Chartism and Voting 1839-2024

(With thanks to Deborah Roberts for the memories above

from our tribute to the Chartist meeting at Selsley in 1839)

Getting the Right to Vote Wasn’t Easy

An Easy Guide to this History


In 1819, in Manchester, a perfectly legal peaceful meeting of over 60,000 women and men campaigning for the vote for working people was attacked by the military. Over 400 were wounded and 18 died: ‘The Peterloo Massacre’.


At that time, the aristocracy essentially controlled parliament: less than 10% of men had the vote. Then in 1832, middle class men gained the vote. This increased the electorate to about 20% of men. Working-class men and all women were still voteless. Many working-class people had campaigned hard for the vote and had helped the middle classes but were left excluded, disappointed and angry.


This disappointment helped lead to the movement known as Chartism. It was called that because it had a Charter (‘The People’s Charter’) with Six Points that would bring political rights to ordinary people.


The Six Points: 1. All adult males to have the vote rather than needing to own property to vote. 2. Ending the law that you had to own property to be an MP. 3. Make sure that industrial working-class towns and cities had the right number of MPs. 4. MPs to be paid so that it wouldn’t be a hobby of the rich and ordinary working-class people could afford to become MPs.5. Secret voting to stop bribery and intimidation by bosses and landlords etc. 6. Annual parliaments to ensure MPs and governments kept their promises.


The Chartists presented three petitions to parliament (1839, 1842, 1848) with millions of signatures in support: each one was rejected by a parliament setting its face against democracy. Indeed, Chartist leaders faced not only imprisonment but also transportation and execution. It needed courage to stand up for the right to vote and millions showed that courage. Let’s not let them down: this is our heritage!


Remember that! Please honour this memory by ensuring that you are registered to vote!


And also remember the mass-meeting of 5,000 people in support of the People’s Charter on Selsley Hill in 1839 (twenty years after ‘Peterloo’). Our local ancestors took a lot of risks on that day to show their support for the Six Points – so let’s remember that in Stroud and the Five Valleys and beyond by making sure we are registered to vote. They showed courage up there on Selsley Common. Let’s not let them down.


Now for a short quiz: 1. Which of the Six Points has not become law? 2. Can you find out when each of the other five became law? 3. When did all women over the age of 21 get the vote? 4. And men? 5. About what percentage of soldiers in the First World War did not have the vote? 6. When did people over the age of 18 get the vote? 7. What are your opinions on lowering the voting-age to 16?


Finally … Chartism was a movement of its time and focused on men … but not solely …

The following is from the hugely-popular Chartist newspaper, the Northern Star, from 1839:

‘Address of the Female Political Union of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

to their Fellow-countrywomen’
‘We have been told that the province of woman is her home, and that the field of politics should be left to men; this we deny … For years we have struggled to maintain our homes … greet our husbands after their fatiguing labours. Year after year have passed away, and even now our wishes have no prospect of being realised, our husbands are over wrought, our houses half furnished, our families ill-fed, and our children uneducated … We are a despised caste, our oppressors are not content with despising our feelings, but demand the control of our thoughts and wants!’


We remember the fallen at Remembrance-tide.

Let’s also remember the Chartists and register to vote at Election-tide.


If you want to find out more about Chartism nationally, you can visit


If you want to find out more about the meeting on Selsley Common, you can visit

And also