Women’s History Month

 

Women's_March_on_Washington_(32593123745)March is ‘Women’s History Month’, a time to celebrate the achievements of women, but also an opportunity to reflect upon the challenges that still remain in women’s lives. The past year certainly seems to have been an explosive one, as a fresh tide of female activism has taken hold, most notably in campaigns such as ‘#MeToo’ and ‘Time’s Up’ that swept across the nation – and world, notably through social media channels in an electrifying movement that strongly protested against sexual harassment towards all women.

This year – 2018, is the ‘Year of Women’ and it has already been marked by widespread support from celebrities and the media, that have encouraged female empowerment on multiple levels. For instance, the banning of Formula 1 ‘grid girls’, the rising hostility to ‘ring side girls’ in boxing, the ‘Time’s Up’ campaign in Hollywood, women’s demonstrations and marches, in addition to various social media campaigns championing women’s rights.

Yet, the desire for female empowerment and gender equality is nothing new. International Women’s Day has been celebrated since 1913 with the aim of ending discrimination towards women and promoting gender equality, a battle still not won. Gloria Steinem, an American feminist and social activist of the 1960s and 70s stated simply, “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men”. In other words, the goal of feminism then, and now, is full human rights for all. The ubiquitous phrase ‘Nevertheless, she persisted’ has become synonymous with the feminist movement, since the silencing of Elizabeth Warren’s objections to Senator Jeff Sessions in 2017. The reality, of course, is Elizabeth Warren’s was not the first female voice to have been silenced within the United States, or across the world.

Women have long fought against constructions of femininity that prevented them from living their lives in the way that best suited them. Various social and cultural stereotypes have abounded: the ‘Colonial Good Wife’ of early America, the ‘Cult of True Womanhood’ in the 1900s and the ‘Feminine Mystique’ of the Cold War era, all of which attempted to define (and control) women’s roles and their place within American society. Women who challenged the status quo ‘by speaking out’ were labelled as ‘unwomanly’, ‘disorderly’ or ‘mad’ in a society that celebrated female passivity, submission, and domesticity.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an early female activist at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 in the US, stressed, “I would have girls regard themselves as adjectives not as nouns.” They were people, not objects, which ties into the present day criticisms of the objectification of ‘grid girls’ and justifications of why it is an outdated practice. Women are not objects they are individuals. As female activist and former slave, Sojourner Truth asserted, “We do as much, we eat as much, we want as much” [as men]. In this context, women wanted to be treated as such, as equals.

Despite the constraints on women throughout history, women have persisted to have their voices heard, in an effort to secure their equal rights. Many of these rights have been achieved because of first and second wave feminism: property rights, suffrage, reproductive rights, and the broadening of opportunities in the workplace.  Many battles have been won, and indeed continue to be won, spearheaded by determined, and inspirational female leaders. Other important battles for gender equality continue to be fought, most notably on the issue of equal pay for men and women.  So, as we mark 2018 as the ‘Year of Women’, and the month of March as Women’s History Month, let us not forget the significant achievements made by women, but also let these propel us forward in order to shatter the glass ceilings that still need to be broken.

Dr. Marie Molloy

Lecturer in American History

Munich Air Disaster: Dennis Viollet

‘The sixtieth anniversary is when living memory passes into history,’ said Charlie Bell, a Manchester United fan and owner of the house in Firswood where Busby Babes’ physio Tom ‘Tosher’ Curry once lived. The Babes used to go round there for their tea after training. Charlie had arranged for Trafford Council to fit a blue plaque to the house, making this the third for the Busby Babes: Duncan Edwards and Tommy Taylor being the two players recognised so far.
My TV Journalism colleague Lawrence Brannon and I sat in the same room as the Babes did six decades before, filming interviews with Charlie and Tom’s granddaughter Jennie for our public event at MMU commemorating the 1958 Munich air crash which killed half of them, Tom, eight journalists and club staff. [‘How British Sport changed – how the air crash changed the city, English football and sports journalism’.]
Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 12.10.43

Dennis Viollet (1933-1999)

My next call was to see someone with a strikingly familiar family name: Debbie Viollet. Looking through the ticket requests for our evening, I thought this too much of a coincidence. Was she, I wondered, related to Dennis, the goal-scoring legend who survived the air crash, strapped in next to Bobby Charlton and pulled clear by hero goalkeeper Harry Gregg?

‘Yes. I’m his daughter,’ she replied.
Over a cup of tea, we discussed how Dennis’ achievements in a red shirt appear to have been forgotten. The Manchester-born inside left, a United player between 1949 and 1962, who won the League twice in ‘55-‘56 and ‘56-’57? Who then set a club record of 32 goals in 36 games in ’59-’60 – more than Law, Best or Cantona scored in a single season?
Sadly also overlooked by England – just the two caps – Dennis didn’t feature in Matt Busby’s long-term rebuild and was shipped out to Stoke in 1962 after 178 goals in 291 appearances for United, followed by a period training in the USA and his eventual death there aged 65 in 1999.
Debbie produced a box of family photos and sat alongside grandson Kaiden Dennis – named after .. who else?.. who used to call Old Trafford ‘Grandad’s house’ when they drove past. For a very personal illustrated tribute to a Busby Babe whose place in history should definitely be reclaimed, this was the stuff of dreams.
What a nice touch from the United fans who gave Debbie a round of applause as she took her seat for our tribute. Whatever you may think of football fans, they don’t forget.
There is no blue plaque at the former Viollet family home at 561 King’s Road, Stretford … yet.

Vince Hunt

Lecturer, Sports Journalism

Munich Air Disaster: Dennis Viollet

‘The sixtieth anniversary is when living memory passes into history,’ said Charlie Bell, a Manchester United fan and owner of the house in Firswood where Busby Babes’ physio Tom ‘Tosher’ Curry once lived. The Babes used to go round there for their tea after training. Charlie had arranged for Trafford Council to fit a blue plaque to the house, making this the third for the Busby Babes: Duncan Edwards and Tommy Taylor being the two players recognised so far.
My TV Journalism colleague Lawrence Brannon and I sat in the same room as the Babes did six decades before, filming interviews with Charlie and Tom’s granddaughter Jennie for our public event at MMU commemorating the 1958 Munich air crash which killed half of them, Tom, eight journalists and club staff. [‘How British Sport changed – how the air crash changed the city, English football and sports journalism’.]
My next call was to see someone with a strikingly familiar family name: Debbie Viollet. Looking through the ticket requests for our evening, I thought this too much of a coincidence. Was she, I wondered, related to Dennis, the goal-scoring legend who survived the air crash, strapped in next to Bobby Charlton and pulled clear by hero goalkeeper Harry Gregg?
‘Yes. I’m his daughter,’ she replied.
Over a cup of tea, we discussed how Dennis’ achievements in a red shirt appear to have been forgotten. The Manchester-born inside left, a United player between 1949 and 1962, who won the League twice in ‘55-‘56 and ‘56-’57? Who then set a club record of 32 goals in 36 games in ’59-’60 – more than Law, Best or Cantona scored in a single season?
Sadly also overlooked by England – just the two caps – Dennis didn’t feature in Matt Busby’s long-term rebuild and was shipped out to Stoke in 1962 after 178 goals in 291 appearances for United, followed by a period training in the USA and his eventual death there aged 65 in 1999.
Debbie produced a box of family photos and sat alongside grandson Kaiden Dennis – named after .. who else?.. who used to call Old Trafford ‘Grandad’s house’ when they drove past. For a very personal illustrated tribute to a Busby Babe whose place in history should definitely be reclaimed, this was the stuff of dreams.
What a nice touch from the United fans who gave Debbie a round of applause as she took her seat for our tribute. Whatever you may think of football fans, they don’t forget.
There is no blue plaque at the former Viollet family home at 561 King’s Road, Stretford … yet.

Vince Hunt

Lecturer, Sports Journalism

Women and the Vote: The Representation of the People Act 1918

6 February 2018 will be the centenary of the passing of the Representation of People Act 1918 – why is this so significant?

Annie_Kenney_and_Christabel_Pankhurst

Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst

Overview:

Before 1914 approximately 40% of the population were not eligible to vote.  There had been discussions amongst Members of Parliament [MPs] how to address this issue and the grounds on which the extension of the parliamentary franchise should be extended. Some Conservative MPs had argued for a ‘soldier vote’ whilst Liberal and Labour politicians put forward a case to include other workers.   In addition, and following continued pressure from women’s suffrage campaigners, the position of women also needed to be considered.

 

 

The Speaker’s Conference

With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, a reform of the electoral system was necessary as millions of men who had served their country were not eligible to vote due to existing property and residential qualifications.  A cross-party Speaker’s Conference, led by James William Lowther MP was inaugurated to examine and resolve, franchise reform, the redistribution of electoral seats, electoral registration reform and the method and cost of elections.   At the Conference the issue of women’s suffrage was left until the last possible moment, in order to obtain agreement on the other issues first.  There was also a strategic reason for this approach.  Lowther had witnessed many of the militant suffrage activities that took place from 1906 to 1914 and when three anti-suffragists left the Conference in December 1916 he took the opportunity of replacing them with pro-suffragists MPs.  The matter of votes for women was finally discussed on 10 and 11 January 1917 and whilst there was broad agreement that there should be a measure of women’s suffrage, the terms on which this should be implemented was not without its problems.  The Conference agreed that women should receive the vote, but not on the same terms as men; there was concern about the number of women who would be enfranchised, either being too high or low.  A proposition was put forward by one of the most dedicated campaigners of women’s suffrage, Willoughby Hyett Dickinson MP. He suggested that the vote should go to householders or wives of householders and this was agreed by nine votes to eight and thus a measure of women’s suffrage had been passed.  The Conference went on to recommend that women over the age of 30 who met the relevant qualifications, those who owned property or were graduates voting in a university constituency on the local government registers were now eligible to vote in parliamentary elections.

 

A triumph for Women’s Suffrage?

After almost seventy years of a long, hard and at times bitter campaign women now had, albeit it on limited terms, won the parliamentary franchise.   Both constitutional suffragists and militant suffragettes had both made significant contributions towards the winning of Votes for Women.  Two women in particular are well remembered for their dedication to the women’s movement:  Millicent Fawcett, leader of the peaceful and non-violent National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, and Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the militant Women’s Social and Political Union.

The Representation of the People Bill was introduced in parliament in May 1917 and it epitomised the Conference’s resolutions.  The Act gave the vote to all men aged 21 years or older and to men on military or naval service from the age of 19.  Women aged 30 or older who qualified for the local government franchise, or whose husbands did, were given the vote.  As a result, therefore, approximately 8.4 million women were enfranchised by this act of parliament.

It would take a further ten years of dedicated campaigning by the women’s movement until the Passing of the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act of 1928 granted equal voting rights to men and women.

 

Dr Jo Smith
Manchester Metropolitan University

 

Interested in knowing more?  See:

http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/electionsvoting/womenvote/parliamentary-collections/collections-the-vote-and-after/representation-of-the-people-act-1918/

http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/electionsvoting/womenvote/overview/thevote/