On Sunday a group of 17 members of Folkestone and Hythe Constituency Labour Party (CLP) met up at Folkestone Central to take their banner to the procession celebrating the hundredth anniversary of women’s voting rights, won at such cost by Suffragists and Suffragettes. London’s Park Lane had been closed to traffic for the occasion, as people converged from many parts of the country.
Women of all ages, wearing the green white and violet of the Suffragettes, paraded with beautifully crafted home-made banners whose messages of solidarity and equality echoed the Edwardian campaigns. Faced with a rising tide of public opinion and the undeniable contribution of women to the war effort, the government of the day eventually had to concede them a limited victory – though it wasn’t until 1928 that all women over 21 gained the right to vote. On Sunday a large and vocal group calling for a balance of men and women in parliament was a clear reminder that after 100 years there’s still a long way to go in the fight for equal opportunities.
In mid-1912, Folkestone, Hythe and Romney Marsh was visited by the suffragist Kate Frye to rally women and men to the cause, in the local Suffrage Shop and Club, which is now the ‘Ideas’ shop in Hythe High Street. Sadly the suffragists were turned away by The Grand on the Leas.
As she helped to hold aloft the FH Labour banner, Folkestone’s Laura Davison, the Labour Party’s candidate in the last general election, said “A year ago we saw the adjoining Canterbury constituency won by a woman, the dedicated campaigner Rosie Duffield. Next time, we’d like to see all of the women in Folkestone, Hythe and Romney Marsh using their hard-won vote for positive change”. The Folkestone banner, whose appliqué seagull soared proudly the length of Piccadilly, was designed by Scarlett Rickard and sewn together in a week by a team of volunteers coordinated by artist Leigh Norgrove. By the time the estimated 30 000 marchers arrived in Parliament Square, the Folkestone banner had been photographed over and over.
CLP Treasurer Nicola Deane said:
“Today was inspiring – to walk with the female descendants and celebrate those brave determined women who fought so we could vote. Many conversations were about the memories passed through generations of the courageous efforts of those suffragettes. today I felt more than ever the importance of voting, and that I really can make a difference “