06.03.2012 - London Metropolitan University

Exhibition in UK Parliament celebrates Women and the Vote

Curators installing the Women and the Vote exhibition in the Houses of Parliament. Parliamentary copyright image reproduced with the permission of Parliament.

The UK Houses of Parliament are celebrating International Women’s Day with a display of historic documents charting British women’s fight for the vote. The items in the display - Women and the Vote: The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain 1865-1928 - are drawn from the collections of The Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University and The Parliamentary Archives, inscribed on the UK Memory of the World Register in 2011.

The eight items in the display document the history of the women’s movement from the 1860s to the achievement of female suffrage on the same term as male in 1928. The documents begin with the 1866 Petition which enabled John Stuart Mill to be the first person in Parliament to call for women’s suffrage; and end with the success of the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act of 1928. The collection contains a congratulatory letter from the Prime Minister to the leader of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies – and founder of The Women’s Library – Millicent Fawcett.

“We at The Women’s Library are really excited to bring this historic collection of objects together for the first time in history, at the Houses of Parliament, where for many years women were excluded from participating,” says Director of Libraries for London Metropolitan University, Julie Howell. “We really hope that Women and the Vote inspires all who see it, particularly MPs, as this really is a fantastic celebration of equality, where it counts, at the ballot box.”

Clerk of the Records at the Parliamentary Archives, Caroline Shenton, highlights the importance of displaying the Memory of the World collections: “The Parliamentary Archives is delighted to host this exhibition of our UNESCO-recognised women's suffrage documents. It is particularly exciting to display our Women's Freedom League banner, which was unfurled from the Ladies' Gallery in the House of Commons by suffragettes in 1908. Working with the Women's Library has been a great opportunity to bring this and our other archival documents about women and the vote to a wider audience."

The collections will be in the Royal Gallery, House of Lords, until Saturday 10 March, to mark the 101st International Women’s Day on Thursday 8 March.

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