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Women's vote: 100 years and a long way to go

09 February 2018

In 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Article 21 stated: "Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives". Finland granted women the right to vote in 1906 and Norway in 1913. One in four women experiences domestic violence in her lifetime, two women a week are killed by their current or former partner in the United Kingdom, and 85,000 women (and 12,000 men) are raped in England and Wales every year - with startlingly low conviction rates in court. Abbott described her experience in The Guardian a year ago: "The Times had marked my selection by complaining about my 'rhetoric of class struggle and skin-colour consciousness.' Judging by the wariness with which I was treated when I entered the House of Commons, many MPs agreed with the Times". In her marriage vows she promised to obey him.

There were branches of the women's movement across the country, including in Llandudno, Rhyl, Anglesey, Bangor and Cardiff.

The feminist icon died aged 69 on June 14, 1928 - shortly after women were granted equal voting rights with men. Pressing for equal pay for women was seen as a diversion which would undermine the man's quest for the "family wage". What exactly is being done to combat the pay gap between the sexes? It entitled all men over the age of 21 to the vote and granted suffrage to women over 30 - as long as they were either owners of property, or married to owners of property.

Image copyright A V Moran Image caption Margaret Haig Mackworth, 2nd Viscountess Rhondda (1883 - 1958) was secretary of the WSPU's Newport branch and attempted to destroy a post-box with a chemical bomb.

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It's a fitting precedent for a democracy which has proven itself, to this day, to be an imperfect vehicle for women in general, and particularly for working-class women and those otherwise marginalised.

They were to ensure MPs weren't distracted by women watching them at work and became a target for suffragettes, who pointedly chained themselves to the grilles, disrupting the House until they could be ignored no longer. Why has funding been cut for refuges that help victims of domestic violence?

Attitudes now are light years away from what they were when I was growing up. That they simply had other, more important things to do.

"After thirty years of endeavour to make men understand they were only half the world... the price we have paid for our enfranchisement is too heavy, some of us find, to allow us to rejoice in the light-hearted, happy fashion we used to picture in old days, but we are filled with a deep and earnest thankfulness".

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So although there were still flaws with women being able to vote, there were now around 8.5 million (which is around two in five women) who had their say over who was in parliament. When the first UK General Election for eight years was held in 1918, after the passage of the Act, Sylvia wrote an article suggesting that women should not use their new vote to endorse any of the parliamentary parties spouting "empty political balderdash'".

We've changed the mood and that is progress.

TYPICAL. Yet another case of men being oppressive because they're scared of how powerful women are.

Though the quest for women's advance is always met with resistance and a backlash it will not stop. The right to vote was an enormous milestone and a stepping stone for future generations.

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Despite a spate of military coups since independence in 1947, women have subsequently played a crucial role in winning elections, the likes of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1970, whose daughter Benazir emulated her father as Pakstan's first women prime minister in 1988. The job is not yet done.

Women's vote: 100 years and a long way to go