Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Votes for Women!

It is a perfect storm that the TimesUp and Me Too campaigns have coincided with the UK anniversary of Votes for Women. 
Those of my generation who were feminists in the late seventies/ early eighties are relieved. For a couple of decades it looked as if the battle had been abandoned long before it was ever won.
Now at last our younger sisters are expressing disgust that there is sexual harassment at work and pay inequality.  

It is time to take up the banner again.

And my friend Annabel O’ Docherty is doing just that.

In Newnham College, Cambridge, hangs a banner of azure velveteen and Indian silk, born aloft over a hundred years ago by alumnae of Newnham and Girton Colleges in several marches for votes. 

Although there were two women’s colleges, there was only one banner, and to mark the anniversary, Annabel is making a replica for Girton to keep.

She invited me to assist.
A team of three Newnham maintenance staff opened the special glass-fronted case.
We Aaahed.
Dr Lucilla Burn became the most overqualified person ever to hold a ladder, while Annabel teetered at the top and I scribbled down the measurements as she called them out.

We loved the stencils of irises for Newnham and daisies for Girton.
We appreciated the banner’s message: “Better is wisdom than weapons of war.”  Just as urgent now as then.
And we liked the idea that so many highly educated young women set down their pens to work together at stitching a banner.  Using traditionally female skills in order to produce a subversive artefact is very “now” (cf Tracey Emin and a number of others).

As Annabel sets about using her considerable expertise to produce the replica, I’m sure that all the women in the black and white photo below would be cheering her on. 
The battle for women’s rights must continue!



TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE EXTRAORDINARY BANNER: NEWNHAM WEBSITE: 
http://www.newn.cam.ac.uk/newnham-news/happy-international-womens-day/