#BehindEveryGreatCity – Feminism in 2018

Mayor of London

A century since some women won the right to vote, what can we learn from the suffrage movement, and what does the next 100 years hold for women's rights? #BehindEveryGreatCity

100 years of progress
On February 6 1918, the Representation of the People Act granted women over 30, who owned property, the right to vote for the first time in the UK. A century later, the Mayor Sadiq Khan, commemorated the centenary of women's suffrage with an exhibition in Trafalgar Square of the women and men to be included on the plinth of Millicent Fawcett – a new and historic statue in London’s Parliament Square.

Throughout 2018, the Mayor of London's #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign will celebrate the role London played in the women’s suffrage campaign, marking the progress that’s been made on women’s equality over the past 100 years but also pushing for everyone to do much more to tackle the barriers that still remain.

Working with groups across the capital, the campaign brings Londoners together to celebrate how women of all ages, ethnicities, faiths and backgrounds make London the great city it is.

But why, 100 years after winning the vote, does the suffrage movement still matter?

We've come a long way
The achievement of partial women's suffrage in 1918 opened the door to 100 years of progress on women's rights - from political representation, to professional and domestic identities. This centenary year is an important time to reflect on those victories and the courageous campaigners behind them. 

Winning the vote was a significant first step on the road to equality.

By granting women citizenship and a political voice, the vote opened the door to progress on so many other issues - the rights of married women and mothers, education and professional opportunities, reproductive healthcare, and much more.

The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act, passed later in 1918, also gave women over 21 the right to stand as MPs - although 30 remained the minimum age for women to vote until 1928.

Irish nationalist Constance de Markievicz was the first woman to be elected in 1918, and Nancy Astor was the first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons in 1919.

Since then, Britain has had two female Prime Ministers, and 32% of MPs are now women.

Justine Simons OBE is Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, and a leading voice in the #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign.

As well as political and legislative change, women's suffrage paved the way for broader social changes, like educational and professional opportunities for women.

Former seamstress Joan has seen huge changes in the stereotypes around typically 'male' and 'female' jobs.

Women today have far greater freedom when it comes to marriage and relationships - both legally and socially.

Over the last 100 years we've seen changes to laws around equal rights within marriage and divorce, maternity rights, and legislation to protect women from violent and abusive relationships.

The introduction of same sex marriage in 2013 made love and marriage an equal right, allowing couples like Megan and Maria - pictured here in London's LGBT capital of Soho - to say "I do".

As a young, queer doctor living in Hackney, Ronke stands on the shoulders of suffrage's medical pioneers - like Elizabeth and Louisa Garrett Anderson, or Elsie Inglis. But her life today has also been shaped by the Women's Liberation and LGBT rights movements of the later 20th century.

Advances in social norms and legal protections around gender and sexuality give women like Ronke the freedom to express themselves...

...and allow women like Charlie Craggs - a trans activist from Ladbroke Grove, founder of Nail Transphobia, and author of To My Trans Sisters - to be who they’re supposed to be.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) allows transgender people to legally change their gender from the one they were assigned at birth.

Reforms to the GRA are currently being discussed - which, if passed, would make it easier for people to self-define their gender identity.

A long-line of women in fashion - from Coco Chanel to Vivienne Westwood - have changed the face of women's style drastically from the days of Millicent Fawcett's formal walking suit and boots.

In 2018, women like stylist Allie can well and truly wear the trousers when it comes to their personal and professional lives - and their fashion choices...

...And men like John have strong female role models, like Maureen, who inspire them to work towards a more equal future.

But there's still a long way to go...
Campaigners like Millicent Fawcett have helped to bring about all these changes, and more, in the lives of women today. But the road to equality is not over yet. In 2018, we must continue to campaign on issues like the gender pay gap, reproductive rights, widespread harassment and violence, and gender stereotyping. As we reflect on the sacrifices and victories of the past, these are just a small selection of Londoners' hopes and ambitions for the future of women's rights.

Young families, like Sarah and Paul from East Dulwich, hope their sons and daughters will grow up with equal opportunities to be whoever they want to be.

From avoiding gender stereotyping to ensuring respect and equality of opportunities, their goal is to raise girls and boys as true equals in every aspect of their lives.

In 1968, 50 years after the Representation of the People Act, the courageous female Dagenham factory workers went on strike for equal pay.

Their actions resulted in the Equal Pay Act, which made it illegal for companies to pay men more than women for the same or equivalent jobs.

50 years on, there is still a gender pay gap of 14% across the UK, but companies with more than 250 employees are now legally required to report on their salary stats.

Teacher Ingrid hopes the girls and boys she teaches will one day have equal earning potentials, whichever industries they work in.

Although they're not yet old enough to vote, school friends Mabli and Sara are politically engaged and have clear ideas about what a feminist future should look like.

Mabli's hope is for affordable menstrual products, that aren't taxed as 'luxury' items, to be available for anyone who needs them.

For Sara, it's a world in which women and girls are judged by who they are, not what they look like.

Based at Peckham Levels, gal-dem is a vibrant online magazine written by women of colour for all.

They provide a bold and defiant voice for young, under-represented women, ensuring their stories and concerns are part of the mainstream conversation.

Editor-in-Chief Liv Little, Music Editor Antonia Odunlami, and Lifestyle Editor Niellah Arboine want to see more women of colour represented in public life, controlling their own narratives, and influencing policy on issues that affect their lives.

For young mum Kelly, from Alexandra Palace, employment rights and maternity discrimination are the biggest issue she'd like to see progress on in her daughters' lifetime.

Like many Londoners, she wants to see her daughters thrive in both work and family life - with more family-friendly workplaces, where maternity discrimination is a thing of the past, and both working fathers and working mothers can flourish.

Entrepreneur Anisah Osman Britton - a female coder and founder of 23 Code Street, whose first office was in Swan Wharf, east London.

Anisah's vision for a feminist future is one where people's interests, passions, careers and hobbies are not defined by their gender.

By teaching more women to code, her goal is to ensure women, as well as men, are central to London's thriving technology industry.

From the political sphere to the sporting arena, women over the last 100 years have begun to carve out spaces for themselves to be seen, heard, and taken seriously.

Bwayla from Hackney founded an all-female basketball club to pursue her passion, but gender stereotypes and male-dominated courts still leave her feeling excluded from the 'man's world' of basketball.

Now she wants to reclaim this public space for women, as well as men, to feel comfortable and at home there.

1 in 10 girls in the UK miss school classes because they can't afford menstrual products like tampons or pads.

Teenage campaigner Amika George, from Edgware, believes girls from low-income families should be provided with free menstrual products, to help put an end to period poverty.

Her inspiring campaign is proof that you're never too young to speak out, be heard, and make a difference.

Museum of London curator Beverley Cook is pictured here in front of a display featuring iconic objects from the museum's suffragette collection.

As a historian, Beverley's message took inspiration from the words of the West Ham Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) - an inspiring and empowering message that remains just as relevant today.

She hopes these words continue to inspire change for generations to come.

As part of his #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan wants to inspire London's women for the next 100 years.

Throughout 2018 and beyond, #BehindEveryGreatCity is redoubling City Hall’s fight for gender equality, and working to make London the best city in the world to be a woman.

Find out more and get involved at: #BehindEveryGreatCity or join the conversation on social media.

Credits: Story

#BehindEveryGreatCity: celebrating the centenary of the first women winning the right to vote and tackling gender inequality in London www.london.gov.uk/behindeverygreatcity

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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