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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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#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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