Today is Women’s Equality Day in the US – a day that deserves plenty of celebration and lots of conversation. On the 26th August 1920, women were granted official permission to vote by the US Government.
Although I live in the UK, I feel that an achievement for women anywhere is an achievement for women everywhere. We are still fighting sexism worldwide every day but thanks to the women of previous generations, we have a lot more rights than they did.
When I was younger, I definitely took my right to vote for granted. To put it simply, I wasn’t interested in politics at all. I didn’t really care who was in charge of the country or what it would mean for me because I had more important things to worry about like who was gossiping about who, of course! But everything changed for me when I went to university…
I decided to go to Royal Holloway, University of London – my only university choice that involved moving out of Wales & studying Creative Writing. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made; I was able to move away from home for the first time, make amazing lifelong friends and study in one of the most beautiful universities ever.
It wasn’t until I visited RoHo on an open day that I learned about the history of the place. It was originally built by Thomas Holloway and his wife, Jane as a college for women – a pretty big thing at a time when higher education wasn’t readily available for us female folk. It was officially opened by Queen Victoria herself in 1886 and later merged with Bedford College – ‘the first college in Great Britain for the higher education of women‘ which was founded by Elisabeth Jesser Reid in 1849.
A pretty good choice of uni, huh?
It was while I was at uni that I learned that one of the previous students was a suffragette who died for her cause, Emily Wilding Davison. I had heard of Davison before in a history class at school but attending the same university as her was an inspirational experience. It felt as though I had a closer connection to everything that she had stood for and it was a real privilege to study in the place where she had perhaps formed her feminist ideas.
Davison famously died by throwing herself in front of the King’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby. I always think of Emily Wilding Davison when I’m unsure about voting – she fought so hard for women’s equality, who am I to turn my nose up at that?
While I was at university, I also had to read A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf as part of my Creative Writing course. That was a total eye-opener & it remains one of my favourite books ever!
The part that sticks with me the most is Woolf’s anecdote of the university guard who tells her that she cannot walk on the grass because women are not permitted to. Even several decades after Davison’s death, when women are admitted to study at university, the differences between the sexes are still apparent.
Thankfully, things have changed a lot since then and these days, women are students, wives, mothers, working mothers, CEO’s and everything in between. This Women’s Equality Day, I’ve been thinking a lot about the women who came before me and appreciating what they’ve given for my generation – in some cases, their lives.
I am thankful for what they have achieved and hope to be as strong as them in supporting my fellow women.