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No more the meek and mild subservients we!

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Thank you to Jennie for reminding me: sisters, brethren, today is the ninetieth anniversary of the first time British women went to the polling booths. Yup -less than a century ago, at least half of the population were forbidden from having any say in the political process whatsoever simply on account of lacking dangly nether bits and half a chromosome.

It has been said before, and it has been said better than I ever could. But I am grateful to my grandmothers’ grandmothers: I am grateful to Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst, Millicent Fawcett, Charlotte Despard and Emily Wilding Davies. I am grateful to those crusading women and men who gave their social security, their freedom and sometimes their lives so that my little sisters and I could own our political inheritance. Our lives are immeasurably the richer for it.

We still have battles to fight, ninety years on; all over the world, women are second-class citizens compared with men, and in this country and many others we are still fighting for full cultural and political emancipation. But today, I think, we can take ten seconds to look back at where we’ve come. Catch your breath: you’ll get dizzy.

Much as I abhor most Disney, this song is always rousing, and I can see no more fitting tribute to our illustious forbears. Rest in peace, ladies: you did good.


About Laurie Penny

Author, journalist, social justice bard.

6 responses »

  1. Well I have to say I didn’t expect to see that You Tube clip on here Penny lol!

    But point taken…we have a long way to go yet, especially in particular cultures/countries, but we sometimes forget just what the suffragettes did. To have got the vote, from pretty much a standing start…without the momentum created by previous generations (which at least women today can – hopefully – benefit from) remains an astonishing achievement.

    By the way – have just started coming over to your blog. Love your writing.

    I was there at the V&A that night last month too 🙂

  2. paulathomas

    I’d have included one more name in your list: Harriet Taylor (she and Mill were lovers and she was a major influence on his thinking and wrote several pieces in his name).

  3. Psssst! we have an EXTRA half chromosome, not a half less 😉

    Thank you for the linkies, though.

    * squish *

  4. Universal Suffrage for Women… 90 years old. Well, some women could vote earlier than this but only the special ‘rich’ kind. Nevertheless, Happy Birthday and just think, Universal Suffrage for Men is 100 years old this year. Thousands of days of voting privilege finally came to an end.

  5. Hmmmm….I wonder how those suffraggettes would view a “feminist” who wants to throw a party when Britain’s first and only woman PM dies and dance on her grave?


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