Women have come a long way in past 100 years

Rutherglen Reformer - - News From The Pews -

Last week marked the 100th an­niver­sary of the pass­ing of the Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Peo­ple Act on Fe­bru­ary 6, 1918, which saw the ex­ten­sion of vot­ing rights to some women.

Whilst the act only gave the vote to some women, such as those over 30 who had prop­erty, it was, nonethe­less, a mo­men­tous stag­ing point in the strug­gle for equal­ity which had spanned sev­eral decades.

The Suf­frag­ist move­ment ac­tu­ally be­gan in the last quar­ter of the 19th cen­tury with the for­ma­tion of the Na­tional So­ci­ety for Women’s Suf­frage in 1872.

In 1897 the Na­tional Union of Women’s Suf­frage So­ci­eties was formed.

In 1903 dis­agree­ment over the wish of some ac­tivists to take more di­rect ac­tion led to the for­ma­tion of the Women’s So­cial and Po­lit­i­cal Union, or the Suf­fragettes, as they came to be known.

Both groups cam­paigned ac­tively to change the opin­ion of a male dom­i­nated so­ci­ety. They held marches and large meet­ings across the UK. They formed con­stituency level groups at gen­eral elec­tions to cam­paign for can­di­dates who sup­ported votes for women.

There were very ac­tive women’s suf­frage groups through­out Scot­land, with the Scot­tish head­quar­ters of the Women’s So­cial and Po­lit­i­cal Union, (WSPU) based in Glas­gow.

The di­rect ac­tion taken by the Suf­fragettes is well doc­u­mented.

One of the most promi­nent mem­bers of the WSPU, He­len Craw­furd, a min­is­ter’s wife, who joined the or­gan­i­sa­tion in Ruther­glen in 1910 and was known to break a win­dow or two her­self. In fact, she was jailed for a month af­ter one such protest in Lon­don.

He­len also formed part of the body­guard that smug­gled the fa­mous Suf­fragette leader, Emily Pankhurst, into a large rally in Glas­gow in 1914.

At a protest the fol­low­ing day she broke more win­dows at a rally and was sen­tenced to an­other month in Duke Street jail.

He­len went on hunger strike and, fol­low­ing protests out­side the jail, the author­i­ties re­lented and re­leased her af­ter eight days.

The 1918 act was only a par­tial vic­tory though, and was still far from the goal of de­liv­er­ing equal­ity of suf­frage. We had to wait un­til the Equal Fran­chise Act of 1928 be­fore all women, and all men, were al­lowed to vote at the age of 21.

An­other im­por­tant mile­stone 100 years ago, in 1918, was the pass­ing of the Par­lia­ment (Qual­i­fi­ca­tion of Women) Act, which al­lowed women to be­come MPs for the first time. One hun­dred years on we have a fe­male first min­is­ter, a fe­male prime min­is­ter and women lead­ing coun­cil ad­min­is­tra­tions.

We are also mak­ing progress in other ar­eas and it was good to see the gen­der rep­re­sen­ta­tion on Pub­lic Boards (Scot­land) Bill passed ear­lier this month. As the ti­tle sug­gests, the bill sets an ob­jec­tive for 50 per cent of non-ex­ec­u­tive mem­bers of pub­lic boards to be women. It also re­quires steps to be taken to en­cour­age women to ap­ply to be­come non-ex­ec­u­tive mem­bers of pub­lic boards.

Politi­cians from all par­ties came to­gether last Tues­day in the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment to mark this im­por­tant day with a de­bate on the women’s right to vote cen­te­nary. This was a very con­sen­sual de­bate which cel­e­brated how far we have come, but also noted that, with only 35 per cent of MSPs be­ing women, how far we still have to go.

And that is true, not just for po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, but for the con­tin­u­ing cam­paign for gen­der equal­ity at all lev­els of so­ci­ety.

As a woman in pol­i­tics I see it as my mis­sion to en­cour­age other women and girls to get in­volved and help se­cure gen­der bal­ance in rep­re­sen­ta­tion and the equal­ity across so­ci­ety that our grand­moth­ers fought for.

It is my mis­sion to en­cour­age other women and girls to get in­volved

In­spi­ra­tions The women of the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment came to­gether to mark 100 years since the pass­ing of the Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Peo­ple Act

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.