Electing women to the House of Commons
November 25, 2019 - A record number of female candidates have registered to take part in Britain’s general election. Since first being permitted to stand in 1918, 494 women have taken their seats as Members of the House of Commons.
An analysis by the Press Association shows that 1,120 female candidates have registered -- 34 percent of the total -- the highest proportion of women candidates in a British general election in history, up from 29% in 2017 and 26% in 2015.
Finland trailblazed the path for women over a century ago. In the 1907 elections, Finland elected 19 female lawmakers. They made up 9.5% of the elected members, a level that the UK had still not reached in 1992.
In 1918, Britain passed the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act which allowed women to become MPs for the first time. Seventeen women stood in the December 1918 general election. Constance Markievicz was the sole woman elected but as a member of Sinn Féin, she did not take her seat at Westminster.
On December 1, 1909, Nancy Astor became the first woman to sit in the Commons after winning a by-election in Plymouth Sutton for the Conservatives.
Women did not make up more than 10 percent of candidates until 1979 when Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first woman prime minister. That year, 11 percent of candidates were female. However, the 1979 election produced only 19 women out of the 635 members of parliament, just 2.9 percent.
There were 206 women in the House of Commons in the last parliament -- a record high of 32 percent.
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