What Did The Prime Minister Henry Asquith Say About Women's Suffrage After The First World War? Did He Change His Opinion?


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Mark Henderson answered
When World War One ended, Herbert Henry Asquith (1852 - 1928)  appeared to recognize the important role women had played in the war effort, when he said: "I have listened with greatest interest... If women's suffrage has to come, we must face it boldly." However, this would ultimately prove to be the only mildly supportive sentiment that Asquith would ever make about the Women's Suffrage Movement, and he is generally regarded as one of its most staunch opponents.

Asquith served as the Liberal Prime Minister of Britain from 1908 to 1916. He was a long-time opponent of women's suffrage and thus became a hate figure for the suffragettes. Asquith announced in 1911 that if he was returned to power then women with property would get the vote, but he did not keep this promise when he was victorious in the general election. He extended the vote to all adult males but not to women. As a result, the suffragettes organized window-breaking campaigns including attacks on Downing Street and Asquith's home.

Asquith was perceived as a disastrous leader during the war (despite his peace time achievements) and a succession of political and military crises led to his replacement by David Lloyd George in 1916. Lloyd George had the backing of the press and was a more inspiring leader than Asquith. However, although history remembers Lloyd George as "the man who won the war", most of the major war reforms were actually implemented by Asquith. 

Even after his replacement by Lloyd George, Asquith's attitude towards Women didn't change. He was victorious in a by-election in 1920 but remarked of his female electors, "A dim lot, for the most part hopelessly ignorant of politics."

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