Published on 28 June 2018
An inspiring session to mark 100 years of women receiving the vote has got schoolchildren thinking about their own voting rights.
The University of Sunderland played host to children from schools across South Tyneside as part of the Vote 100 campaign, marking the centenary of votes for women.
The ‘Deeds Not Words’ event heard talks from University lecturers about the Suffragette movement and gender equality issues. The children were then invited to take part in a craft-making session which aimed to reflect the women’s plight.
The session also got the young people, from Jarrow School and St Wilfrid’s RC College, talking about their own voting rights in 2018.
Angela Smith, Professor in Language and Culture at the University, said: “We asked the students to make artefacts to reflect the suffrage campaigns of 100 years ago, whilst making them relevant to today.”
The fun-packed day also proved inspiring to the teenagers, as some of the pupils from Year 8 and Year 9 revealed they were keen to see the current voting age reduced to 16.
One 14-year-old St Wilfrid’s pupil said: “I think it’s important young people get a say these days, just as it was important for women to get the vote 100 years ago.
“I understand why the women campaigned so hard because they felt so strongly about it. I feel strongly about it too.”
Some of the teenage girls from Year 8 at Jarrow School had a mixed response to dropping the voting age from 18 to 16.
One 12-year-old said: “I know you can leave school at 16 but there’s still college and university, so I think people are too immature to vote then – I would leave it at 18.
But her 13-year-old friend disagreed, saying: “We knew a bit about the Suffragettes from history lessons and what the women had to fight through to get the vote. I think we should be allowed to vote at 16.
One thing all the children did agree on was how much they had learned from the day and the importance of everyone being allowed to vote.
Dr Sarah Hellawell, a Lecturer in Modern British History, showed the pupils old video footage from the time of the Suffragette marches, including a protest through the streets of Newcastle.
She described how the women were often met with brutal force by those trying to stop the demonstrations, with many ending up in prison.
The Vote 100 campaign marks 100 years since Parliament passed a law which allowed the first women, over the age of 30, and all men, to vote for the first time. Events are happening throughout the year to mark the milestone.
As part of the day, the teens were asked to decorate umbrellas in the colours of the women’s movements from 1918.
One St Wilfrid’s pupil said: “It does seem like a long time ago this happened. I can’t believe they didn’t let women vote, it’s a bit silly.”
It was not until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 that women over 21 were able to vote and women finally achieved the same voting rights as men. This act increased the number of women eligible to vote to 15 million.