I don’t usually do political posts, but today is different. Today marks the 100th anniversary of a turning point in women’s history, when in the UK an act of Parliament was passed allowing certain women the right to vote in the political system. It was only a turning point and it represents a huge step forward for the rights of women in society, and enabled some – a very privileged few – to have a voice in how our society was organised, judged, policed, financed and ultimately how it evolved.
As you may know, I am a proud Manc. I was born and brought up in Manchester, and I am not ashamed to align myself with the history of this great city. It is a city that gave birth to all sorts of innovation and creativity, and the people of Manchester are not shy at coming forward and bucking the trend of fashionable “trendy” thinking. It was the people of Manchester and surrounding Lancashire who stood by Abraham Lincoln and other anti-slavery campaigners at tremendous cost to themselves, facing starvation and extreme poverty because there was no work for them when cotton supplies were halted. The prevailing thinking of the governing classes all around the world was to turn a blind eye to the fact that cotton was grown by slaves, but the people of Manchester stood up and said “no”.
Manchester was the birthplace of the first national movement for women’s suffrage in the 1870s, and later was the home of Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), an organisation which began to formalise numerous other societies and movements around the country. Emmeline, along with her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, were ardent campaigners and activists for the cause, often taking part in large parades and engaged in disruptive activities to bring attention to the work of the suffragists. There are some who still say that their actions were more akin to terrorism than demonstration and activism, and I guess when we look at what they did through our 21st century eyes we cannot fully understand or appreciate just how desperate women like them were to get society to recognise that women had a voice too. The desire for women to have a say who in who governed them, and to stand for election themselves simply cannot be fully understood from our viewpoint today.
There is a lot in the media today about this anniversary today and so there’s not much I can add to the story, only that the event 100 years ago was a turning point in a fight that still goes on today. It is a universal fight for women to be heard all over the world and it is a fight that has not been won yet. There are still parts of our world where women are classed and treated as inferior to men, and it’s not just in the so-called “third world” countries that we perhaps automatically think of.
Women in positions of power today
Even now, one hundred years after the first women were granted a voice in our political system, men outnumber women 2 to 1. According to the House of Commons Library 208 women were elected as Members of Parliament in 2017 (our last General Election), which represents 32% of all MPs. I don’t know what astonishes me more, the fact that even today, in 2018, only a third of our MPs are female or the fact that since 1918 less than 500 women have EVER been Members. The split between male and female MPs is different depending on the party (Conservatives 21%, Labour 45%, SNP 34%, LibDem 33%) which I suppose tells its own story (source BBC).
According to the Telegraph in September 2017, only 7 of the FTSE 100 companies in the UK have a female CEO, and even leaders in an organisation which is very dear to my heart – the Church of England – men outnumber women at a ratio of around 2 to 1. However, this is a glimmer of good news in that there has been a recent upswing in the number of women coming forward to be ordained, and last year’s figures show that there was an even split between men and women in training (source The Church Times).
Where are we now?
It may have started with a cry for “votes for women”, but it surely doesn’t end there. A quick dip into the European Commission’s 2017 Annual Report on Gender Equality tells us that women’s inequality is still as much alive today as it was back then. With sections of the report entitled “Reducing gender pay, earnings and pension gaps and thus fighting poverty among women”, and “Promoting equality in decision-making”, or even “Combating gender-based violence and protecting and supporting victims” among others, it shows us that women’s voices still struggle to be heard and there is more that divides us than unites us.
The movement that began in the Victorian era with John Stuart Mill raising the issue of women’s suffrage in the House of Commons in 1867 has evolved in the intervening years, but it still goes on. There are groups and activists today who campaign for more women in business, in politics, in sport, in boardrooms etc, and there is still a long way to go.
So, to finish, what happened one hundred years ago today in the UK was a turning point, a marker post, a landmark in women’s history, and I appreciate what those women Suffragettes and Suffragists put themselves through in order to get the ball rolling for us who have come after them. I think we owe it to our children and our grandchildren to not only keep that ball rolling, but to knock it out of the park completely and to keep striving for equality among ALL people regardless of age, gender, sex, race, creed, income, privilege, nationality, education, or any of the other labels that we insist on putting on ourselves to set ourselves apart from each other.
One of the ways I serve my church is to be involved with families who bring their children for baptism. My role is twofold: first there is the administration side of things – have they filled in the application form? Have I booked a priest? Have I got certificates ready? – and so on. But for me, the other bit of my role is the best bit and that’s when we do the baptism preparation session together.
At the session, we bring together several families who are asking for baptisms and we have some activities and discussions around the different bits of faith and what it means to be baptised. Locally, here in North Manchester, it is more common for families to bring children to be Christened, and to be honest, even though I know there is a difference between being Baptised and being Christened, I don’t think I know enough about it to be able to explain it or argue about it!
So to make life easier, when I talk about “baptism” I also mean “Christening” and when I talk about “Christening” I also mean “baptism”. For now, at least. Wait until I’m further into my training and I might be able to split them and explain them better than I can now.
There is going to be a session of baptism preparation tomorrow evening, and we are going to be running out our “new and improved” version, which Hils (our curate) and myself have been working on. We have an icebreaker activity and some discussion activities before we get to the real crux of what we’re there for and that is the discussion and explanation about what the baptism service entails.
For babies and infants, this is the bit that parents do on their behalf, but for older children and adults they do this bit for themselves. And that is where they are asked about rejecting certain things and turning towards Christ, before they are dipped in the water and blessed.
I am always moved by this part of both the preparation and the baptism service itself. At the preparation, there is a moment of hush when parents think about what it is they are turning away from, and to whom they turn and there is a palpable awe in the air which is similar to the moment of baptism itself in church. It is a real sacramental moment, where God makes himself known in our presence and where his glory is revealed. It is fascinating to hear how the different families have arrived at this particular point, but the moment of baptism is always something special, wondrous and touching in so many ways.
I wonder what your experience of baptism is. Do you believe in it, or is it just another thing that we do with children along with the MMR jab to protect them in childhood? Have you been “done” yourself, or is it something you have never considered or thought about? What about the practices where you are in the world? In the Church of England, it is common for the font in churches to be used in baptism, but now and again, full immersion baptisms are done in small pools or even natural waters such as rivers or lakes too. How is it done where you live?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave me a comment below.
In the wake of the atrocious attack in Manchester last night, I feel have to say something. But like so many people today there are simply not enough words to express just how sad, shocked, upset, fearful, determined, defiant and united we feel as a city.
Mancunians are renowned for our understated attitude to getting on with things and coming together as a community to stand in the face of adversity. This isn’t the first time Manchester has experienced violence like this and I don’t suppose it will be the last. While that saddens and angers me, I am reassured by the resilience of my fellow Mancs in that we will carry on.
For those who are pointing the finger and trying to divide us, my message is that we are all children of the same God and we would do well to remember that. Darkness will never overcome darkness, only light can do that. Hatred can never overcome hatred, only love can do that.
For the people of Manchester my message is, stay strong our kid.
Wow! The weather in Manchester tonight has been AMAZING!
It started at about teatime when the sky went green – yes, green – and there was a terrific rumble of thunder. Shortly afterwards, the lightening started and we were treated to the best light show all year.
This was the view from the back of our house at 6.30pm:
This from the front showing the torrential rain and the grid which was struggling to cope a bit:
Apologies for the Manc accents on these, but two short videos I shot out of Ethan’s bedroom window:
The thunder boomed and cracked for about an hour (including the LOUDEST thunderbolt I have ever heard at about 6.45pm) before it started to ease off. The rain kept up for a while longer and the lightning was going for about two hours or so. Thankfully the thunder rolled off to the north – I don’t like it when the thunder cracks like it did tonight. It puts me in full Chicken Little mode!
There have been lots of photos shared on social media this evening including this one from “I Love Manchester” on Facebook.
As well as having an affect on transport around the city it also caused the Manchester City vs Borussia Munchengladbach match to be cancelled. The fans were prevented from getting to the stadium because the trams were stopped and the roads were gridlocked, but as you can see from this photo from the BBC, there was quite a lot of surface water on the pitch just before it was due to kick off. Not surprising really!
My favourite video of the night has got to be this one – it shows the Etihad stadium lit up by magnificent purple lightning. Awesome!
As a big book lover, this list is amazing and I am definitely going to be visiting some if not all of these. Top of the list has got to be Chetham’s Library – I didn’t know it was open for public use – and next has got to be the reading room at John Ryland’s Library. How can you not be inspired by these places?!
Outside my window… it is 8 degrees but feels like 2; it is raining; it is dark; it makes me glad I’m home
I am thinking… I should be reading a critical essay on Peter Pan instead of doing this
I am thankful… that my eye test this morning showed no health problems, and only minimal change in my vision
I am praying for… the people in communities who are still affected by flooding
I am wearing… a spare pair of glasses that I’d forgotten I had which are doing a great job of giving me an “intermediate distance” focus so I can use my laptop for the first time in months!
I am creating… a minion in rugby clothes for my daughter, Emma
I am going… to see the “Flying Scotsman” on a test run tomorrow
I am wondering… whether to have a gin and tonic tonight or stick with wine
I am reading… “Played to Death” by BV Lawson
I am hoping… to get my mark back soon for my last OU writing assignment. I’m excited by the project and just hope that bears out in my marks
I am learning… how to craft a story properly
In my garden… the spring bulbs are starting to show shoots in the soil. Go back! It’s not spring yet!!
In my kitchen… nachos for tea tonight. None of us are very hungry and we just fancy a snack
A favourite quote for today… actually, I am going to quote you an excerpt of a phone conversation we overheard on the tram today. A wife is talking to her husband on the phone and we guessed she was going to get off in the centre of Oldham outside Sainsbury’s:
“We’re on the tram now. Can you pick me up from Sainsbury’s? (Pause) Ok, I’ll remind you when we get to Hollinwood. (Pause) Well if you’re not there we’ll kill time in Sainsbury’s. (Pause) Aye, thought you would be.”
Cue Kevin wetting himself laughing – “that’s one way to make sure he’s there to pick her up on time. Save himself a fortune!”
A peek into one of my days…
I had to go into Manchester today for an eye test, and whilst waiting for the tram home I took these photos. They show the very essence of what makes Manchester so Manchesterish. First of all, there is the oldest pub in the city, Sinclair’s. It survived the IRA bomb of 1996 where it got badly damaged, and it was rebuilt brick by brick in a slightly new location here. It stands side by side with one of the newer buildings in the city centre, the Harvey Nichols and the Selfridge’s stores which are in complete contrast. Whereas the pub is brick, mortar, wood, plaster etc, the Selfridge’s is all steel and glass. Next, there is the view along Corporation Street which shows the footbridge/tunnel between the Arndale Centre and Marks and Spencer in the distance. This was the location of the 1996 bomb, and that bridge came to represent the resilience of the Manchester people. Next we see the Printworks on the corner of Shudehill and Corporation Street. It used to be called “Maxwell House” and it was home to newspaper writing and printing in the city. Now, it’s home to a multiplex cinema and numerous bars, restaurants and shops. It’s a fabulous place and has a character all of its own. And finally, the Corn Exchange. Another symbol of Manchester’s resilience and adaptability, this building has been here for over 100 years, replacing an earlier building from around 100 years prior to that. It has gone through a couple of changes of name, and it has gone through more than a couple of changes of purpose. Originally, it was used as a place to trade – hence the name “Corn and Produce Exchange”, it’s first name. It fell out of use when trade was difficult in the 1920s and 30s where there was a widespread depression and financial crisis. It has been used by the Royal Exchange Theatre Company as an extension to their premises further up Corporation Street (another centre for trade originally) and more recently was used as a place for “alternative” lifestyles. You could find second hand records, tattoo and piercing paraphernalia and practitioners, crafts, clothing shops etc, but it all came to a halt after the bomb. It was damaged on the inside from the blast, and was remodelled into a shopping centre and renamed “The Triangle” because of its shape, but that all stopped and a few years ago it was changed AGAIN and is back to being the Corn Exchange with quality retail shops inside. For me, it sums up the history of Manchester as well as its ability to rise above hardship and difficulty and still look as glorious as it did when it was first built. This little collection of photos are taken from the new Exchange Square tram stop outside the Arndale Centre. It has only recently been opened and is part of the new and expanded Metrolink system (or the tram as it’s known to the locals). Again, a demonstration of how Manchester continues to evolve and change yet still keep hold of its distinct Manchesterishness
One of my favourite things… is being out and about in my home city
From the board room…
Can’t wait to try these!
Well, we’re 9 days in and so far so good. Postaday2016 is underway…watch this space!