Women ruled in our house!
WELL, my friends, with a swift kick of my heels, I galloped into 2013 – just one look backward at the past years. I don't really make new year resolutions any more.
The promise I made to myself when my dear daughter, Julie, died in 2006, covers all my aspirations and hopes: "I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep."
It comes from one of my favourite poems by Robert Frost, Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening. If you like poetry, do read it.
My ambition is to go on fundraising for Refuge this year and do even better than before. However, as we go into 2013, it seems impossible to accept that 100 years ago women were denied a vote. I learned about the history of the suffragette movement, formed as a protest group against the unfairness with which women were treated, when I was about 12.
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My school friends and I were amazed. Here we were, in the midst of the Second World War, and I was learning about what had happened only 30-odd years ago.
My teacher said she didn't know how England would have faired in wartime without the bravery of women fighting alongside men on Ack-Ack stations, working on barrage balloons, as land girls and lumberjacks and even delivering aeroplanes.
When I asked my mum what she remembered, she said she didn't get a vote until she was 28. Then she laughed and said she supposed that, if I had been her, she thought I would have been a suffragette!
I can imagine demonstrating and carrying a placard, but not using violence, which I deplore, although I suppose denying women the vote did call for extreme measures.
In 1918, women were finally given the right to vote on the proviso that they were over 30 and either they, or their husbands, owned property.
When I started work in 1948, a lovely older lady took me under her wing. When I became engaged to be married aged about 16-and-a-half, she was astonished. With great daring, I asked why such a lovely lady as she was unmarried.
She simply said that her sweetheart had died on the Somme in the First World War – as did some 660,000 other men, such was the level of fatalities among the young men who volunteered or were conscripted.
My own gran was about 50 before she got the vote. This was unbelievable to me as a schoolgirl in the 1940s.
At first, the suffragettes believed in peaceful protest in an effort to convince men that they were responsible enough to be trusted with a vote.
Even today, in some societies and even in households in England, women are not regarded as being the equal of men.
Mum was 11 when suffragette Emily Wilding Davison threw herself under a horse owned by King George V at the Epsom Derby in 2013.
Emily was 40 at the time, but my mum said such was the weight of opinion against the suffragettes that my grandfather, and most of the general population, had more sympathy for the jockey and were angry that the King's horse, Anmer, had been cheated of victory.
Violence then began on both sides and continued until the outbreak of the Second World War, in August 1914. I read a book by Emmeline Pankhurst (another famous suffragette), My Own Story, when I was about 16 and was quite engrossed in the story.
Mind you there wasn't much doubt who ruled the roost in our house: my dad always said that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world and, since my mum had three daughters and my gran living with her, it was a female society until 1942.
Mum and dad were quite political. Times had been tough. Those who survived the First World War had been promised a better future – instead of which they witnessed the General Strike, a symptom of the bitterness felt by the working class.
Dad, being a barrow boy, was still able put food on the table – after all, that was how he made his living.
People had to eat and what he didn't manage to sell fed us, so all mum and dad had to worry about was their rent. There was always bread and homemade jam – a feast fit for a king!
That's all for now, God bless and take care, Marion.
PS. Re the letter from T Titcomb in Bristol Times, January 8. Yes, I did work for Coventry and Jeff's in St George's Road. I worked in the upstairs office with Mr Greer as a wages clerk. At that time – 1948 – Charles Saunders was the head salesman.
Also, I do agree with his views about the atrocious office building that blocked the view of the steps.