Centenary of Women’s Suffrage10 Jul 2018 By Sam Setchell
An article on the centenary of women’s right to vote by Cathedral Residentiary Canon, Georgina Byrne.
We take for granted our right to vote in national and local elections, whether we choose to exercise our democratic right or not. A hundred years ago, only property-owning men could do this.
The Representation of the People Act of 1918 enabled all men over twenty-one, and 8.5 million of the 15 million women of Britain to vote, as long as they were over the age of thirty and owned property. Full parity for women came only in 1928. Many people think that the campaign for women’s right to vote began with the suffragettes of the 20th century, but it began much earlier. Groups of women and men lobbied Parliament, spoke at public meetings, and raised awareness of injustice
throughout the 19th century.
One such group was the Church League for Women’s Suffrage. The Worcester branch was led by a cathedral canon, James Maurice Wilson, who ran meetings from his home with his wife, Georgina. The Dean of Worcester, William Moore Ede and his wife Sarah were also active members, as was the Bishop.
The Church League shunned violent protest, but, by connecting equality with Christian principle, added to the tide of opinion that made the 1918 Act inevitable.
O God, the light of the nations,
we thank you for all who strive for justice and challenge our complacency.
Grant that we may use our voices and our votes for the good of all people,
and that our faithfulness to your all-embracing love may be known
not just in our words, but also in our deeds.
Through Jesus Christ, our hope and salvation. Amen.