“We can celebrate exceptional women throughout history as well as those who continue to work tirelessly and strive for a truly equal Britain today.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has spoken out in support of Stylist’s Visible Women campaign, ahead of the 100th anniversary of some British women getting the vote.
Tuesday 6 February 2018 will see the centenary of partial women’s suffrage celebrated in the UK, one hundred years after the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1918. This landmark legislation extended voting rights to all women in Britain and Ireland over the age of 30 who owned a property, had graduated from university, or were married to a homeowner.
“The centenary of the first British women getting the vote is an opportunity to remember the women who risked everything for the rights we have today and to look at what more we must do to create a fairer society that works for everyone,” said May.
The Representation of the People Act 1918 came after many years of activism on the part of the suffragettes, who used radical and violent tactics to push for change, and the suffragists, who focused on peaceful campaigning. As a piece of legislation, it was far from perfect: it failed to put women’s voting rights on an equal footing with men’s, and effectively denied a political voice to young and working-class women.
However, the Act laid the groundwork for two more hugely important legal changes. Later in 1918, the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act gave women the right to stand as MPs in elections. A decade later, the Equal Franchise Act 1928 finally gave the vote to all women over the age of 21, the same rights enjoyed by men at the time.
A century on from 1918, May said that the gender pay gap was one of the most pressing issues faced by women in the UK.
“From my first day as Prime Minister, I made clear this Government would tackle the injustices that many in our country face, including women earning less than men. While we are making progress with the gap falling last year for full-time workers, the gap will not close on its own – we all need to be taking sustained action to make sure we address this.”
The Prime Minister continued: “We have introduced new world-leading legislation which requires larger employers to publish their gender pay gap, there are more women sitting on the boards of Britain’s top businesses than ever before and there are now no all-male FTSE 100 boards, compared to 2010 when over 20% had no female members, but we all know that more needs to be done.”
She paid tribute to Stylist’s Visible Women campaign, launched in January.
“Through campaigns such Stylist’s Visible Women we can celebrate exceptional women throughout history as well as those who continue to work tirelessly and strive for a truly equal Britain today,” May said.
The Visible Women initiative will run throughout 2018. It aims to raise awareness of women from history and the present day who have made a difference, increase representation of women in the political sphere, and empower future generations to follow their lead. Read more about the campaign here.
All this week, Stylist is celebrating the 100th anniversary of votes for women. See more of our commemorative content here.
Images: Rex Features