As communities across the UK mark the centenary of the first women gaining the right to vote this week, the ‘Advertiser speaks to four of the district’s most inspirational women and female-led organisations to find out why remembering the sacrifices made for women’s suffrage matters to them.
Chloe Bellerby, Rossett school student, centre-back for Harrogate Town Ladies Football Club and mental health campaigner.
“Women getting the right to vote on equal terms in 1928 was a pivotal moment in changing how women are viewed in society. This is mind, remembering those that sacrificed so much of their livelihoods is so important because they managed to change what was a sexist vote, into an equal opportunity for women. If these women didn’t campaign then the world today would be a lot different and under-developed in terms of jobs and opportunities for women - for example, having paved my future into playing football and earning a soccer scholarship in America, this would be impossible and a lost dream. Women wouldn’t be able to participate in what are seen as ‘men’s’ sports.
"However, due to the campaigning, women are now playing full-time professional football all over the country. The game is starting to grow even further, and this is why I feel so passionately about women ensuring they still vote and have their say, otherwise everything that the women’s suffrage achieved for so many would be all for nothing. If it wasn’t for the women’s suffrage, we wouldn’t be able to have the ability to get a job and obtain our own source of income and I wouldn’t be able to live my dream of playing football stateside."
Ellen Young, Harrogate Grammar School student and head girl, winner of the Young Woman in the Community Award from Harrogate and District Soroptimists, winner of Young Volunteer of the Year at the Volunteer Oscars, founder of her school’s foodbank, and the Harrogate Climbing Team.
“I can’t imagine a world where my views are discriminated against due to my gender; where I am told which subjects to study, choices on my future deemed inappropriate; where all I ever work for is snatched from me and handed to my spouse. The world I’ve grown up in is one where my articulation is accredited to my mind and not degraded due to my sex. I go to school each day and sit in chemistry class, asking questions alongside the boys on issues we find equally difficult. To me, this is normal.
“My mum has always told me about my great-grandmothers however: fisherwomen who drove businesses, raised children and run their villages during the war. Hardy women with creels on their backs, toughened skin and scarred hands. They knew what it was to work hard, in full knowledge that their contributions would be marred by society’s favour to men. Their sisters campaigned on the streets and demanded our rights. Their struggle allows me to express my views and one day practice medicine. We must remember the hardship of those before us, exercise our rights to their full extent each and every day, appreciate what we have and still, how far we have to go.”
Jacqui Hall, Managing Director of Harrogate-based energy supplier CNG
“Our right to vote, not just as women, but as a whole, is one of the greatest societal developments in history. Constructing a fair, importantly diverse, system on which to base change is a pillar of our democratic society and one we should never stop celebrating. The suffrage movement saw a small, powerful and brave minority pave the way for the majority. All major cultural shifts are captained by a handful of those strong enough to tackle change head on and we must exercise the rights they helped deliver to us, in honour of what they faced and to keep moving forward. Let’s celebrate by being as passionate as they were, using our voices and continuing to champion diversity and equality of all types.”
The Harrogate and District Soroptimists, staunch campaigners for equality and women’s rights
“The Soroptimists work in partnership with other organisations so that women and girls can achieve their individual and collective potential and have an equal voice worldwide. This work is as appropriate now as when the Soroptimist movement began in 1921. You only have to look at the media to see that there is much work yet to be done. That is why it is important for women of all ages to make sure their name is on the electoral register and use their vote in local and general elections to help influence the future.”