100 years ago, British women seized the moment. We should do the same.

Let the bells ring out. A hundred years ago this February, British women won a great war. Not the Great War: Germany ...

Posted: Feb 6, 2018 1:11 PM
Updated: Feb 6, 2018 1:11 PM

Let the bells ring out. A hundred years ago this February, British women won a great war. Not the Great War: Germany wouldn't agree the armistice that ended World War I for another nine months. The Representation of the People Act, which gained royal assent on February 6, 1918, signified a different kind of surrender, by the male political establishment to the suffragists and suffragettes who had fought -- sometimes literally -- for the right to vote. The new law enfranchised women and heralded a greater victory still: Full equality.

This is the history I learned at school -- and it is bunk. As the UK marks the centenary and, later this year, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act permitting women to run for election to Westminster, it's important to acknowledge not only the huge significance of these laws but also what they did not mean.

In 2018 women in the UK still own less and earn less than men, frequently occupy the worst and worst regulated jobs, undertake the lioness's share of care giving and unpaid domestic labor, are subject to discrimination, harassment and sexual violence, and may be doubly or triply disadvantaged by the intersections of race, age, sexuality, gender identity, disability and poverty. Not only that, but rights and protections we thought secure are endangered by the rush to write into UK statutes employment and equality directives from Europe.

The real lesson of history is that equality laws are essential to female progress, but cannot, of themselves, create equality. Sometimes the legislation is itself deficient. The Representation of the People Act granted the vote only to the 40% of the female population over the age of 30 who owned property or met other criteria designed to exclude the majority of women from eligibility.

These new voters got to flex their new found influence at an election in December 1918 in which just 17 female candidates participated and only one, Constance Markievicz, triumphed. Along with her colleagues in the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, who do not recogonize the legitimacy of Westminster, Markievicz never took her seat.

"It is perfectly evident to any logical mind that when you have got the vote, by the proper use of the vote in sufficient numbers, by combination, you can get out of any legislature whatever you want, or, if you cannot get it, you can send them about their business and choose other people who will be more attentive to your demands," declared Emmeline Pankhurst. This has proved wildly overoptimistic.

Westminster extended the franchise to all adult women in 1928, but remains a male bastion that to this day fails to reflect -- or to connect with -- the wider population. Its narrow mindset is more often reinforced than challenged by a media establishment drawn from a similarly narrow gene pool. When the 2017 snap election snapped back at the UK's second-ever female Prime Minister, depriving her of a parliamentary majority and denying her a clear mandate, her critics damned her not just as a lackluster politician (she is) but as an avatar of female failure.

Being a woman almost certainly diminished Theresa May's chances of forging the strong and stable government she invoked on the campaign trail, but this has nothing to do with the ways in which she, as a woman, operates. She picked up the keys to Downing Street at a time of unprecedented turmoil and amid the implosion of male vanities. Her ascent is a prime example of the glass-cliff syndrome identified by researchers at the University of Exeter, a phenomenon that delivers leadership opportunities to women at times of crisis, when the odds against successful leadership peak.

The election did improve the diversity of the House of Commons, but from a shockingly low base. The picture is even worse in other parts of the political system.

Since co-founding the Women's Equality Party in 2015, I have come to understand the multiple forces that keep women out of politics, from the first-past-the-post electoral system that favors incumbents and has been shown globally to exclude women and minority perspectives, to the teeth-rattling expense of campaigning, for parties and individuals (and the gender pay gap, combined with caregiving commitments is a huge barrier for many women). Then there's the hostility that greets any woman who puts her head above the parapet.

In the final stages of last year's election, Women's Equality Party candidates and workers ignored threats of violence to keep campaigning. I took this photograph of one of the candidates, Nimco Ali, as she canvassed the day after receiving death and rape threats. On new year's eve, Nimco posted on Facebook about the encounter. "I had no idea Catherine Mayer who was standing with the girl's mum took this photo but it speaks so much of how bitter and painful but yet beautiful and powerful 2017 was," she wrote. "This little girl whose name was Amina left seeing someone who looked like her standing for what she believed in and her mother saw that her hard work will pay off."

It is in this spirit that we should celebrate Tuesday's anniversary and the other significant dates this year. The laws could not of themselves lift women to an equal footing with men but laid the foundations of a new architecture. They were also harbingers of hope, of female potential.

Hope may appear in short supply these days, with a misogynist in the White House and strains of toxic populism seeking to unpick progress in many countries, yet the same turbulences making space for Donald Trump and tin-pot demagogues across the globe also signal scope for benign change. It's no coincidence that the UK passed landmark equality legislation at the end of a world war. At its start fewer than a quarter of women worked outside the home; by the end, that total had risen to almost half. The conflagration weakened the old order, shook old certainties and showcased what women could do, for the benefit of everyone.

We are not yet embroiled in World War III (despite Trump's best efforts), but we enter this centenary year at a moment of profound upheaval-and huge opportunity. The best way for women to celebrate our right to vote and the election of Westminster's first female MP is to use those votes to get more women elected, across every form of government, to campaign for those women or to run for office ourselves.

Seize the turbulence.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 768624

Reported Deaths: 13993
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1055891807
Lake569801031
Allen43032699
St. Joseph37344568
Hamilton37335426
Elkhart29783470
Tippecanoe23503230
Vanderburgh23240405
Porter19580327
Johnson18843392
Hendricks18089323
Madison13575347
Clark13552198
Vigo12869256
LaPorte12578225
Monroe12575178
Delaware11155198
Howard10693237
Kosciusko9792124
Hancock8761150
Bartholomew8274157
Warrick8084157
Floyd8043182
Grant7378181
Wayne7239201
Boone7211105
Morgan6924143
Marshall6345117
Dubois6283118
Cass6096112
Dearborn602178
Noble600890
Henry5958111
Jackson517277
Shelby511598
Lawrence4928127
Gibson463696
Montgomery459292
DeKalb456785
Clinton456055
Harrison454077
Huntington417882
Whitley416745
Steuben411260
Miami406073
Jasper401655
Knox388691
Putnam385762
Wabash370384
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Ripley351971
Jefferson343487
White340154
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Wells304081
Greene295185
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Fayette286564
Posey282635
Scott281058
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Clay274949
Washington254637
Randolph247783
Jennings239749
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Starke229959
Owen222959
Sullivan221643
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Jay203032
Carroll197722
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Brown106243
Crawford105816
Martin92515
Warren87915
Switzerland8378
Union73610
Ohio58411
Unassigned0429

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1125420

Reported Deaths: 20490
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1305631493
Cuyahoga1173952263
Hamilton825481261
Montgomery536581062
Summit489381014
Lucas43799834
Butler40064614
Stark33876939
Lorain26072510
Warren24959312
Mahoning22738613
Lake21482396
Clermont20425261
Delaware19169138
Licking16879227
Trumbull16829492
Fairfield16825207
Medina15880276
Greene15565254
Clark14366308
Portage13450218
Wood13358201
Allen12064245
Richland11748213
Miami11047228
Wayne9275228
Columbiana9216236
Muskingum9144137
Pickaway8755123
Tuscarawas8724255
Marion8716140
Erie8146166
Ashtabula7280179
Hancock7050135
Ross7031165
Geauga6975153
Scioto6726108
Belmont6224179
Lawrence5964104
Union591649
Jefferson5729162
Huron5644122
Sandusky5498130
Darke5448131
Seneca5380128
Washington5373111
Athens527260
Auglaize507787
Mercer491785
Shelby484397
Knox4621113
Madison448066
Ashland446198
Defiance439499
Fulton436875
Putnam4358104
Crawford4120111
Brown410462
Preble3956107
Logan392279
Clinton391466
Ottawa376481
Highland366668
Williams357378
Champaign349860
Guernsey331554
Jackson321954
Perry299050
Morrow294943
Fayette289350
Hardin279665
Henry277467
Coshocton273061
Holmes2726102
Van Wert252365
Gallia251150
Adams250958
Pike244837
Wyandot235557
Hocking222963
Carroll201449
Paulding180142
Meigs151540
Monroe137945
Noble137939
Harrison115438
Morgan111724
Vinton87517
Unassigned04
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