Sheffield marks 100 years of women’s right to vote

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Today marks the 100th anniversary of some women being given the vote in the UK.

The Representation of the People Act, passed on 6 February 1918, gave women over 30 and "of property" the vote.

Campaign celebrates Suffragette spirit

Campaign celebrates Suffragette spirit

To mark the anniversary The Star has teamed up with Amnesty International to launch a campaign to find modern women who have 'Suffragette spirit' and have fought for human rights in their communities.

The struggle by British women for suffrage began in the mid-19th century and Sheffield was the first place in the country to have formed a women’s suffrage society run by women for women – The Sheffield Women’s Political Association.

The inaugural meeting was held on February 26 1851 at the Democratic Temperance Hotel.

When men were called up for military service in the First World War, many services and industries, including the big Sheffield steel firms had to look elsewhere for workers, and began to recruit women for jobs previously unavailable to them.

Shappi Khorsandi

Shappi Khorsandi

Firms such as Sheffield Simplex Motor Works Ltd. at Tinsley, and Cammell Laird and Co. Ltd employed women in shell manufacture and file grinding.

Once the war was over women were no longer wanted because the returning soldiers needed employment, and women found themselves back in their homes,having lost their new-found freedom and economic independence.

The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was founded in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst to campign for women’s rights.

Since 1869 only women rate-payers had been allowed to vote and then only in local elections.

Sarah Champion MP

Sarah Champion MP

The WSPU aimed at extending the vote to all women in national elections.

The militant side of the suffrage movement was lively in Sheffield, and Mrs Pankhurst sent her daughter Adela to be a local organiser for the Sheffield WSPU.

A ‘suffrage shop’ was opened at 26-28 Chapel Walk, and in 1908 an attempt was made to enter the Cutlers’ Feast, where the First Lord of the Admiralty was guest speaker.

Adela Pankhurst disguised herself as a kitchen maid and tried to get into Cutlers’ Hall, but was stopped by the police. She made a speech from the Town Hall steps, was moved on by the police and went back to the Cutlers’ Hall but failed to get in.

The Representation of the People Act was passed in 1918 and enabled women over 30 to vote. It was not until 1928 that women were given equal status to men and the voting age was reduced to 21. Eleanor Barton was the first woman elected to Sheffield Council in 1919 and by 1920 three per cent of Sheffield councillors were women.

In 1936 Ann Eliza Longden became the first female mayor of Sheffield and Grace Tebbutt became the first female leader of Sheffield Council in the 1950s.

Welcoming The Star’s campaign Sarah Champion MP for Rotherham said: “It’s vital we mark the women’s suffarage movement not only to celebrate women getting the right to vote – but also to reflect on the changes we still need to see. “I’m sure 100 years ago the women believed in 2018 we would have equality.

“Sadly, when we consider the gender pay gap, violence against women, sexual harassment and the persistent gender assumptions around work, child care and aspirations we need to recognise that we still have far to go.”

HOW TO NOMINATE: To nominate an amazing woman your local area, please visit www.amnesty.org.uk/suffragettespirit. All women must have carried out work to help others their local area within the last 10 years. All successful nominees will be contacted to give consent prior to being placed on the Suffragette Spirit Map of Britain. This campaign has been funded by People’s Postcode Lottery.