National Liberal Federation

At a meeting of the National Liberal Federation on 17th July, 1883, to discuss the proposed new Reform Act, the 2,000 delegates passed a resolution that stated that: "any measure for the extension of the suffrage should confer the franchise on women, who, possessing the qualifications which entitle men to vote." However, when the 1884 Reform Act was passed Parliament decided not to give women the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

Women in favour of women's suffrage in the party decided to form the Women's Liberal Federation. This group had no success in persuading the male leadership of the Liberal Party in parliament to support legislation. Suffragists within the party doubted the commitment of the leader of the organisation, Countess of Carlisle, to the cause and in 1887 a group of women, including Eva Maclaren, Frances Balfour and Marie Corbett, formed the Liberal Women's Suffrage Society.

Joan Drew, Won't You Let Me Help You John?,Artists' Suffrage League poster (1909)
Joan Drew, Won't You Let Me Help You John?,
Artists' Suffrage League poster (1909)

Primary Sources

(1) In her Memoirs, Margery Corbett discussed the formation of the Liberal Women's Suffrage Society.

The Women's Liberal Federation had the Countess of Carlisle as President, an obstinate and devoted follower of Asquith, determined to prevent any criticism of his anti-suffrage policy. So my mother (Marie Corbett), Mrs Maclaren and Mrs Heron Maxwell started a Liberal Women's Suffrage Society.