Women’s vote: Calls for suffragettes to be pardoned

Suffragettes pictured in LondonImage copyright
Library of Congress

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The Representation of the People Act gave women over 30 and “of property” the vote in 1918

Women who were jailed while fighting for the right to vote should be pardoned, say campaigners.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has joined with the Fawcett Society campaign group and relatives of the suffragettes in calling for convictions to be overturned.

It comes on the 100th anniversary of some women getting the vote in the UK.

Theresa May will mark the centenary with a speech in Manchester hailing the “heroism” of the suffragettes.

The Representation of the People Act, passed on 6 February 1918, gave women over 30 and “of property” the vote.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the struggle for equality was continuing, 100 years on.

The Representation of the People Act also abolished almost all property qualifications for men.

Emmeline Pankhurst, a founder member of the Woman’s Social and Political Union, was one of many suffragettes jailed during the campaign for women’s votes.

Ms Davidson said she supported calls for posthumous pardons for the convicted women as they were simply righting the wrong of voting inequality.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, she said: “Voting was a value judgement, not an intrinsic right. That inequality is one reason why I support calls by family members to offer a posthumous pardon to those suffragettes charged with righting that wrong.”

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said pardons would be a “fitting tribute”.

Legislation review

The prime minister, in her speech later, is expected to say: “As we remember the heroic campaigners of the past, who fought to include the voices of all citizens in our public debate, we should consider what values and principles guide our conduct of that debate today…

“While there is much to celebrate, I worry that our public debate today is coarsening.

“That for some it is becoming harder to disagree, without also demeaning opposing viewpoints in the process.”

The prime minister will also warn that online abuse and intimidation is threatening democracy, in a speech in Manchester to mark the centenary.

She will say online abuse of political candidates and representatives is often targeted at women, gay people and members of ethnic minorities.

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Theresa May will hail the “heroism” of the suffragettes 100 years after some women got the vote

“In the face of what is a threat to our democracy, I believe that all of us – individuals, governments, and media old and new – must accept our responsibility to help sustain a genuinely pluralist public debate for the future,” she will say.

Mrs May will announce plans for a Law Commission review of legislation to ensure that illegal actions are also illegal online.

Mr Corbyn said: “There are still too few women in Parliament, women still do not receive equal pay for equal work and many face discrimination in the workplace and in everyday life.”

Representation of the People Act 1918 – key dates

6 February 1918 – The Representation of the People Act is passed giving women aged over 30 and “of property” the vote

21 November 1918 – The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act is passed and allows women to stand for Parliament

14 December 1918 – Women vote in a general election for the first time

1928 – The Equal Franchise Act is passed and all women aged over 21 can now vote

30 May 1929 – Women aged between 21 and 29 vote for the first time

Mrs May will later launch a year-long Vote 100 programme of events to celebrate a century of female suffrage.

Female MPs past and present have been invited to the reception in Parliament.

For the first time, the Parliamentary Archives will display the 1918 Representation of the People Act itself.

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Media caption”We were fast asleep”: How the Suffragettes woke us up

Three other pieces of legislation that gave women the vote on the same terms as men, allowed women to be MPs and allowed women to sit in the House of Lords as life peers, will also be displayed.

In London’s Trafalgar Square, there will be an exhibition of life-sized images of the central figures of the suffrage movement and portraits of these people will also be in an exhibition at City Hall.

The free exhibition will run from 9:00 to 19:00 GMT on Tuesday, before moving to other venues including the Museum of London.

Source : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42951817