I grew up fascinated by the stories that I heard about suffragettes. I was also brought up to understand that voting is a very important responsibility. I was first entitled to vote at the 1997 general election and my parents made a bit of a fuss about it and were very keen that we should make our trip before school and work to our local polling station together. So I stood in the polling booth that May morning, and every time I have had a ballot paper before me and stubby pencil in hand since, and gave silent thanks for and to Emily Wilding Davison who after being arrested, imprisoned and force fed multiple times as she fought for women’s suffrage was eventually to die for the cause as she stepped out in front of George V’s racehorse Anmer at the Epsom Derby in 1913. I give thanks too for Millicent Fawcett, for mother and daughter Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst and the countless other women who campaigned for their inclusion. I also wonder if some of the tactics used by the suffragettes were used today whether they would be considered good and decent campaigners for a cause or terrorists who should be stopped.
I still hold a deep respect for voting and for democratic process. To me there are few places more sacred than the polling booth. In the polling booth at least every elector is of equal value to every other elector. It doesn’t matter about one’s gender or sexual identity, 18 years old that day or 98, where you come from, what you do, what colour your skin is, whether your eligibility to vote is by birth or naturalisation or anything else.
It is tempting to fall into a trap of believing that individual votes don’t matter. But they do. It is through the ballot box that the people ultimately hold the government to account. I am glad that I can vote. I am thankful to those women a hundred and more years ago who made it possible for me. I will never forget them.
Revd Sarah Moore
Cumbria Area of the North Western Synod of the United Reformed Church