University professor Hazel Barrett, whose grandmother supported the suffragette movement, said people of all classes got involved, adding: “Just look at them, ordinary women”.
Sheree Davey, who came with her young son to see the display, said: “It’s incredible. It inspires you to learn a bit more.
“You know the basics but there’s so much more to it.”
Victoria Taylor, a tourist visiting from Australia, said: “It’s a great way to engage people. It’s not confronting but it’s very prominent.”
I can’t be the only person in the world to have discovered as I grew up that life was a bit more complicated than that, and opportunity for women wasn’t really going to be defined by Kylie Minogue’s example of switching careers when she fancied it. Personal choices were a lot more complex. And yes, reality crept in – women were, and are, treated differently in so many parts of life. Without question, that decades-long struggle finds its own echoes today.
The gender gap in voting is fairly small. Other demographic factors have a far bigger impact on people’s likelihood to vote for each party.
In the past, social class was a dominant factor. Middle-class people were more likely to vote Conservative and working-class people were more likely to vote Labour.
Recently that’s changed. In 2017, age and education were far more important. Young voters and voters with degrees were more likely to back Labour. Older voters and those with fewer qualifications were more likely to back the Conservatives.
But how do the sexes differ when it comes to elections?
If we look back over time the gender gap in voting has changed.
The British Election Study has data going back to the 1964 general election. In the 1960s and 1970s it found that women were more likely than men to vote Conservative and less likely to vote Labour. It’s not easy to find a definitive explanation.
Historian Kathy Atherton says people nowadays can find it “surprising” that women were involved in an anti-suffrage movement, but that it’s important to “put yourself in their shoes”.
“There would have been a general acceptance that women were intellectually inferior and emotional – and women would have believed that as well as men – so they didn’t have the capacity to make political judgements,” she says.
“It’s a really hierarchical society and the white male is at the top of the heap.
“There’s a fear that you’re upsetting the natural order of things, even going so far as thinking the colonies would be affected if they felt that Britain was being ruled by women.”
Margaret Bondfield was one of very few working class women who rose to the top of the suffrage movement.
Born in Chard, Somerset, in 1873, the second youngest of eleven children, she became an apprentice at a drapers in Brighton aged 14.
There she saw how the daily grind wore down the women workers and affected their self-respect. She observed they were left with little time or energy to pursue interests away from work, with many girls seeming intent on getting married as early as possible in order to escape the drudgery.
Ms Bondfield left Brighton and went to live with her brother in London – working, again, in a shop. She became an active trade unionist and was shocked by the working culture of long hours, low wages, poor diet and requirement to “live in” in often dismal dormitories.
“It’s not possible to imagine women winning the vote without the suffragettes,” says Ms Connelly,
“The militant organising, particularly of working class women, pointed to the possibility of a movement that would grow and could potentially become an enormous mass movement.”
In 1996, legal scholar Carrie Menkel-Meadow wrote that oppositional presentation of facts — that is, the adversarial system as taught through the Socratic method — may not be the best way to arrive at the truth. “Polarized debate,” she wrote, “simply distorts the truth, leaves out important information, simplifies complexity, and obfuscates rather than clarifies.” Menkel-Meadow explained that “truth is illusive, partial, interpretable, dependent on the characteristics of the knowers as well as the known, and, most importantly, complex.” Likewise, criminal justice scholar Katherine van Wormer lamented in 2009 that the adversarial system hearkens back to “primitive practices related to combat”; Australian professor and former attorney Kate Galloway called it a “performance piece.” Restorative justice, by contrast, has been called humanistic.
Of course, there are the opponents with laws-are-laws arguments; “Instinctively I can see where that campaign is coming from so I will take a look and see if there is a proposal that I can take more seriously,” home secretary Amber Rudd told Good Morning Britain. “But in terms of pardoning for arson, for violence like that … that is a little trickier.”
But there are other objections, too. Before the announcement, historian Fern Riddell—who’s got an intriguing book out in April about the radical activist Kitty Marion—wrote a piece for the Guardian about how the women’s suffrage movement in Britain encompassed both peaceful protests and more controversial direct action
An interesting look at the work of people standing up for social and civil equality in countries where human rights are threatened or challenged.