Image courtesy of Natalie Long
Image courtesy of Natalie Long
2018 is an important year. This year marks the centenary of the end of World War 1 and there are a number of events planned across the UK to commemorate the occasion, including the ambitious plan to recruit 1,400 new bell-ringers – the number of ringers lost during the war – to allow church and other bells to ring out on November 11th, just as they did to mark the end of WWI in 1918. Nearly two years ago, young men across the UK remembered the start of the Battle of the Somme in an incredibly heartfelt way and I am certain that this year will see similar shows of respect and passion as we remember those who sacrificed so much for us all.
However, today marks a different centenary, one that is just as significant and whilst not many of us would argue to know much about the passing of the Representation of People Act 1918 per se, I’m certain we all understand what that Act achieved – allowing women to finally have the vote. This Act was an important first step in the journey to equality for men and women and whilst there continued to be a number of restrictions on which women could vote until the passing of the Equal Franchise Act in 1928, when finally all men and women over the age of 21 had the vote, 1918 was the recognition of the hard work of the Suffrage movement, both Suffragettes and Suffragists, and the irreplaceable contribution of women during the years of WWI.
G spent time studying the Suffrage movement during her History lessons last year at school and I was delighted to discover that she was asked to research and learn more about this fascinating era of UK History. She had to explore the arguments for and against the actions of the two groups fighting for women’s votes: the Suffragettes, those who were prepared to fight hard, sometimes through violent demonstration; and the Suffragists, a group who fought just as hard but through using non-violent tactics; and then consider which group she would more likely have joined.
I cannot stress how important I think it is for girls today to be taught about the battles fought, both figuratively and literally, to achieve women’s votes. Since I turned 18, I have actively made an effort to vote in every local and national election and will encourage G to do the same when she reaches her majority. It is a 100 years since women won the vote in the UK, which may seem like a part of the dim and distant part to my 14-year-old and her friends, but the reality is that, even during their lifetime, there have been other women fighting this battle and the women of Saudi Arabia only achieved that right just 7 short years ago.
After a week of topsy-turvy political instability that continues to rock the UK, today has been a day to put the confusion to one side and spend time in silent contemplation. Today marks 100 years since the battle of the Somme and the selfless sacrifice made by thousands of young men as they fought to bring an end to World War 1.
Today, hundreds of young men have formed a fitting tribute to the fallen across the UK – London, Glasgow, Manchester, Bristol, Leicester and many more. Dressed in the military uniforms of World War 1, these men have gathered at train stations and city centres during the morning rush of commuters heading to work and have been silently handing out business cards bearing the name, rank, battalion, age and date of death of some of the young men who died at the Somme.
Below are just a handful of the photos flooding social media this morning, please take time to have a look at the others. These images are powerful; they are heart-wrenching; they are a poignant memorial. An emotional, sobering, thought-invoking reminder of the thousands who would leave loved ones at home and never return:
“When you get home, tell them of us, and say:
For their tomorrow, we gave our today”
– John Maxwell Edmonds
Moina Michael, November 1918
We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
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