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Free online course from Royal Holloway and UK Parliament marks 100 years of votes for women

  • Date22 January 2018

Royal Holloway, University of London, in partnership with the UK Parliament, is launching the course Beyond the Ballot: Women’s Rights and Suffrage from 1866 to Today. This free online MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), delivered by FutureLearn, the social learning platform, explores the campaign for votes for women and its impact on women’s rights and equality to the present day.



The launch of the course coincides with the 100 year anniversary of the enactment of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which, for the first time, gave some women and most men the right to vote. Beyond the Ballot starts on 5 February 2018. It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Parliament’s Vote 100 Project, a year-long programme of events celebrating a century of women’s voices in Parliament.

Expert tuition

The course takes learners on a journey back to the nineteenth century to explore the legal, social and economic frameworks that limited women’s rights prior to the vote. It also introduces learners to some of the pioneering women who campaigned for change. Through rich content including interviews with historians and experts from Royal Holloway and the UK Parliament, learners will develop their understanding of how and why the vote was extended to women in 1918. They will explore the movements seeking to create change and discuss how the struggle for equality continued throughout the twentieth century. Highlights include access to rarely seen documents from The National Archives and the Parliamentary Archives, as well as interviews with female MPs reflecting on some of the remaining barriers to equality.

Matthew Smith, Senior Fellow in Public History at Royal Holloway, University of London, said: “Beyond the Ballot looks to challenge many of the myths and preconceptions that surround women’s lives in the nineteenth century, and to put the campaign for the vote into its wider social and political context. We will also explore the crucial question of what happened after votes for women had been achieved. We want to encourage as many people as possible to register for this free course as it’s important to understand why women wanted the vote in the 1800s, how they campaigned to achieve their goal and what impact the vote has made to this day.”

Parliamentary celebrations

Mari Takayanagi, Senior Archivist in the Parliamentary Archives, said: “Here in Parliament we've been working towards 2018 celebrations for some time with our Vote 100 Project, and Beyond the Ballot is a really important part of this. It's a great way of sharing many amazing and little-known stories of women in public life and politics over the last 200 years, with as wide an audience as possible. So many issues are still relevant today, and we hope people from all over the world will sign up, complete the course, and participate in the discussion.”

Nigel Smith, Head of Content at FutureLearn, said: “This is an incredibly important part of UK history, a very relevant topic today, and an exciting project to be part of. In particular, I’m delighted that we’re able to provide a platform to enable a huge volume of people from across the globe to get access to and learn from the materials from the National and Parliamentary Archives, as well as hear about the women who influenced politics over the last two centuries. I’m always proud of our vision at FutureLearn: to build a global community where everyone learns together and enjoys access to the education they need to transform their lives; this course certainly embodies that vision.”

Vote100 at Royal Holloway

Royal Holloway, University of London, is built on the foundations of two of the very first institutions established to give women access to higher education. These pioneering colleges were established in the formative early years of the women's suffrage movement, and, in the case of Royal Holloway College, established some 10 years before the formation of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. As an institution whose founders were at the vanguard of progressing women’s equality, Royal Holloway is marking the centenary of the right to vote and celebrating its progressive history and commitment to diversity and equality with a year-long celebration of suffrage, called Vote 100 at Royal Holloway.

The university’s calendar of events in 2018 will bring to life the legacy of suffrage and the development of democracy. Highlights include a women's suffrage exhibition in the university’s new Emily Wilding Davison Building, named in honour of this Royal Holloway College alumna, a free online course in partnership with UK Parliament called Beyond the Ballot and an international conference on women at university, alongside community projects and specially commissioned works of music and theatre. 

Find out more about the course on the FutureLearn website.

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