It was a celebration of progress and a reminder that more must still be doneby Dawn Starin / June 13, 2018 / Leave a comment
Photo: Dawn Starin Tens of thousands of women across the UK marched through the streets of London, Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh on 10th June to mark 100 years since the 1918 Representation of the People Act gave some women (those over 30 who were householders or married to householders, owners of property worth more than £5, or graduates voting in a university constituency) the vote. It would still be another 10 years until the act was amended and equal suffrage between men and women was established. The marchers, some decked out in period dress from a century ago, donned the colours of the original suffragette movement—green, white and violet—chosen because their initials stand for the slogan “Give Women Votes.” Girls and women (and some men) of all religions, races, nationalities and ages, speaking a multitude of languages, took over the streets toting creative banners. Historic suffragette messages demanding equality were everywhere: “Courage calls to courage everywhere.” “Make more noise.” “Neither freaks nor frumps.” “Deeds not words.” Like many of the early suffragettes’ demonstrations and celebrations, the London march started in Hyde Park near Marble Arch and Speakers’ Corner, symbols of change and free speech and emblems of victory and gathering. Leaving the park, the marchers strode past the Dorchester Hotel where, at the beginning of this year, leading businessmen were caught groping and exposing themselves to female hostesses at a men-only charity gala. Photo: Dawn Starin The march then wove its way down Pall Mall, a bastion of gentlemen’s clubs where a century ago women smashed the windows of the men-only clubs to draw attention to their cause. The course continued down Whitehall past the bronze Memorial to the Women of World War Two where marchers paused to lay flowers and pose for pictures. Next on the route was Downing Street where chants of “Hey, hey Theresa May, what do we want? Equal Pay!” echoed through the halls of government establishments. As the crowd passed the newly-created bronze statue of suffragist Millicent Fawcett, the only statue of a woman in Parliament Square, and on past the Houses of Parliament, chants of “Equal seats, equal say” rang loud and clear. The march ended at the memorial to Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, where a canopy inscribed with the vow, “Our procession has no finish line!” was met with joyous shouts of “YES” and of course, a multitude of proud festive girls and women taking selfies. One hundred years ago, the suffragettes walked along parts of this very same route in the fight for women’s voices to be heard. And, while it was clear that this march was a grateful homage to the original suffragettes, as well as a joyous celebration embellished with highly creative banners and costumes, it was also a very modern-day march, with modern-day demands, highlighting the point that the struggle for equality is nowhere near over. Perhaps in 2028 when the anniversary of 100 years of universal suffrage rolls around, gender inequality will really be a thing of the past.