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9 ways to mark 100(ish) years of votes for women

Written by
Alexandra Sims

In 1918, the Representation of the People Act was passed, giving some women over 30 the right to vote: but the struggle did not end there. Here are nine ways to find out more about the women who turned the tide: 

1. Unearth forgotten feminist stories

Take a closer look at some of the lesser-known suffragettes at ‘Votes for Women’, an exhibition highlighting the overlooked acts of tireless campaigning and perseverance that made the landmark moment in 1918 happen. Get to know Janie Terrero, who was imprisoned at Holloway for four months and force-fed after going on hunger-strike, and Kitty Marshall, who was skilled in jui-jitsu, or ‘suffrajitsu’ as it was known in the press. We’ll high-kick to that. Votes for Women’. Museum of London. Barbican. Until Jan 6 2019. Free.

2. Relive a moment in suffragette history

In April 1913 two suffragettes climbed to the top of the Monument to the Great Fire of London, tied a WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union) flag to it and showered ‘Votes for Women’ flyers on to the crowds below. Head there after-hours and climb the 311 steps to the top to hear Dr Helen Pankhurst, the great- granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, and historian Dr Matt Green discuss this Monument-al moment. Monument masterclass celebrating the Centenary of the Representation of the People Act. Monument. Monument. Thu Feb 8. £20.

3. Pay tribute in Trafalgar Square

A collection of life-size images of some of the most kick-ass suffragists and suffragettes will pop up in Trafalgar Square for this special public exhibition. Part of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign celebrating women’s contributions to the capital, the portraits standing tall next to Nelson’s Column include famous figures of the suffrage movement and unsung heroines whose contributions have just come to light. Centenary of Women’s Suffrage. Trafalgar Square. Charing Cross. Tue Feb 6. Free.

Making Her Mark

4. See how art shaped the movement

As well as being one of the most important suffragette campaigners, Sylvia Pankhurst was also a whizz with a paintbrush. She won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art and used her painterly talents to create the WSPU’s logo, banners and posters. Join her biographer Rachel Holmes for a late at the National Portrait Gallery to hear how Sylvia shaped the look of the suffragette movement. The Art of Struggle: Sylvia Pankhurst and How Art Helped Women Get the Vote’. National Portrait Gallery. Charing Cross. Thu Feb 8. £8, £7 concessions.

5. Follow in their footsteps

Sorry, Bowie fans, you’re not going to find out much about the Thin White Duke on the Suffragette City Walking Tour. This two-hour tour led by veteran guide Oonagh Gay does promise to get you acquainted with the church where suffragette Emily Wilding Davison’s funeral cortège started, take you past the former headquarters of the WSPU and the site of the Endell Street Military Hospital, which was staffed entirely by suffragettes. You’ll be wearing your scarf as a sash by the end of it. Suffragette City Walking Tour. Various locations. Meet at Holborn station. Sat Feb 10. £12.

6. Take part in a heated debate

Before any second-wave feminist had set those uncomfortable bra straps alight, some suffragettes had caused more havoc in London than Keith Moon let loose in the swimming pool of a Holiday Inn. Militants for the cause chained themselves to railings, slashed paintings, set off bombs in Westminster Abbey, went on hunger-strike and even died in the name of democracy. But whether this militancy helped women achieve the vote is a debate that’s dogged the suffragettes’ legacy. At a panel discussion, Laura Coryton, founder of Stop Taxing Periods, Dr Jacqui Turner, lecturer in Modern History at the University of Reading, Dr Naomi Paxton, Vote 100 researcher, and Nimco Ali, co-founder and director of Daughters of Eve, are hoping to get to the bottom of whether violence wins rights. Does Violence Win Rights? Militant Suffrage and the Vote’ at the National Army Museum. Sloane Square. Wed Feb 7. Free.

National Portrait Gallery

7. Meet Hackney’s modern suffragists

The 1918 Representation of the People Act was just the beginning in the fight for democratic rights for all. ‘Making Her Mark: 110 Years of Activism in Hackney’, an exhibition organised in collaboration with the East End Women’s Museum, tells the stories of those carrying on the cause over the last century. East London women have helped to shape and transform the community through peaceful protest grassroots political campaigns, and this display is a tribute to their work. See a 1900s Humble Petition for women’s right to vote in parliamentary elections and learn about one journalist who disguised herself as a flower-seller to investigate the working conditions of poor women and children. Making Her Mark:110 Years of Activism in Hackney’. Hackney Museum. Hackney Central Overground. Tue Feb 6-May 18. Free.

8. Get to know the East End's working class suffragettes 

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the Pankhurst’s gaff. After Emmeline Pankhurst founded the WSPU in 1903, her daughter, the famous campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst, was booted out when she wouldn’t give up her socialist principals. She founded the East London Federation of the WSPU, where working-class suffragettes in the East End rallied locals into a mass campaign for their political rights. Listen to historian Katherine Connelly uncover inspiring stories of working class women. Sylvia Pankhurst and the Suffrage Movement in East London. Bishopsgate Institute. Liverpool St. Wed Feb 7. £7. 

9. Hear about the women who were still denied the right to vote

What took place 100 years ago was by no means a wholly successful victory. Women who had no property rights, hadn’t graduated from university or were under 30 weren’t able to mark a ballot paper at all until 1928. At this seminar in Westminster, you’ll learn about the women whose voices were still yet to be heard in 1918 and explore the voting divides in class, gender and ethnicity that can still be seen today. ‘Intersectional Suffrage: A focus on the women that didn’t get the vote in 1918’. Committee Room 12. Westminster. Feb 20. Free.

Looking for more great things to do in London? Check out Southbank Centre’s ‘WOW: Women of the World’ festival, as well as events happening in London for International Women’s Day

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