SPECIAL REPORT: South Holland women celebrate the right to equality 100 years on
It is 100 years since women won the vote, paving the way for equal rights for both sexes.
The Suffragette movement, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, sparked the political reform of 1918 and 1928 that, in theory, granted women rights on par with those enjoyed by men.
But women in the UK had to wait until 1970 for the government to introduce the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal for employers to treat men and women doing an equivalent role differently in terms of pay.
However, with concern that some institutions, such as the BBC paying some of their male presenters and actors more than their female counterparts, does a divide still remain?
We asked women locally their views on being a woman today, 100 years on from winning that landmark campaign.
Jean Cowles, who lives in Spalding, turned 100 years old last summer and she feels that without the Suffragette movement things could have been a lot different today.
At home, we don’t have ‘pink and blue’ jobs
She said: “It means women can do their own thing. They can do anything. They are their own person.
“When I was 14 I left school and in those days we would either go to work on the land or join the army.
“I joined the army when I was 20 and I did not have a say in what I wanted to do.
“I wanted to learn to drive and train in mechanics but you were told what you would do and I was told I would be a cook.
“I said ‘no I can’t cook’, but that was the job I was given.
“Today, I would have had a better chance to do mechanics but I had a lovely time in the army.
“I was in it for four years and I met my husband and joined the entertainment group, formed a choir, did dancing, plays and everything.
“It was different back then as my four brothers were given apprenticeships at 17/18 years old and the boys could go on to get a job with good money.
“I suppose, in those days, for a woman it was looked at that she would look after the children and it was a man’s job to go to work.”
Jean later went on to become a teacher.
Spalding fruit and veg market trader Shelly Andrew, of SJA Produce, said: “I think we are fortunate that there is more opportunity for women to do anything and to follow their dreams.
“At home, we don’t have ‘pink and blue’ jobs. It’s equal.
“But there have been times when I’ve been on the stall and if a customer sees a man present, they automatically assume he is the boss. If it was a craft stall that might not be the case.”
Shopper Judith Churchill (77), who was in Spalding with her daughter Helen (53) and granddaughter Marcy Pickering (21), said: “Those who fought for the vote are like today’s SAS for women.
“They are marvellous and so brave. They paved the way for women today and gave women more rights.”
Helen added: “We have come a long way but there is still a little way to go.”
Marcy added: “It is the fact that we have a choice of jobs today.”
Lisa Smith, who runs her own baked potato business, The Pink Potato Pod, at Spalding market, said: “It is getting there. It’s great that women can get out there and run their own business today.”
And women are well represented on our local council – a position which, 100 years ago, may not have existed, were it not for the Suffragettes.
South Holland District Council is headed up by a woman – chief executive Anna Graves, who also oversees Norfolk’s Breckland council.
Jan Whitbourn was elected district councillor for Whaplode and Holbeach St Johns ward in November, after she decided to run for the seat.
This is a position that she says was made possible today by the Suffragettes, but also credits her father Sydney.
“He was a big instigator in pushing things forward so he would be so proud of what I have been doing and what I have achieved.
“He always pushed us girls forward.
“He supported what Margaret Thatcher had achieved and he always felt that everybody should be equal.
“It is not just about women. My dad was a chef and cooking used to be looked at as a woman’s job but he worked as a chef in the RAF.
“It does not matter if you are male or female, you can achieve your goal if you want to work hard for it and never miss an opportunity.”
Coun Jane King, who represents Donington, Quadring and Gosberton wards, for South Holland District Council, said: “When you look around the council chamber, I think women are well represented on the district council.
“Having women on the council gives a different perspective to things.
“I think we are well listened to and it’s not just a case of ‘oh let her have her fun’.
“But there are areas of life in general where women are still having to push a bit harder with pay differences, etc.”
Coun Tracey Carter, who represents Holbeach Town ward for the district council, said: “My genuine feeling (on celebrating 100 years since women won the vote), is that it is absolutely fabulous.
“I do believe that, irrelevant of if you are male or female, you should be rewarded for the work you do, regardless of your sex.
“If you look at South Holland District Council there is a really good balance of men and women and everybody is treated with respect.”