100 Years and Counting

My grandmother took me by the hand and said that we were going to do something special. Off we went from our house, to a local school.

The next thing I remember is being lifted onto a small shelf, being given a pencil and my grandmother telling me that we were going to vote for Mr Churchill. She showed me where I was to make my cross.

I voted. It was the 1951 election and I was four years old.

My grandmother had been a supporter of the suffragette movement and told stories of her exploits as a young girl. Ironically, she had demonstrated against Winston Churchill when he came to Liverpool, even breaking windows at the Town Hall. Though she had never been arrested, she told us what had happened to her fellow suffragists. How they were force fed and badly treated and of Emily Davidson, killed by the King’s horse.

Voting, for her, was extraordinarily important, without it, her rights were diminished and she was not a complete citizen. With it, she had the right to choose her government and, if that government failed her, to complain, or choose a different one.

The centenary of some women getting the vote shows how far we have come and how much further we still have to go. 100 years on and still women do not have equal pay, or equality of representation at national parliament or local government level; sexual exploitation and abuse are still rife. How can it be, that in 2018, for example, that the Mayoral Cabinet for the Liverpool City Region is all male?

The Fawcett Society and IPPR show how big the gaps are. Nor does it help to put those seeking equal rights together as a single group. Research that was done through the former Finnish Ombudsman for Minorities, showed that when issues such as citizens’ rights or equal pay were combined for different minority groups, including women, women always come bottom of the list.

So, we still have a job to do. Women are the key to greater prosperity, greater honesty in business and to giving poorer communities a voice and a way forward out of poverty. My grandmother left school at 11 and had to make her own way in the world. She would still recognise many of the problems that existed in her day are still current and that there is much work to do.

* Flo Clucas OBE is the President of the ALDE Gender Equality Network and former President of the ALDE Group on the EU Committee of the Regions. She was a councillor in Liverpool City Council for 26 years.

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12 Comments

  • As a child I recall my Nan talking about being on a Suffragette march or being there and supporting it. She also stood outside the gate of Holloway Prison with many others at 8am, the morning Ruth Ellis was hung, campaigning against capital punishment. My mother told me that when I was a baby we were all in the bomb shelter together in Islinton. Now we only have this ridiculous Brexit to concern us. We do not know we have been born.

  • Funny old business politics and history. The names of Churchill and Lloyd George keep cropping up.

    The Home Secretary who refused to commute Ruth Ellis’s sentence to life imprisonment rather than be hanged was the former Liberal M.P. Gwilym Lloyd George. He took the papers to the house of his sister, the former Liberal M.P. Megan Lloyd George, over the weekend, and decided there were insufficient grounds to recommend a reprieve despite evidence about the state of Ruth Ellis’s mind.

    As for dear old Winston (Boris Johnson’s doppelganger), he enthusiastically pursued forced feeding when he was Liberal Home Secretary and had no hesitation to send in the troops when the miners had the temerity to go on strike after their wages were cut. When he was first Lord of the Admiralty, he even threatened to order a cruiser to shell the city of Belfast during the Curragh incident in 1914. Eugenic sterilisation ? Gallipoli ? The gold standard ? Indian independence ? Support for the Duke of Windsor ?

    Rum lot politicians.

  • C’mon David…Winston used to travel by tube, asking advice from fellow passengers about the war…Historians accept that the input from a nanny with magical powers, and a chimney sweep with a strange cockney accent, shortened the war by years,,,

  • Mick Taylor 6th Feb '18 - 3:00pm

    Forgive a pedant, but Ruth Ellis was hanged not hung. Still wrong though.

  • While there’s no denying it’s a massive day for women in the UK, and was greatly deserved, I wish we’d also remember that it was a huge day for the working class man as well – before this day they also couldn’t vote, and it was only after WW1 that it was realised that if you can fight and die for your country you should also be able to vote. This act enfranchised 5 million men who before didn’t have the right to vote.

    As a man who doesn’t yet own any property, this day marks the anniversary of my right to vote too.

  • Martin, Churchill was the potential Prime Minister. That was why she said what she did. She wanted to vote for him. She believed that in voting Conservative, that was what she was doing.

  • @ Martin Agree with Flo. Churchill was leader of the opposition in 1951 – so it was probably just a manner of speaking when she votiedfor the Tory candidate.

    Reginald Bevins won the new Liverpool Toxteth seat for the Tories in 1951 and Churchill became PM by a whisker. It was the only Tory seat in Liverpool. Bevins was made Postmaster General by Macmillan but was much criticised over lax security in the Great Train Robbery – losing the seat in 1964.

  • Your Dad was right about Attlee, Ian. The best sort of Englishman and in IMHO the greatest PM of the 20th century – setting up the welfare state even though the country was bust after WW11.

    In 1951 he got more popular votes than Churchill but the vagaries of the FPTP system gave Churchill more seats. The Libs got 2.5% and were led by Clement Davies who enjoyed a little drinky or two……

  • Richard Underhill 8th Feb '18 - 3:18pm

    Suffragettes were violent, short of murder, suffragists were non-violent. According to the Suffragette film the attack on Lloyd George’s house in Surrey nearly killed a housekeeper who had forgotten her gloves.
    Please see the attempted murder of Winston Churchill MP on Bristol railway station by a suffragette. ISBN 0385607415

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