The last few weeks have felt magical! We were on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4, The Telegraph and also local BBC News and paper Manchester Evening News. We’ve also had bags of support on facebook and twitter and with deeds still rolling in I am feeling quite overwhelmed and on a feminist high!
The highlights by far came this week when I saw 100 deeds displayed on a HUGE screen at The People’s History Museum, in the foyer of The Museum of London and also at The Wilding Festival, this could only have been topped off by walking in a procession to mark Emily and all her dedication across London with Emily’s descendant (the very lovely Philippa Bilton) whilst carrying Lynn Setterington’s deed –banner ‘Remembering Emily’. It really has been a few weeks of an incredible sense of community, feminist spirit, compassion and commemorative respect.
I must admit that I did have a tear whilst Hannah (organiser of The Wilding Festival) called for a minute silence which was followed by a really moving inter-generational dance piece. I also welled up when a woman in a nearby shop clapped and smiled with flowers in her hand as the procession moved passed her shop. It made me wonder how Emily would’ve felt had she been able to see women finally walking into polling booths across the country to cast their vote, and equally how enraged she would feel if she knew that some people still do not use their vote, even if they spoil their paper, to ensure that their voice is heard, loud and clear.
It has been wonderful to meet some of the participants of 100 deeds and how this project has inspired them and opened a dialogue between them and people around them, how other projects have empowered them to speak up and one participant said to me “Thank you for doing 100 deeds, I sat up until 2 in the morning one night reading them all and then signed all the petitions I could”.
I looked around me at each of the events to people’s reactions to 100 deeds being exhibited which for two people (one in Mcr, one in Ldn) made them cheer when they saw their deeds, for others it was a big proud grin, and others was a photograph and a tweet. However people expressed it, it was clear to see, however much you were proud to see your own deed exhibited, everyone was proud and interested in each other. Strangers talked, 2 people in Mcr realised they worked in the same place just rooms apart, 2 people decided to work together, people commended others on their deeds and took an interest in each other’s work.
Whilst giving out playing cards with different suffragette’s on them (deed 100 – ‘Making Modern History’), one young man said “have you got Annie in there? She’s my favourite. She’s from the same town as me”. Turns out I did have her, and also that I didn’t know much about her, so I told him I would change that. That young man knows how important she was, and soon I will too and share it with others as he did with me. If you have a suffragette in your family, shout about her! Help her story inspire others.
I spent my Friday night at my friend’s house talking about Emily, feminism and 100 deeds whilst hand sewing together a suffragette ribbon to wear in the procession. It dawned on me that I might be doing the same thing one of the suffragette’s was doing 100 years earlier. Earlier that day, whilst looking at The Museum of London suffragette collection a woman turned to me and said “My Grandmother was a suffragette” – we talked for ages and eventually she said “She was just in the office though”. I had to stop her to remind her that there is no ‘just’. No matter if you were setting fire to letter boxes like Emily, or standing on boxes encouraging women to take action like the Pankhursts, or in the office, or sewing sashes YOU were part of making a difference. YOU were just as important as the household names and EVERYONE should be remembered. That’s what 100 deeds is about, marking what EVERYONE is doing, however big or small, once or everyday, to make a change.
We have decided to try and continue collecting deeds at least until 2018 which marks when a select few women gained the vote, so please do keep them coming, because we want to shout about it! Whether your deed is keeping a suffragette’s memory alive by sharing their story, creating a petition, changing how you use language or challenging parliament, however big or small your deed is, share it, because your deed will inspire others and be part of a bigger change.