Today I joined other women MPs and peers to celebrate 100 years since the first steps to universal suffrage were taken, with some women getting the vote. However, the Representation of the People Act in 1918 was far from the end of the struggle for democracy in Britain, as initially only 40% of women were able to vote – those over the age of thirty with a property qualification. It wasn’t until a decade later in 1928 that women were finally given the same voting rights as a men. Like the Chartists before them, many women who battled to secure the vote – and the right for women to stand for Parliament – never lived to see their struggle immortalised in the statute book.
In 2018 it’s important that we pay tribute to the sacrifices made by ordinary women and men to secure the democratic freedoms we enjoy today. Like the Chartists before them, many women who battled to secure the vote – and the right for women to stand for Parliament – never lived to see their struggle immortalised in the statute book.
As the first – and unfortunately still only – woman MP in Gwent, I owe a great debt of gratitude to the suffragettes, including trailblazers like Newport’s Lady Rhondda. Gender equality in Parliament is still a long way off. While a record number of women were elected in the General Election, only 32% of MPs are female compared to 42% of AMs in the Welsh Assembly. The campaign to ensure equal representation and an equal voice for women will continue.