Emily W Davison, the cupboard & the census

SNP MP Hannah Bardell calls for respect to be shown to the Emily Wilding Davison memorial installed by the late Tony Benn MP.  

On the night of the 1911 UK Census, Emily Wilding Davison hid in a cupboard in a service area of the House of Commons so that she could record her address as the 'House of Commons'.

Emily was the suffragette who died in June 1913, a few days after being trampled by the King's horse at the Epsom Derby.

Tony Benn placed a memorial plaque on the cupboard used by Emily and the significance of the cupboard and memorial seems to be disregarded.

UK parliamentary inquiry into high heels dress code

Nicola Thorp, 27, began a petition after she was sent home from her temp job when she refused to wear shoes with a ‘2in to 4in heel’. The investigation - launched by the petitions committee - will look at what the problem is, what the law says and what could be done to make the law better, the government said.

150 years on, more to be done

Cathy Newman writes in the UK Telegraph about the century and a half since Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Emily Davies organised a petition to be presented to the UK parliament calling for female suffrage. The fact that suffrage has not turned into a fair share of representation is disappointing. Cathy Newman backs the 5050parliament campaign. 

Our campaign is bolder - it would require equal gender representation to be mandated in the electoral law in Australia. This is possible for the UK as well. 

If suffragettes Elizabeth Garrett and Emily (Davies) were to turn up in the lobby of the Palace of Westminster today – as they did exactly 150 ago – you could forgive them for feeling a little disappointed. A century and a half ago - on June 7, 1866 - they arrived at Parliament to present a petition calling for women to get the vote. While many decades later that battle has been won, Ms Garrett and Ms Davies would no doubt be dismayed to see how unequal the political world remains.
Of 649 MPs currently in the House of Commons, just 192 are women. In other words, there are nearly 140 per cent more men than women. More men get to plonk their bottoms on those green benches right now than the total number of female MPs throughout history.
Time for another petition, then. 
While campaigns are two a penny these days – their currency devalued when they’re hijacked by the trolls and those with a vendetta to pursue – here’s one which deserves to be taken seriously - 50:50 Parliament, a cross-party campaign to get more women into Westminster, has posted its clarion call here. It’s perfectly possible that a lot of women have looked at the antics of the current inhabitants of the Westminster village and decided to give it a wide berth. But it’s also perfectly possible that among the 51 per cent of the UK population, there are some brilliant women out there just waiting to represent us all - if only they got the chance.

See also:


Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was born in 1836 and organised a petition to parliament in 1866 with Emily Davies.  Garrett Anderson was a sister to Millicent Garrett Fawcett.

Emily Wilding Davison was born in 1872 and was active in the suffragette movement in the later 19th Century and early 20th Century. Emily hid in a cupboard in parliament house in 1911 so that she could record her address as parliament house. Emily was fatally injured when she entered the Epsom racetrack in 1913 and was trampled under the King's horse.


UK parliament artwork celebrates suffrage struggle

ABC News in the US reports on the unveiling of an artwork installed in the UK parliament to celebrate the struggle to obtain female suffrage:

The first abstract artwork created for permanent display in the 19th-century parliamentary complex, " New Dawn " was unveiled Tuesday on the 150th anniversary of the first mass petition to Parliament calling for women to have the right to vote. It would be more than 60 years before the goal was achieved, and artist Mary Branson wants her work to pay tribute to the thousands of people who fought for women's voting rights over the decades.
A few are well-known, especially the militant suffragettes who fought with protests, hunger strikes and even bombings. But Branson, who spent six months exploring Parliament's archives, said she was moved by "all the women that I'd never heard about, ordinary people like ourselves." "There were so many women coming in relentlessly day after day," she said. "Petitioning, protesting."
Branson calculated that almost 16,500 petitions featuring more than 3 million signatures calling for female suffrage were submitted to Parliament between 1866 and 1918, when women over 30 were granted the vote (full voting equality with men took another decade). "That said to me I needed to make something really big, and I needed to put it in a really powerful space," Branson said.
Branson found visual inspiration in Parliament's Act Room, where thousands of laws stretching back centuries are stored on parchment scrolls.
"New Dawn" consists of 168 circles of hand-blown glass inspired by the scrolls, mounted in a 4 meter-by-6 meter (13 foot-by-20 foot) ellipse. Branson said her glass scrolls are mounted atop a portcullis, an iron gate that is the traditional symbol of Parliament. In the artwork, the portcullis is open. "It's like women are here," Branson said. "We're in."

See also


An image of the Parliament's Act Room can be seen on this page:




Why 5050? becomes how 5050?

JULIAN VIGO draws together multiple issues affecting women including the recent protests made by French female politicians; sexual harassment in the workplace; poor representation in professions; poor pay and priorities for spending. Julian finishes by supporting the UK parliament5050 campaign. The question at the end is how to achieve 5050? We reckon that our democracy5050 model is a truly democratic option to be considered. 

Effects on health
All this comes as no surprise to women who have been dealing with pay and promotion inequality for their entire lives with the added bonus of sexual harassment. But what are the costs of pay and promotion inequality in addition to sexual harassment? We already know that girls who routinely experience sexual harassment are significantly more likely to attempt suicide, but little is said about these repercussions on women who suffer “widespread and often serious health, emotional, and economic consequences.” And the economic impacts for discrimination and harassment are little explored in the media which are often the major factor playing into the future mental and physical health of women.
Loss of earnings in a lifetime
According to data published by the Equal Opportunities Commission (now part of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights), “the average woman working full-time could lose out on £330,000, in comparison with men’s earnings, over the course of her working life.” Similarly, they investigated similar inequalities within the financial sector specifically where the pay gap was explained in terms of: stereotyping in the recruitment processes, the sector’s extremely young age profile proves a challenge to those with children, the sector’s long hours’ culture also affects those with children, the intractability of senior leaders to take action on sex inequality and the lack of enforcement of good practices. Also according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, female graduates earn up to £8,000 less than males who studied the same subject.
Pay gap and the burden of being the primary care-giver
If the Fawcett Society’s 2008 report on women’s pay inequality wasn’t shocking enough then their 2013 study is enough to bring one to tears: “New figures from the Office of National Statistics published in December 2013 show the pay gap widening for the first time in five years.” And the reasons the Fawcett Society gives for this widening gap are the same reasons for sex-based oppression of women throughout recent history: women’s work is undervalued, more women work part-time, the “motherhood penalty,” and more generally that sex-based discrimination has not gone away. Because of their decreased earning power, women use their money quite differently: they invest in their children, the home, and they save over investing.
Less to invest
RateSetter carried out research which showed that men are significantly more likely to own investment products (66% of men compared to 48% of women). Data suggests that women do not tend to move towards long or short-term investment products simply because, according to this report, they have 50% less of disposable income at the end of each month.
Link to 50:50
And when one examines those countries with a closer economic parity between the sexes, one thing is painfully evident: that salary equality is maintained in countries where there is a balance of political representation of females and males.
Recently there was a petition, 50:50 Parliament, to request a 50% representation of women in Parliament because shockingly, in 2016 in the UK as well as other western countries, females are not fairly represented. With less than a 30% female presence in the House of Commons, one can only wonder if the more equitable presence of women in Parliament might not begin to effect real social change. And in the US, the representation of women in the 114th Congresses is lamentable with only 20 female senators out of a total of 100 (a 20% presence) and 84 female congress members in the House of Representatives out of 535 (a 19.4% presence).
I have recently written my MP, Mark Field, to request that he take action to ensure a 50% presence of women in Parliament. The larger question remains: how to effect this change?

150 years from first suffrage petition - 5050 now!

This article notes that it is 150 years since Millicent Fawcett presented the first suffrage petition to the UK parliament. It is now time for a 5050 parliament!

50:50 Parliament is a contemporary petition asking all the party leaders for solutions to right this wrong. The disparity in the Commons is bad but the House of Lords is even worse: the name says it all. If Parliament is inaccessible to the majority that are women it must be inaccessible to many others. It needs sorting!

UK the election 'trapdoor' for women

UK MP Angela Eagle discusses the steps towards greater involvement of women in the UK parliament and laments the fact that politics remains stuck in a masculine paradigm in language and male culture:

The past 30 years have seen steady and significant progress in women’s representation. When I was first elected to parliament in 1992, I was one of only 60 women out of 650. This doubled following Labour’s victory in 1997 and has crept up to 191 today – 10 times more than in Barbara Castle’s heyday.
The early progress was driven by the Labour party. But the Tories have started to up their game, returning 68 female MPs at the last general election. There is a long way to go – particularly in the Tory party – but we are seeing progress.
This has undoubtedly had an impact on the way politics is conducted, both in the Commons and elsewhere. While sexism is alive and well – take David Cameron’s instruction to me to “calm down dear” during prime minister’s questions in the last parliament, one of his least edifying moments. But some of the more blatant misogyny, the obscene gestures and insults that faced female MPs in previous years, have gone.
However, there is a paradox. Looking at the coverage of the current referendum campaign, you would be forgiven for thinking that little had changed. It is overwhelmingly dominated by men. Cameron and George Osborne on one side; Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage on the other. It is coming across more like an Eton playground spat than a serious debate about the future of our country.
This week, Harriet Harman, Seema Malhotra, Kate Green and I held a press conference in an attempt to redress the balance – to highlight the missing voices of women and the importance of the vote on EU membership for women at work. Needless to say, much of the coverage focused on a question about a comment Harman made about Kim Kardashian. That says it all, really. Women are not taken seriously.
Even the language of election campaigns can be unmistakably masculine. The talk is all of civil war; of the big guns being rolled out; of the big beasts battling away. The problem is, all these beasts are blokes.
The unwritten assumptions about what constitutes “strong leadership” are male too. A study by Loughborough University released this week found that just one in six politicians appearing on television to discuss the Europe question were women. In the press, it was one in 10. Of the top 10 politicians covered, all were male.
This is all sadly familiar. In a quarter of a century in politics, I’ve seen it time, and time and time again. Even when women are in the top team, they rarely find themselves at the forefront of election campaigns. Even those inside the top team can end up feeling like outsiders – marginalised, disregarded and invisible.
Whatever progress women make, the pattern seems set. Whenever an election is called it’s like a trapdoor opens up beneath the chairs of every female politician and we simply disappear from the scene. As soon as the campaign kicks off, our politics regresses to a bygone, men-only era.

See also Angela Eagle: 'Tory blokes' playground spat' drowning out EU debate

Struggle not over

Sofia Quaglia of City University, London writes about the continuing struggle for women to be represented fairly in parliament.

191 women MPs were elected during the 2015 General Election, or 29% of all MPs: a historically record high. Nearly a third of the House of Commons is now female. While this may look like progress, we are still nowhere close to eliminating the gender gap in parliament.

UK petition about sexist dress codes for work

Petition Against Companies Requiring Women to Wear High Heels at Work Goes to UK Parliament   

The petition was started on Monday by 27-year-old Nicola Thorp, who recently spoke out about the "sexism" she said she faced in December, when she was sent home from work for refusing to wear high heels, the BBC reported.

Related articles from ABC News (USA).

Texas Dad Challenges School Dress Code, Labeling It 'Sexist'

Tuxedo-Clad Girl Allegedly Thrown Out of Prom for Not Wearing Dress

California High School Graduate Strikes Back at School Dress Code With Yearbook Quote

The view in Australia is that anti sex-discrimination legislation would protect an employee from unreasonable and selective requirements for work clothing:

"An employer can set a standard of dress in the workplace as part of a reasonable and lawful direction; for instance, requiring someone to wear high-quality business attire," Herbert Smith Freehills employment partner Tony Wood said. "But a problem arises if an employer identifies a gender-specific requirement ... so, in this situation, directing females to wear high heels would seem to be offensive to most of Australia's anti-discrimination legislation."
And it may not only be women who could claim gender discrimination over employer-dictated clothing standards. In a previous case in the United Kingdom, a male employee won the right not to have to wear a tie to work after arguing at an industrial tribunal that it amounted to discrimination. His claim was upheld because it was determined that women in his workplace were not subjected to the same rigorous dress rules.
Australia's Human Rights Commission advises employers that rules regarding workplace attire could be discriminatory if they single out certain employees for different treatment because of their background, personal characteristics or gender.

Read more: 
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Women in bronze outside, or women making up half the people inside? (and not in the cupboard downstairs)

A campaign in the UK has been launched to petition the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to commission and install a suffagette statue in Parliament Square. All eleven statutes currently in the Square are of men. The campaign was launched by Caroline Criado-Perez (who began the campaign to put Jane Austen's image on the new Ten-Pound note) Caroline writes:

The women who fought for our rights - the suffragettes - deserve to be commemorated in front of the building they were locked out of for centuries.

We wholeheartedly endorse the campaign to commemorate the suffragettes.

However, we are mindful of the symbolism of statuary that depicts women stuck outside the parliament.

We remember that Emily Wilding Davison, who threw herself under the King's horse, had hidden in a cupboard in the parliament building on the night of the 1911 Census so that she could enter her address as the parliament at Westminster.

We advocate a truly lasting memorial of legislating now to require equal gender representation in parliament.

The English MP, Tony Benn advocated that each electorate vote for and be represented by both a male and a female MP (which is the goal of He erected a few of his own memorials in Parliament House including a plaque in a broom cupboard in the crypt of the building. 

Tony Benn said in the House of Commons in 2001: 'I have put up several plaques—quite illegally, without permission; I screwed them up myself. One was in the broom cupboard to commemorate Emily Wilding Davison, and another celebrated the people who fought for democracy and those who run the House. If one walks around this place, one sees statues of people, not one of whom believed in democracy, votes for women or anything else. We have to be sure that we are a workshop and not a museum.'

The inscription on Benn's plaque in the cupboard in the crypt read:

In loving memory of Emily Wilding Davison

In this broom cupboard Emily Wilding Davison hid herself, illegally, during the night of the 1911 Census. 

She was a brave suffragette campaigning for votes for women at a time when Parliament denied them that right.

In this way she was able to record her address on the night of the census as being 'The House of Commons' thus making her claim to the same political rights as men. 

Emily Wilding Davison died in June 1913 from injuries sustained when she threw herself under the King's horse at the Derby to draw attention to the public injustice suffered by women. 

By such means was democracy won for the people of Britain.

Notice placed here by Tony Benn MP

'I must tell you, Mr. Speaker,  that I am going to put a plaque in the House, I shall have it made myself and screwed on the door of the brown cupboard in the Crypt.' 

Update 7 June 2016


Some progress but more to do in UK

Women are on the ballot today in higher numbers than recent years – though on a longer time-span, female representation has fluctuated, and we remain far from gender parity.
Research by Democratic Dashboard shows how there are more women running in today’s elections for the Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish and London Assemblies than in 2011.

This article makes the point that when you start from a very low base rate of women in elected positions, modest improvements can look good. In addition, more female candidates does not necessarily mean they get to stand for winnable seats.

UK looking for sustained improvement after setbacks

The road towards a gender balanced House of Commons has been a long and slow one, but devolved parliaments were an opportunity for a fresh start for female representation in British politics. The first London Assembly in 2000 comprised 48% women, and in 2003 the Welsh Assembly became the first national elected body in the world to achieve gender parity among its members. The Scottish Parliament also saw close to 40% women in Holyrood in 2003.
These early successes proved to be a high water mark, however, and since 2003 the number of women elected to the devolved bodies has either stalled or fallen.

While more women may seek election and run for office, they are more likely to be contesting marginal seats and the increased number of candidates is unlikely to be reflected in the final tally of seats won:

However, indications are that the increase in female candidates may not translate into equivalent increases in women elected. In London and Wales the number of women elected is likely to be either stagnant, or increase by a very small amount. In Wales, the Electoral Reform Society Cymru recently published an in-depth exploration of the picture for the Welsh Assembly, and found that while all women shortlists and zipping are used – in particular by the Labour Party – women are significantly more likely than men to be defending “marginal” seats. Of the 11 battleground constituencies, ten are being defended by women.

Male, pale and stale? UK House of Commons: unrepresentative; sexist culture; women 'in power' is not enough; & how to improve representation

In an online article A woman’s place? The British House of Commons CHÉ RAMSDEN on 29 March 2016 speaks of everyday sexism experienced in the UK parliament and the extraordinarily unrepresentative nature of its membership.

On representation - more male MPs in the current Parliament than female MPs ever elected in the entire history of parliament:

There are currently more male MPs in office (459 – of whom 436 are white) than the number of women MPs in UK history (450). A 100:0 ratio of men to women in the House of Commons was accepted for most of the institution's history; today, the ratio is 71:29. Yet aiming for the opposite - a 29:71 or 0:100 men to women ratio - seems inconceivable. Only under patriarchy will we pay lip service to ‘equality’ while seeking to cap women’s representation at 50%.

Gender redress - where parliament would be predominantly female seems unlikely in current circumstances.

50:50 is more achievable and a better fit with representative democracy now.

Historical redress to match the history of gender representation in the House of Representatives in Australia we guess (we have not done the sums) would require more than half a century of all-female representation.

On everyday sexism - bullying, mockery and unprofessional behaviour accepted as 'banter':

Despite women having voting parity with men since 1928 when over-21s were enfranchised, women’s experiences in the House of Commons show that this is not a space designed for or inclusive of women. The report for the Administration Committee on women’s experiences in Parliament, published in August 2015, highlights that women MPs and MPs from minority backgrounds are made to feel unwelcome by a ‘public-school boy ethos’. This is a culture which accepts bullying, mockery and other unprofessional behaviour as ‘banter’.

Perhaps standards of parliamentary behaviour should also be similarly reviewed in Australia?

On whether woman politicians in a male system necessarily ‘do good for women’ - in a male dominated system not every woman is a champion of women's interests:

That is not to say that simply being a woman in Parliament means you will do better for women, inside or outside Parliament – Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister is a case in point. But equally it is hard to imagine a party dominated by women proposing such a ludicrous policy as domestic violence support services having to bid for funding from the spoils of a tax which considers sanitary products ‘luxury items’. We have also seen how governments like Sweden’s, which are willing to identify as feminist, approach all policy formulation – not just ‘women’s issues’ – with a different framework.

The problem of women not necessarily being 'good for women' is documented in Australia by Anne Summers in her book The end of equality 2003. That is why a system of dual male and female electoral representation may allow more women into parliament who are not bound to moribund male-dominated party agendas.  

On how to get elected - focusing on party systems for candidate selection:

At the ‘How to get elected’ panel, Women’s Equality Party representative Hannah Peaker described how, as a new party, they were able to review the entire system of candidate selection from scratch. Their findings are lessons in inclusivity: that application forms were long and unwieldy, and required too much irrelevant personal history; that candidates need childcare while they are campaigning; and that if you want a pool of diverse, representative candidates then you need a diverse membership.
These are not radical solutions, but it is surprising that political institutions, including parties, have not yet adopted them. 

If not even the least radical solutions can be accepted by the parties in the current system - why not change the system?

Westminster MP called out for sexist comments

It is reported that a Westminster MP referred to a female journalist as a 'totty' - meaning a girl or woman, especially one regarded as sexually desirable. This article explains that sexist language is all too common.

See also.


UK view against gender equity in representation

 A UK MP, Henry Jones argues that:

'The Women’s Equality party are the new girls on the Westminster block. Chief among their political objectives is achieving “equal representation.” They claim that if the UK was to have more equal political representation, “violence against women and the specific needs of women in our health service would be taken more seriously”.'

The argument is that countries with high levels of female representation have high reported rates of sexual violence. Mr Jones suggests there is no need for equal representation. 

This is a common fallacious argument where false comparisons are made using data that cannot be matched. The real issue is whether women are democratically represented or not.