As part of the inaugural National Democracy week (2-8 July), Ayscoughfee Hall Museum and Gardens have opened a new exhibit, looking into the lives and environments of the women of the suffragette movement.
National Democracy Week is a celebration of democracy in society, including events, talks and fun activities, an opportunity to celebrate progress and champion future democratic participation.
This year carries special significance as it recognises the historic Centenary year of Suffrage, the 100th year of the first women getting the right to vote. July also marks 90 years since the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act was passed in 1928.
The exhibition at Ayscoughfee takes place in a room with the exact dimensions of a women’s prison cell from the period, 10ft x 6ft, and contains leaflets and flyers from the period from both sides of the movement, as well as jewellery worn by suffragettes and accounts from those involved. The exhibition is free to attend and is running until July 22.
The district of South Holland has a particularly special relationship with women in politics, having their first female councillors as early as 1908 and a woman Chair of the council, Mrs E.L Royce being appointed in 1920-1921, incredibly early compared to trends across the country. A number of women have subsequently held this office, either for South Holland District Council or for one of its earlier incarnations.
Councillor Elizabeth Sneath said: “It’s incredible to think that 100 years ago women were generally considered to not be capable of voting because they didn’t know their own minds – which is mind-boggling when you think of all the incredibly clever and bright women who lived then, just as they do now.
“It’s so evocative to consider the huge sacrifice made by these wonderful women, who gave up their health as a result of force-feeding whilst in prison, and in the case of Emily Davison even gave up their lives, in order to win women the vote.
“It is largely because of this that I find it so incredibly sad when people say they cannot be bothered to vote, wasting the opportunity that others have fought so hard for.
“It has been a privilege to be involved with this great new exhibition at Ayscoughfee and finding out more about the history and stories of the suffragettes, especially within South Holland. We have found out so many fascinating things about the women who took up these early roles as councillors, and I am truly honoured to follow them.”