During the summer of 1917 when the enfranchisement of women was becoming an accepted fact, Millicent Fawcett urged Helena Swanwick to start tackling the next problem: the organisation of women voters with a view to subjecting the political system to effective pressure on women’s issues. ‘I remarked on the difficulty of organising what doesn’t exist’, recalled Mrs Swanwick, to which Fawcett replied, ‘Oh. I shall retire and watch you all floundering.’1 The question remains ]largely unexplored by historians: how much difference did the enfranchisement of women really make? Any answer must involve consideration of a number of distinct themes: changes in the style and agenda of politics, the extent of the success of the women’s movement in achieving its legislative goals, the motivation and tactics of the political parties in managing the influx of women into the system, and the actual impact made by women in electoral terms.
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