Dr Andrew Jackson: Celebrating votes for women one hundred years on

2018 will be a great year for anniversaries. Various dates will mark moments of particular significance and poignancy. We will be urged to gaze nostalgically or critically into the past, and no doubt have good cause to evaluate or judge the state of the present and the contributions of our forebears.

For some, the centenaries of the birth of the RAF and of the end of the First World War on April 1 and November 11 respectively will be days upon which to rightly pause and take stock, locally and nationally.

For others different dates will strike a heavier chord in the context of current circumstances and consciousness. The date of Tuesday 6 February 1918 is of special importance in British political and social history. It saw the passing of the Act of Parliament that extended voting rights to women, if at that moment only for those over the age of 30.

On December 14 in that same year a portion of the adult female population were then able to cast their votes for the first time in a General Election. July 2, 90 years ago, is also the anniversary of the equalising of the franchise, which enabled both women and men to vote from the age of 21.

For the staff and students at Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU), and across Lincolnshire and the country, there will be much popular and public commemoration, remembrance and reflection in the months ahead. However, it will be the anniversaries relating to the achievement of the franchise by women perhaps, which will have specific historical significance for members of the BGU community.

For the greater part of its history, the university was the Lincoln Diocesan Training College, an establishment devoted to the training and formation of young women for the teaching profession.

For the students of BGU today, and for young people more broadly, the heatedness of debates over political rights and responsibilities one hundred years ago has some resonance still. Britain’s system of government is not free from calls for further reform or culture change: the lowering of the age of franchise, the manner of the conduct of parliamentary business, equal and proportional representation, and the place of free speech, among others.

BGU’s ‘Vote100’ week, part of our year-long celebration and commemoration of the achievement of votes for women, will begin on Monday, February 5 with an open lecture hosted by the renowned British historian Martin Pugh, and close with a Student Union event joined by local MP, Karen Lee.

All events across the year will consider anew the cause for the greater representation of and by women in politics, for although great strides have been made in the past century, the journey ‘to the great to-be’, as one Lincoln Training College student put it over a century ago, is perhaps far from over.