At the outbreak of the First World War, the right to vote was limited to 60% of male householders over the age of 21. The Suffrage Movement, including the increasingly violent pre-war tactics of the Suffragettes, had put women’s voting rights on the agenda but with little progress. The war changed that forever. Why should men as young as 18 lay down their lives on a foreign battlefield, yet not be able to vote at home? And why should women keep the country running by taking up traditionally male roles in the country’s farms, mines and munitions factories without having equal rights at the polls?
Parliament recognised that voting reform was necessary. The Representation of the People Act 1918 extended voting rights to men aged 19 or over on military service, all men over 21 and some women ‘of property’ over 30; it also paved the way for equal representation which followed in 1928. To mark the Act’s centenary this silver Proof 50p coin features an original design by Royal Mint graphic designer Stephen Taylor. Presented in a Royal Mint case, the coin comes with an illustrated, informative booklet that tells the story of the men and women who fought for the rights and freedoms we enjoy today.