their vote. They also believed that, since women weren’t actively involved in the political process, they were receiving new and updates from second hand sources. These sources could then influence the woman’s decision and would cause women’s suffrage to be an unfair advantage for a certain political party (Document 3).
Many people also argued that their home and family was their “domestic sanctuary” and without the stability of a non-political woman in the house, war could break out. This caused people to immediately believe that involving women in politics would lead to war (Document 6). There were also women who believed that women’s suffrage was a bad idea. They believed that, because they knew first had that women were emotional and quick to jump to conclusions, women would make quick and rash decisions that would not be good for the government (Document 7).
There were also the people who believed that women were the inferior gender and were therefore weak and unable to handle the stress and difficulty involved in politics and the government (Document 11). Some people also argued that women were not supposed to be involved in politics because it was not socially acceptable. They said that women were supposed to be loved and kissed and not forced to handle the struggles of making hard political decisions (Document 12). People who argued against women’s suffrage believed that women were too weak and delicate to handle the ups and downs of political involvement.
Women’s suffrage was a major discussion point in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and many people had very strong feelings about whether or not women should be allowed to vote. People for women’s suffrage believed that allowing women to vote would open new doors for the government and lead countries in the right direction. However, the people who fought against women’s suffrage believed that women were too weak, emotional and irrational to make beneficial decisions that had their government and country’s best interest in mind.