Progress on women's rights and gender equality since 1866

The Fawcett Society has been campaigning for women's rights for over 150 years through impactful research and hard-hitting campaigns. Scroll through the timelines below to explore key dates marking progress in women's rights since 1866. 

Created with flickr slideshow.
Click here to download references

Millicent Fawcett: a tireless and courageous leader

Portrait of Millicent Fawcett and back of broochThe Fawcett Society's story begins with Millicent Fawcett, a suffragist and women's rights campaigner who made it her lifetime’s work to secure women the right to vote.

At the age of 19, she organised signatures for the first petition for women’s suffrage, though she was too young to sign it herself. She became President of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (the NUWSS) from 1907-19. With 50,000 members it was the largest organisation agitating for female suffrage at the time. Her powerful and peaceful mass campaign was instrumental in securing the first extension of voting rights for women in 1918.

Millicent worked alongside the Suffragettes, who employed different, and more militant tactics in their campaign. From the beginning, Millicent took an interest in women’s empowerment in its broadest sense; the suffragette colours were green, white and violet which stood for Give Women Votes. The suffragist colours, by contrast, reflected their broader movement: green, white and red or Give Women Rights.

In 1913 she was awarded a brooch engraved with “For Steadfastness and Courage”, which The Fawcett Society still has today. Millicent Fawcett died in 1929, a year after women were finally given equal voting rights. Her work has continued ever since, with The London Society for Women’s Suffrage renamed as The Fawcett Society in her honour in 1953.

2018 marks 100 years since women first secured the right to vote, and Millicent Fawcett will be making history again. She'll become the first woman commemorated with a statue in Parliament Square – a landmark moment for the wider suffrage movement, and for women everywhere.

Get involved: Inspire young people with our suffrage history

We've come so far since we began campaigning for gender equality in 1866, but our work isn't over yet. 

We are launching Future Fawcett, education outreach programme to coincide with the suffrage centenary, teaching young women about the history of women's rights in Britain, and what they can learn from it to tackle gender inequality in their everyday lives. 

We want to recruit and train 100 volunteers to go into schools to talk about 100 years of women’s votes, and the challenges faced by young women today. Support Future Fawcett by donating or signing up to be a volunteer.