The Representation of the People Act of 1918 redefined the political status of British women. Their involvement in formal party-political structures had altered throughout the nineteenth century as parties responded to the demands of industrialisation, an expanding electorate and a rise in contested elections. Women had played an important role in shaping party responses through their work in auxiliary organisations, or, if they were socialists, also as equal members. The numbers of women involved in local government grew and their involve-ment became more formalised as the state took over many of their traditional charitable and philanthropic roles. During the First World War, government increasingly expected women to pay a role in administration and set up bodies such as the Central Committee for the Employment of Women to enable this. Yet despite suffragists’ best efforts, Parliament remained closed to women.
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