Vote 100: Looking back, pressing forward
As the 100 year anniversary of some women being granted suffrage is celebrated, Maddie - a Year 13 student and member of the Feminist Society - reflects on the advances made in women's rights over the past century, alongside the challenges that lie ahead.
1918 marked the first steps towards women’s involvement in the democratic system within the UK. After over 20 years of pressure groups working alongside Parliament and 15 years of a more forward activist's approach, the legislation allowed suffrage for all men over the age of 21 and for women over the age of 30 who owned property. Although this was a limited number of women and the conditions attempted to ensure that the women voting were largely influenced by their husbands, it indicated a change in attitudes to women’s capabilities and acted as a domino effect for the freedoms women in the United Kingdom enjoy today.
While the suffrage movement itself was very much based in the middle class, many members understood that in order to achieve universal suffrage they would need to support more working-class women - creating a community of women from different backgrounds, fighting for their right to vote.
Blackheath High School’s link with the Suffrage movement was clear from the early years of its existence. Miss Gadesden - the second Headmistress appointed in 1880 - was in strong support of the suffragette movement alongside the staff and pupils at the time. This support for women’s rights has continued throughout the school’s history, with students acknowledging the strides being made in women’s rights throughout the world, yet remaining critical in understanding the changes that still need to be made. Even in the celebration of women’s voting rights, students understood the selective manner of the legislation and the continued need for change for women throughout the world.
At Blackheath High School today, the Feminist Society not only acknowledges sexism across the globe, but also the unfair treatment of minority groups throughout the world, looking at LGBT+ rights, the treatment of ethnic minority groups and how the combination of these identities tie in together. We are also looking for a way to be actively involved in breaking down the barriers many people face, listening to the work of charities such as 'Bloody Good Period' and looking at ways the school can fundraise for such organisations. This is also linked to the planning of the school's own conference for feminism in schools. The focus of International Women’s Day this year is not just to look back at the 100 years of suffrage and the advances made, but to acknowledge the press for progress, to unify communities and openly push for change. This illustrates Blackheath High School’s and the Feminist Society’s own attitude towards gender equality; we acknowledge and applaud the amazing changes that have been made yet continue to push for changes that will have a real effect on women today and will move towards complete gender equality.
2018 not only marks 100 years since some women achieved the vote, but also the beginning of a move towards a more inclusive, tolerant society.