Suffragette100: St Albans Lib Dem Daisy Cooper says there are many battles still to be fought
PUBLISHED: 14:00 06 February 2018
Danny Loo Photography 2018
Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for St Albans, believes women are still facing many challenges 100 years after the Representation of the People Act.
In 1918, some women finally gained the vote. 8.5 million women – those over 30 who owned property or were graduates voting in a university constituency – were added to the electoral roll. Further reform followed and Liberals played their part.
Margaret Wintringham was the third woman to be elected an MP, the second to take her seat and the first to be a Liberal. She was active in the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, and following the 1918 Act, she campaigned for a truly equal franchise, and for equal pay for women. She had also been a headmistress, and campaigned as an MP for state scholarships to be for girls not just boys, and for improving legal protection for young girls. When eight female MPs were elected in 1923, Wintringham became an unofficial co-ordinator encouraging them to work across party lines.
100 years on and that cross-party working is still needed. Today, still, only 32% of all MPs are women. Recently, the cross-party Women and Equalities Committee proposed that all political parties be required by law to publish their parliamentary candidate diversity data. This would have been a small but useful step in introducing some transparency around the numbers – but the Government rejected it.
Over the last few weeks, it has been so lovely to receive emails and messages from young women in St Albans telling me how excited they are to be marking the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act at school. They have also wanted to share what they see as the challenges facing women today. Equal pay and shared parenting are still not a reality. And with sexual harassment scandals from Weinstein to Westminster, it’s clear that there are many battles still to be fought.
But each generation improves on the last and I’m confident that the next generation of young women here in St Albans will make a difference in our city and beyond.