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Guest column: Help me shine a light on courageous Suffragettes

Lesley Clarke, left, with Colin Cartwright, Ruth Vigor-Hedderly

Lesley Clarke, left, with Colin Cartwright, Ruth Vigor-Hedderly

  • by Lesley Clarke OBE, Bucks County Council cabinet member for planning and environment
 

How many of you out there were too busy or too disengaged to vote in last week’s European elections?

Maybe there wasn’t time or maybe you weren’t interested enough in the European Parliament.

But, every time you give up your right to vote at a public election, you betray the legacy left to us by a fantastically-courageous group of people who fought to win full democracy in the UK.

It’s easy to forget that only 100 years ago, women did not have the right to vote in this country.

In fact, large numbers of men could not go to the polls either because they were limited by property restrictions.

Thankfully, it all began to change for the better in 1918 when Parliament allowed all males over the age of 21, as well as women over 30, to vote.

However, this was probably only made possible by the brave stand mounted by those who campaigned relentlessly for the equal rights we take for granted nowadays.

Some suffragettes paid dearly for their actions, ending up in jail.

The suffragists – those who campaigned within the law – were less well-known by perhaps equally heroic.

There are several examples here in Buckinghamshire, and in Aylesbury, of their campaigns which helped to change the world as we know it.

The year 2018 is the centenary of the landmark law change.

In the run-up to this, I want to encourage the public to remember the pioneers of the past who helped give us our modern democracy.

Please contact me if you know of any unrecognised suffragettes and suffragists, because the aim is to create a roll of honour for 100 of them across the UK.

A small tribute, perhaps, but an important one, because it will remind us of the sacrifices made in the name of our freedoms.

And next time there is an election, please try to recall the heroes of the campaign for universal suffrage.

By declining to use your vote whenever it is available, you devalue all they battled for, and you actually place at risk the democratic system they fought so hard to win for us.

 

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