While 100 years of women’s suffrage is certainly a celebratory anniversary, it’s also a contemplative moment in time given the topics of discussion ranging from tampon tax to Weinstein culture over the last 12 months.
Interviewed on BBC, Emmeline Pankhurst’s great granddaughter, Helen Pankhurst, commented that while there’s been so much progress for women over the past 100 years, not simply in legislation, but also in public attitude towards women, particularly when it comes to issues like mental health, but there’s still much to be done. She highlighted a culture of over sexualisation and the pressure to do everything as worrying trends.
There are multiple legislative anniversaries taking place this year – 1918 saw the Representation of the People Act gave all men over 21 and women over 30 years old the vote if they were either a member or married to a member of the Local Government Register, a property owner, or a graduate voting in a University constituency – the start of change at least.
It is also 100 years since the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act, which gave women over 21 the right to stand for election as an MP. Meanwhile, it is 60 years since life peers of both sexes were permitted to be members of the Lords, and 90 years since the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act, which gave women electoral equality with men, and coincided with the death of Emmeline Pankhurst.
While all this is being celebrated in the ‘Vote 100’ centenary exhibition at Westminster Hall from June to September 2018, Emma Watson fittingly began the year promoting the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, saying on Instagram: “The clock’s been ticking on the abuse of power. I stand in solidarity with women across every industry to say #TIMESUP on abuse, harassment, and assault. #TIMESUP on oppression and marginalization. #TIMESUP on misrepresentation and underrepresentation.” One image addresses women, “Dear Sisters”, invoking the vernacular of the Suffragette movement and in fitting solidarity for continued change.
Amongst the commentary on the centenary anniversary there is acknowledgement that votes for women have changed the political and social climate in the UK, and continues do so. As an organisation that strives for innovations that improve working hours, benefits and enjoyment for all staff including women and parents with initiatives to improve accessibility and flexibility, we look forward to seeing what this year of promise brings.