Grace, one of our Royal Parks in the First World War research volunteers, and Eleanor, our WW1 Project Officer, tell us a little bit about a special memorial on a significant day:
On 6 February 1918, in the final year of the First World War, the Representation of the People Act historically and monumentally incorporated women into the political system. Today we are celebrating the centenary of women’s suffrage and the opportunity for women to stand and take seats in Parliament – thanks, in part, to women like Emmeline Pankhurst.
Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), the leading militant organisation campaigning for women’s suffrage. Alongside fellow activists, Pankhurst had endured prison sentences and hunger strikes in protest at the denial of women’s right to vote.
When the act was finally sanctioned – in the final year of a bloody and unforgiving war – the government had recognised that the world had changed and that people, too, had to change with it. George Cave, the Home Secretary at the time, said:
" War, by all classes of our countrymen, has brought us nearer together, has opened men’s eyes, and removed misunderstandings on all sides."
In a society that had become almost wholly devoid of a generation of male youth, women were given far more opportunities than they ever had been and the political tides were finally turning.
How should we commemorate Emmeline’s work to get women the vote?
In 1930, a few years after she died, a statue, in one of her most recognizable poses, was erected in Victoria Tower Gardens, right next to Parliament. Today, 100 years later, #Votes100 and #OurTimeNow are trending on Twitter and Instagram, and politicians and journalists are all talking about the work that’s been done to address the exclusion of women from civil society.
And in Brompton Cemetery, unknown people are leaving flowers in front of the tomb of Emmeline Pankhurst, in recognition of her struggle. As the WSPU slogan put it, it’s deeds not words that speak the loudest.
Find out about Brompton Cemetery's upcoming events to commemorate Emmeline Pankhurst.