National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship
The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies became the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship (NUSEC) in March 1919. Eleanor Rathbone succeeded Millicent Fawcett as president of the new body. Later that year Rathbone persuaded the organization to accept a six point reform programme. (1) Equal pay for equal work, involving an open field for women in industry and the professions. (2) An equal standard of sex morals as between men and women, involving a reform of the existing divorce law which condoned adultery by the husband, as well as reform of the laws dealing with solicitation and prostitution. (3) The introduction of legislation to provide pensions for civilian widows with dependent children. (4) The equalization of the franchise and the return to Parliament of women candidates pledged to the equality programme. (5) The legal recognition of mothers as equal guardians with fathers of their children. (6) The opening of the legal profession and the magistracy to women.
The NUSEC had close links with the Labour Party and Ramsay McDonald and were bitterly disappointed when its 1924 minority government was unable to give the vote to women on the same basis as men. However, MacDonald did appoint Margaret Bondfield as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Labour.
A bill was introduced in March 1928 to give women the vote on the same terms as men. There was little opposition in Parliament to the bill and it became law on 2nd July 1928. As a result, all women over the age of 21 could now vote in elections. Many of the women who had fought for this right were now dead including Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Barbara Bodichon, Emily Davies, Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy, Constance Lytton and Emmeline Pankhurst.
Millicent Fawcett, the leader of the NUWSS during the campaign for the vote, was still alive and had the pleasure of attending Parliament to see the vote take place. That night she wrote in her diary: "It is almost exactly 61 years ago since I heard John Stuart Mill introduce his suffrage amendment to the Reform Bill on May 20th, 1867. So I have had extraordinary good luck in having seen the struggle from the beginning."
After the passing of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act the NUSEC was disbanded.
(1) Vanessa Thorpe and Alec Marsh, The Observer (11th June 2000)
Entries in the diary of a suffragette have revealed that key members of the Votes For Women movement led a promiscuous lesbian lifestyle.
The diaries of supporter Mary Blathwayt, kept from 1908 to 1913, show how complicated sexual liaisons - involving the Pankhurst family and others at the core of the militant organisation - created rivalries that threatened discord.