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Find out what Nottingham has been getting up to in celebrating 100 years of votes for women! Why is it important to recognise the centenary? What lessons can we take from suffrage campaigners in today’s world? Our fantastic community of bloggers reveal their thoughts below…

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Celebrating our fantastic Centenary Cities Year

Our wonderful Centenary Cities Nottingham year of celebrating the 100th anniversary of some women getting the vote has now ended. The Year was organised and led by our 4 partner organisations – Nottingham City Council; Nottingham Women’s History Group; The Party Somewhere Else and Nottingham Women’s Centre. We held a celebration event on December 14th and have shared our reflections on the year and the event here.

As a partnership Centenary Cities Nottingham worked tremendously hard throughout 2018 to provide some fantastic and varied activities last year, with the aim of engaging women from all parts of the city, from all different walks of life, with varying interests and backgrounds. With our full-proof idea of having a themed approach to each of our activities (politics, art, history and community), I think it’s safe to say we succeeded….(if I do say so myself!).

As an organisation Nottingham City Council were pleased to lead on the more politically driven events over the past year. These included a Voter Registration drive in the city centre encouraging more women to register to vote, engagement with schools to educate our young people on the suffrage movement and the importance of voting, as well as a really great equalities discussion at the beginning of the year that included a fabulous panel of guests and some really insightful audience participation. It was really great to see so many people engaging with our events and expressing to us what the suffrage movement meant to them.

On a personal note, it was an absolute pleasure for me to get involved in the activities all throughout last year. Not just as an organiser, but as an attendee, learning more about the Suffrage movement, the role Nottingham played in the movement, as well as all of the hard work and determination it took from such brave women 100 years ago to get us to where we are today. I’m truly grateful to honour and celebrate them and I look forward to seeing what the future holds – role on 2028!

Letrice – Nottingham City Council

 

The Party Somewhere Else are an independent collective of maverick creatives who all happen to be women. Founded in 2017, they organise events that promote and showcase creative performance work led by women and non-binary artists. During 2018 The Party Somewhere Else worked with Centenary Cities Nottingham to create women-led empowering artistic events to celebrate 100 years of some women getting the vote. We held workshops and debates about voting rights and suffrage during our week-long festival at Nottingham Playhouse in March, which included the work of Katy Willoughby, creator of Emily Matters. We re-imagined plays from 100 years ago about suffrage as part of performances and workshops for the pupils at Trinity School. We commissioned a play from East Midlands writer Emily Holyoake about Helen Kirkpatrick Watts – Nottingham’s best known militant Suffragette. Finding her writing so rich, and relevant 100 years on, we decided to make the script into a film, full of wonderful Nottingham landmarks and Nottingham people.  We premiered the film Your Daughter at the celebratory event and hope that this film continues the Suffragette legacy into 2019 and beyond.

AuROARa was commissioned by Centenary Cities to create a community project.  We tied this in with Light Nights and sent a group of women (with thermals) out on a cold February evening to light up the night with Suffragette colours and song.  Using the chants they took on the marches we walked through the street ending at the National Galleries of Justice.  For the event AuROARa brought some of the songs from this event to encourage all to have their voice at the opening of the celebration.

Nikki – The Party Somewhere Else

Nottingham Women’s History Group had a busy but highly enjoyable year, holding or participating in events nearly every month.  February, the centenary month of the Representation of the People Act 1918, was extremely busy. Group members were lucky enough to be invited to an event at Holme Pierrepont Hall, where they were celebrating their suffragette ancestor Georgina Brackenbury.  Georgina was closely involved with the Pankhursts and, indeed, painted an iconic portrait of Emmeline Pankhurst which is on display in the National Portrait Gallery to this day. Then, on the 10thFebruaryNottingham Women’s History Group held their commemorative gathering in the International Community Centre with speakers Cathy Hunt, an independent researcher and historian, and Krista Cowman, Professor of History at the University of Lincoln. The group also arranged a screening of the film Suffragette at Broadway Cinema. February also included a tour of a selection of art by women artists in Nottingham Castle Museum’s collections.

In March, two group members had a hand in producing Castle Rock’s Helen Watts beer – part of their Nottinghamians range of beers. We added juniper berries to a vast vat of mild to make a very tasty brew – we hope some of you managed to sample it when it was launched in April.

In the summer, NWHG held two re-enactments of the Great Suffragist Pilgrimage of 1913. At Pleasley, the vicar, Caroline Phillips, embraced the project with great enthusiasm and got the staff of the local primary school involved. We marched with 150 children to the church where the children entertained us with songs and poems on the suffrage theme. Another, longer, re-enactment march was held on 9 August.  The end of August saw the group presenting a paper about these re-enactments at the 2018 Women’s History Network Conference in Portsmouth.  The paper Women on the Move: The Suffrage Pilgrimage in Nottinghamshire 1913 was well received, and our colourful presentation and dress – in the suffragist colours or red, white and green –  brightened everyone’s day.

For the final event of this important year, NWHG invited members of the Watts family to unveil a plaque to Nottingham Suffragette Helen Kirkpatrick Watts in the Arboretum on Friday the 14th December. The family had joined NWHG two years ago to help us plant a juniper tree in Helen’s memory, and returned to Nottingham for the plaque unveiling.

At times, organising these events had been tiring and rather stressful, but the end results were always so enjoyable and rewarding that we all agreed that each event had been well worth the effort. But Nottingham Women’s History Group is not taking a back seat in 2019! Rather, we are looking forward to exploring the effect the newly won vote and accompanying legislation, such as the Adult Education Act 1919 and the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, had on women, in terms of opening up educational opportunities and professions to women.

 

Sian from Nottingham Women’s History Group

At Nottingham Women’s Centre we saw the 2018 anniversary of suffrage for some women as an opportunity to engage with the Women of Nottingham today on the issues that are important to them, to hear their views and to support them around activism and being heard better by elected representatives.

As part of this work we held a number of focus groups with women which we use to inform our WoManifesto – Manifesto for Women for the 2019 local elections. We held an EqualiTeas event to bring women into the Centre to talk about their issues over tea and cake, we welcomed Parliament Outreach to the Centre to talk to women on how to engage with the many parts of parliament to be heard and bring about change. We supported the 2018 Reclaim the Night Nottingham to engage with and reach as many local women as possible as well as many other events.

We also created a number of small grants for other organisations to fund activities to engage more people in democracy.

Joanne – Nottingham Women’s Centre

 

Here is what some people who came along to our events had to say about Centenary Cities

It was such a great event and left me both with a sense of deep gratitude for everything we owe the suffragists and the women who came before us as well as fired up to break the barriers to equality that still exist. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants – and the celebration really brought that home.

The event was so well put together – I loved how there were so many different elements that really enabled us to celebrate and reflect in different ways, from the choir to Georgina’s poems. The film was especially poignant in communicating Nottingham’s pride in Helen Watts, who should be celebrated as one of our greatest local heroes. As a legacy from this year, I’d love for us to get to a point where people in Nottingham know Helen Watts like they know Robin Hood, Byron, Brian Clough and George Green!

And

I attended two events as part of the celebration – the debate at Bromley House library and the end-of-year party. I enjoyed both – the debate featured some great speakers making excellent points for both sides (although I sided against the house for the final count) and the celebration event was a powerhouse of entertainment. I always love to hear local poets, and the short film was very enjoyable. In particular it was a lovely surprise for me to see my cousin’s choir performing!

As for the future, my hope is that the next hundred years sees politicians stop behaving like they are in a Victorian gentlemens’ club, and that men and women work together to create more equal opportunities at every level of our society.

and

Fantastic evening, Thank you! Loved Georgina’s poems and the film and the choir were wonderful (best £300 worth of funding ever!)

and

Thanks for a great evening. I am inspired by the choir, the poetry, the film and all the fabulous events you have organised.

Finally

What a year! Here’s to 2028! 10 years and universal suffrage! Fantastic!

And due to popular demand here is the poem written by the Nottingham Young Poet Laureate Georgina Wilding and performed at our event in December

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EqualiTeas 2018 – Katy Lewis-Hood

Katy Lewis-Hood, events volunteer at Nottingham Women’s Centre, blogs about their successful EqualiTeas event, exploring 90 years of the equal franchise and the hurdles still to be jumped on the road to gender equality…

Centenary Cities celebrates 100 years since some women got the vote, but it was actually this time 90 years ago, on 2 July 1928, when all women in Britain were given equal voting rights with men. To celebrate this and to discuss what equality means in 2018, we held an afternoon tea at Nottingham Women’s Centre on Thursday 21 June as part of UK Parliament’s EqualiTeas initiative.

Over (lots of) tea and cake, a group of women came together to chat about what has been achieved in terms of gender equality, and what still needs to change. Women with a range of backgrounds and experiences talked about issues that mattered to them – from challenging misogyny and sexual harassment at work and on the streets, to improving representation in parliament, to ending domestic and sexual violence.

We also discussed ways to bring about change on different levels, from small everyday actions through which women can support each other right through to effective campaign strategies for lobbying local and even national government. For inspiration, we looked at several examples of successful campaigns by women and organisations in Nottingham. These included Nottingham Women’s Centre’s work with Nottinghamshire Police to make misogyny a hate crime, Notts SVS Services’ push for anonymous voter registration for survivors of domestic violence and abuse, and Mojatu Foundation’s campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In each of these cases, local campaigners have had a decisive impact on attitudes and policies.

Throughout the afternoon, women were invited to jot down their thoughts about equality, democracy, and what they’d like to change in society on floral bunting. One woman wanted people to ‘listen to, believe and trust women’ and another wanted women ‘to feel empowered to vote the way they want’. Someone else noted that ‘in 2018, young women are missing school because they can’t afford sanitary products’, while another woman asked ‘how do we create a system of accountability so that we can see what decisions are being made?’ If you’d like to read more of the women’s comments, come along to the Women’s Centre where the bunting will be on display.

These conversations didn’t end with the tea and cake – we talked about putting together a Nottingham Women’s Manifesto to coincide with the local elections next May. Women had a lot to say about not only what should be included but also ways to present and promote the manifesto to ensure that women’s voices are heard. Leading on from this, we plan to hold a series of focus groups so that women can continue to speak about what matters to them. We want to build on previous campaign successes and push for gender equality in Parliament but also at home, at work, and out in the city.

All in all, this was a really fun, empowering afternoon – thank you to everyone who came along and joined us! We learnt about a history of women’s campaigning beyond the vote for a far wider understanding of what equality means. Perhaps most importantly, we got to spend time talking but also listening to other women – a vital aspect of making change.

If you’d like to get involved in campaigning or are interested in joining a focus group, contact Nottingham Women’s Centre by dropping in, calling 0115 9411475 or sending an email to events@nottinghamwomenscentre.com. We’re also really keen to hear from groups or organisations who’d be interested in collaborating on future Centenary Cities events.

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Women affecting change – Carli Snowball-Hill

Nottingham Women’s Centre caseworker, Carli Snowball-Hill, writes about the outcomes of a focus group which asked how women can follow the example of the suffrage movement and affect change in a modern world…

Whilst we can recognise that there has been such strides made in the progress of womens rights, there are still so many more ways to bring about change. I spoke to 18 women who came together to discuss their ideas about what progress was needed and how they felt it should take place.

At Nottingham Women’s Centre on 29th of March we held a focus group and asked; How do you affect change? Many women discussed their volunteering in the centre and their wider community. Women expressed their belief in modelling the change that they wanted to see.

In recruiting for the focus group, I wanted as wide a range of women as possible. We have many volunteers at NWC who are keen to affect change, women who attend the different clubs and groups we run and women with lived experience that care and want to make it better for the next woman that has to navigate challenges in life. Therefore, I advertised through our International Womens Day celebrations, newsletter and posters in the welcome space. In all 18 women attended. They came from a broad framework of lifestyles and all were keen to get stuck in.

Gathering in the welcome space before being invited to come into the room gave everyone a chance to get to know each other and the excitement was contagious.

We started off with a list of questions all aimed at asking the women if they felt the need for societal change in relation to womens experiences; and if so did they already do something to bring this about?

If they did what and if not where they would go to have their voice heard. It was acknowledged that there were not very many places. The women all expressed that being in the womens centre was a unique experience. That this is why they liked coming here because they felt they would have their voice heard and that they mattered. One woman said she felt that ‘The further away the problem was from the experience of those in power the less you felt you were heard.’ This for me really emphasised the importance of a woman focused way of working.

This was especially prominent for women who had families or had supported their friends over the years navigating statutory services that are full to breaking, where time is money and not something that anyone has very much of.

Many women were passionate about justice being done, expressing their frustration at how systems within wider society routinely let them down and brought about more difficulties. When discussing this a rumble of agreement spread throughout the group. It was clear that these women felt strongly about bringing about change for women locally, nationally and internationally but they felt that often the louder they shouted the less people heard.

This led to a great consensus being drawn that change and progress had to start with small steps but that if we all took them together then we could go along way.

I felt very honoured and encouraged to listen to these views and felt that we could be confident in working together to make the press for progress a stronger and effective voice.

If you would like to get involved further please contact NWC for details about opportunities to have your voice heard locally and how that can be a positive impact nationally. Nottingham Womens Centre: 0115 9411475.

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Marking International Womens’ Day 2018 – Megan Pain

#ThrowbackThursday to when Nottingham Women’s Centre volunteer Megan Pain wrote about her experience supporting International Women’s Day and the Centenary Cities project…

Today marks 6 weeks into my placement and more importantly it marks International Women’s Day 2018! Happy IWD everyone! The preparations up to this day have been fairly hectic to say the least. The past 6 weeks have definitely flown by, and although it’s been slightly stressful getting everything done in time, I’ve definitely enjoyed all the hard work involved in planning such an exciting and important event.

Today I will be spending IWD at the Centre which is very exciting! I will be helping to register women to vote and creating social media content of the day. I also hope to be lucky enough to participate in some of the other amazing activities: boxing, drumming and poetry workshops. I definitely feel fortunate that my placement has provided me with such a great opportunity to participate in this event, meet new people and expand my knowledge of the importance of this day. This will be my first year properly celebrating IWD and if I’m honest I feel a bit silly for not doing anything for it before.

This year IWD is especially important, as 2018 marks 100 years since Parliament passed a law allowing the first women to vote. The significance of this is immense and to mark this importance myself and the other volunteers have been working on a stairway exhibition for the Centre focused on the idea of the 100 years. We were pretty much given free reign on how we wanted to do this exhibition. I came up with the idea of doing a timeline up the stairs from 1918-2018, which I’m rather proud of! This timeline consists of Nottingham women ‘firsts’, for example the first female Nottingham MP, and other significant events which have occurred in the past 100 years which have changed and impacted the lives of women massively. Learning about this was fascinating and I can’t wait to see the finished product!

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#Vote100 women and democracy – Cllr Jane Urquhart

Cllr Jane Urquhart, Nottingham City Councillor for Sherwood ward and Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage, writes about the significance of #Vote100 and the work we still have to do to achieve gender equality in politics…

Democracy and the right to express your view on who should  govern are basic rights that all of us are entitled to. I remember casting my first vote in the general election of 1987, a vote that some might have seen as ‘wasted’ living then in a Tory stronghold, but knowing clearly where my allegiance lay. I voted, and I felt it meant something, to know that when the votes were counted there would be some that did not endorse the government of the day. Voting itself and being registered to vote are so important, women should be heard, their voices counted and their views known, which is why when I am talking to women on the doorsteps in the city and further afield I always encourage participation.

As a woman politician I have spent a lot of time in rooms full of men, rooms where getting my voice heard has been difficult, and where a woman’s perspective has (even in the 21st century) been missing. As the politician responsible  for the tram,  and now for housing in the city I can think of scores of occasions on which I have had to wear a hard hat and protective boots to a site visit, and there has been a scramble to find something small enough, women’s sizes are not that well catered for on construction sites! Our political model still favours masculine forms of  oppositional debate, women have a role to play in changing that mode of discourse to a more inclusive, participatory one. Passionate about the issues that impact on our lives, and driving change through democratic engagement, rather than reliant on old models of power and influence.

I have been a voter for 30 of the 100 years that women have had the right to vote, so much has been achieved, but so much more remains to be done to ensure that our democracy reflects all of its citizens. I am proud to be part of that drive for continuing change.

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Celebrating Centenary Cities – Cllr Linda Woodings

Cllr Linda Woodings, Nottingham City Councillor for Basford ward and Executive Assistant for Communications and Community Safety, kicks off our Centenary Cities blog by telling us why the centenary of women’s suffrage is important to her…

My mum died last week, at the grand old age of 95 (she had me very late in life!), and so I’ve spent the last week trying to get in touch with her friends and acquaintances. As my sister and I went through her address book we realised she was the last of ‘her’ generation.

Born in 1922 to farm labourers, neither her mother nor her grandmother had any right to vote for the men who made the law at that time – laws that affected every aspect of their lives.

So it’s with great poignancy that I celebrate the women, some middle class, some working class, who fought for me and all other women to have a vote.

On the 6th of February 1918 the Representation of the People Act came into law giving all women over 30, who owned (or their husbands owned) property, a vote for the first time. One reason for limiting this to only certain women was that, because of the toll of lives in the Great War (the First World War), if all women had been given the vote they would have substantially outnumbered men. But there was also a deeper more fundamental reason; women were not seen as clever enough or important enough to have a vote – they were second class citizens.

Looking back it’s very hard for us, let along young people, to understand the sense of privilege women felt in going to the polling station to vote. My own mum made sure I was on the electoral register, took me down to the local polling station, told me what to do when I got there (although she would never dream of telling me who to vote for). It was a matter of principle.

In the 21st Century most of us can only imagine a time where women had no legal status, no rights over their own children, no ability to divorce except for the wealthiest (and only in the cruellest of circumstances).

But the passing of the Representation of the People Act started to change all that.

Getting the law through was not an easy thing to achieve. Thousands of women campaigned and fought, some peacefully, some with acts of civil disobedience, some with acts of violence (and suicide). Many were imprisoned, went on hunger strike, were force fed, beaten by the police, condemned by their neighbours and friends.

One hundred years on we commemorate and give thanks to those courageous women. Today we fight new battles, for equal pay, equal representation in parliament, fairer pensions, more women on the boards of companies and respect and dignity in the workplace.

So much done, so much more to do – but it’s good to stop for a moment and say ‘THANK YOU SISTERS’.

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