Vote For Pedro

Annie_Kenney_and_Christabel_PankhurstVoter apathy seems to get worse every election. So many people feel that either all the parties are practically the same, or that their vote makes little or no difference. The thing is, it does make a difference. Even if you live in an area considered a ‘safe seat’, if everyone who said “what’s the point in voting because XXX is going to get in anyway”, the safe party may not be unseated, but they would be forced to sit up and work harder. Plus, it could encourage other parties to field candidates.

Less than a hundred years ago, women were not allowed to vote. The suffrage movement started in 1866, when a group of women organised a petition that demanded women should have the same political rights as men. By 1872, the movement had grown in numbers, with women all over the UK forming suffrage societies.

Men had it a little easier, but there were still battles fought. Until The Great Reform Act of 1832 led by the Prime Minister Charles Grey, only aristocrat men were allowed to vote. After the act, the vote was also given to middle class men. A second Reform Act in 1867 extended the vote further, but still excluded working class men and, of course, all women.

Despite many improvements in the rights of women, the campaign to allow women to vote was consistently knocked back other reform. Even Queen Victoria, an icon of British history, actually opposed the campaign claiming women’s role was to support men.

There was significant change in 1918. After the Great War, the Representation of the People Act gave the vote to all men of all classes over 21 (previously it was only around 60%), but only a small portion of women. Only women over the age of 30, and who were householders or University graduates, were allowed to vote.

The struggle continued, and with a campaign of peaceful protests and militant tactics, women finally achieved voting equality with men in 1928.

When you think of the suffrage movement, or the Suffragettes, I expect you imagine Edwardian ladies chained to railings or waving placards. It all sounds very genteel and British, but blood was spilled, and many died. The campaigners were regularly arrested and mistreated in prison. The suffragettes often used hunger strikes as a means of protest against their arrest, but were then force fed by invasive methods. Many died, or were scarred mentally following this treatment, and many suffered fatal cases of pleurisy. The infamous Emmeline Pankhurst’s own sister, Mary Clarke, died following an incident involving force feeding. Add to this the likelihood that many were brutally beaten by their husband’s, and you can start to see how this right was hard won.

One famous death was that of Emily Davidson who died under the hooves of George V’s horse during the Epson Derby in June 1913. It is believed she was trying to pin a “Votes for Women” ribbon on the horse. Opponents to the movement tried to spread the rumour that she was attempting to pull the jockey from his horse, but film footage taken at the time and recently analysed has proven that was not the case. Davidson suffered fatal injuries and died in hospital 4 days later.

I wonder how women like Emily Davidson, or Emmeline Pankhurst and the other suffragettes, or men like Charles Grey would feel if they knew that today so many women, and men, throw away that right.

So please, use your vote in honour of those that fought and died to get it for you. Vote for Green, vote for Labour, vote for Pedro. Hell… vote for the Conservatives if you have to (though I would rather you didn’t), but please do vote.

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