In Crawley, at Westminster, and around our country events and exhibitions are taking place to commemorate the centenary of women being given the right to vote in the United Kingdom.
Also being marked is the 90th anniversary since the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1928. In recognition of nine decades of gender equality in terms of eligibility to vote in elections, more than 3,100 EqualiTeas events took place earlier this year.
Such events were chosen as tea parties were once hotbeds of political activism, where women and suffrage organisations would meet to discuss and plan their next moves. Recently I was delighted to speak at EqualiTeas events held at the new Crawley Museum and by the West Green WI.
We can also be proud that Crawley was represented in this struggle. Dame Caroline Haslett campaigned for women’s rights, including outside the House of Commons in 1914.
Her name is of course how Haslett Avenue received its title. Earlier in the year I was struck by a picture in the Crawley Observer of Dame Caroline at the White House in 1952, alongside then-US President Harry Truman, as part of her inspiring work in the field of engineering.
It is always a pleasure to visit community groups in Crawley and speak about my role as the local Member of Parliament. As Crawley MP I also get to welcome our schools to the Parliamentary Education Centre in addition to visiting local classrooms to answer questions from students. I am always impressed with their knowledge and erudite thoughts on the issues of the day.
The new Voice & Vote exhibition in Parliament sheds light on the campaign for votes for women, as well as the representation of women in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. To see this exhibition is, of course, free of charge. It is open until 6th October and I would urge Crawley schools and community organisations to consider visiting to commemorate an important milestone in the evolution of our democracy.
Henry Smith MP