This year marks the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave the vote to some women.
There are events, exhibitions and celebrations held all over the country, but what will your WI do to mark the occasion?
You might hold a Suffragist meeting or tea (an equali-tea!)? Or what about inviting some school-age girls to a meeting to talk about the importance of voting? You might want to hold a competition for a suffrage-themed poster or poem? There are lots of possibilities!
If your WI has a book group, why not read a book about the suffrage movement?
Some newly-published books you might be interested in on the subject are:
- Hearts and Minds: The Untold Story of the Great Pilgrimage and How Women Won the Vote by Jane Robinson
- Deeds Not Words: The Story of Women’s Rights – Then and Now by Helen Pankhurst
- Rise up Women! The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes by Diane Atkinson
- Christabel Pankhurst: A Biography by June Purvis
The ties between the WI and the Women’s Suffrage movement are strong. Grace Hadow, the WI’s first Vice-Chairman, suggested that Jerusalem should become the official WI song. Jerusalem had been used by the National Union of Suffrage Societies in the 1918 celebrations of women’s enfranchisement, and many of the leaders of the NFWI, including Hadow, had been part of that struggle to win the vote for women. Millicent Fawcett, the leader of the suffragists, wrote to Hubert Parry, ‘Your Jerusalem ought to be made the women voters’ hymn’, which of course in a way it was, being adopted by the WI.
Have you forgotten to pick up a 2018 calendar? If so, the Fawcett Society is selling beautiful limited edition Suffrage Centenary calendars. Click here to buy yours.
The National Trust is celebrating by showcasing some of their properties that have strong connections to women who influenced the suffrage movement. Gunby Hall in Lincolnshire was home to the women’s rights campaigner Emily Massingberd. Cliveden in Berkshire was home to Nancy Astor, the first sitting female MP and Bodnant House in Conwy was the home of Laura McLaren, the founder of the Liberal Women’s Suffrage Union.
If you’re planning to be in London in the coming months, you might be interested in The National Archives season, “Suffrage 100”, throughout 2018. There will be talks, a film screening, displays and story-telling at the National Archives in Kew. Click here for more details.
The London School of Economics is also planning a programme, Suffrage 18, to mark the Centenary. It includes introductions to new books, talks, hands-on activities for adults and families, performance, an exhibition and online schools resources. They have also published this handy suffrage timeline:
But you don’t have to go to London to join in. Have you ever tried a FutureLearn course? These are free high-quality online courses from top universities and specialist organisations. Beginning on 5th February, you can start a three-week course entitled Beyond the Ballot: Women’s Rights and Suffrage from 1866 to Today. During the course, you’ll travel back to the 19th century to explore the legal, social and economic frameworks that limited women’s rights prior to the vote and discover the pioneering women campaigning for change. You will learn the story of how and why the vote was extended to women in 1918, the movements behind this change and how the struggle for equality continued throughout the twentieth century. To sign up for the free course, click here.
Whatever you choose to do to mark this very special anniversary, do let us know. We’d love to share your stories here on our website and in County News!