On Monday, City of Lincoln Council hosted a special coffee morning at Lincoln’s Historic Guildhall to celebrate the start of National Democracy Week and the centenary of women gaining the right to vote under the umbrella of ‘Equaliteas’.
Almost 30 representatives from different organisations in Lincoln came together to celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage and 90 years since the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928, which gave all men and women over 21 the equal right to vote.
The morning looked at the changes in democracy from a national and local government perspective.
Presentations were given by prominent women in the city, including Angela Andrews, Chief Executive of City of Lincoln Council; Karen Lee MP; Cllr Naomi Tweddle, Chair of the Equality & Diversity Group at City of Lincoln Council; Professor Krista Cowman, Professor of History and Director of Research at University of Lincoln; and Val Moore, Operations Manager at Lincolnshire LEAP.
Angela Andrews introduced the morning with facts about the first female councillor, first female mayor and herself as the first female Chief Executive at City of Lincoln Council.
Karen Lee MP explained her journey to becoming MP, including how she initially became interested in politics through her father who was a Trade Unionist, her path through being a local government councillor and then barriers to women in politics.
Cllr Naomi Tweddle spoke of how she is trained as a lawyer, now specialising in employment law at Unison, and is proud to be a young female councillor and part of the movement to get more women into politics.
Professor Krista Cowman then discussed the history of the suffragettes and the work of the 52 suffrage movements in the country and their role in educating women and increasing access to democracy for women.
LEAP’s Val Moore concluded the presentations by explaining the rise in homelessness, especially in young women, and the need to encourage more people in vulnerable situations to vote. She said that it was “important to get vulnerable people to see how democracy affects their lives”.
Cllr Rosanne Kirk, Portfolio Holder for Reducing Inequality at City of Lincoln Council attended the event and said:
“What an insightful way to kick-start National Democracy Week!
“The theme of the debate, ‘Is 2018 the year of women?’ ran through each personal account from the female leaders and the discussion at the end of the morning allowed free-flowing conversation about women in democracy.
“It’s important for women everywhere to recognise that our vote is not just about representation in politics, but provides an opportunity to influence the way we live our lives.
“We have been doing lots of work for the 100 year anniversary of women’s suffrage, such as working with Bishop Grosseteste University for the Vote100 exhibition at Lincoln Central Library which is open to the public until towards the end of July.”
On Monday, Year eight’s from Lincoln Castle Academy were welcomed to the Guildhall for an opportunity to link with the City of Lincoln Council’s Ethics & Engagement Committee. Twelve children attended, eager to learn more about local government and the celebrations of women gaining the right to vote.
The children were given a tour of the historic building by the Mayor’s Officer. They rang the Moot Bell and were given the opportunity to see the Mayor’s robes and regalia, as well as the many treasures held in the Guildhall.
The visit concluded with a discussion around the table in the chamber with councillors. The group explored the background to the suffragette movement, how it impacts on the world today, equality issues including equal pay and barriers to democracy.
Cllr Adrianna McNulty, Chair of the Ethics & Engagement Committee, said: “This was a great event!
“The children were enthusiastic to get involved in discussing issues which we all feel are important and to use the chamber for this was perfect, given its rich history.
“National democracy week in action, for sure!”