I popped into the Local History Centre this week and met some of the wonderfully helpful staff.
In the museum’s collections are some items belonging to a local suffragette. Not on public display at the moment, they represent nevertheless a fascinating insight into the history of the town. A purple, green and white sash and ‘Votes for Women’ badge are among the items. Who they belonged to is sadly unknown.
A century ago the campaign for votes for women had become violent. The government responded with violence, many women being assaulted and the ‘Cat and Mouse Act’ enacted.
Women on hunger strike in prison could be forcibly fed through hard rubber tubes. When they became too weak they were released only to be rearrested when fit enough again.
I pondered these brave and determined women last week. The News of the period has reports of Suffragette meetings being held in Bridport, the first in 1895 when about two dozen gathered in the Town Hall to hear a woman speaker from London, and I wondered what they would think of the recent Government reshuffle which saw a greater number of women holding positions in the Cabinet.
As was shown during both world wars, no role is too difficult for a woman and their courage and hard work helped toward victory. So too the contribution of women in our political life.
When the press described the men leaving Office as ‘male, stale and pale’ I had to be honest and acknowledge that’s true for sections of the Church. I’ll leave it to you to decide if the description fits me, too!
As a member of the Movement for the Ordination of Women in the 1980’s and 90’s and more recently WATCH the organisation campaigning for women bishops, I was quietly pleased that the General Synod voted finally to shatter the stained glass ceiling which was preventing women reaching the highest offices in the Church of England.
The first woman bishop should be named before Christmas and there are a number, including our own June Osborne Dean of Salisbury Cathedral, among the likely candidates.
Fellers, we have nothing to fear from well qualified and gifted women playing a full part at every level in our world.