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Salford’s great women: 44,000 vote to save feminism from A-Level Politics

A Department of Education plan to drop the study of feminism from the A-Level Politics syllabus was seen tens of thousands oppose it in a public petition.

The idea, proposed earlier this month, caused uproar among sexual equality campaigners, who pointed to the importance of female thinkers in the development of British politics.

A public consultation will run until 15 December, with campaigners urging the public to get involved.

A petition against the motion by politics student June Eric-Udorie has already gathered over 44,000 signatures.

Topics such as the rise of the Suffrages, who campaigned for the female vote, would remain on the course but distributed in a wide-ranging section called “Pressure Movements”.

Of seven political thinkers to be studied, only one, philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft is a woman.

Former University of Salford Professor Jocelyn Evans says from an academic standpoint this would leave students ignorant to one of the most influential streams of social and political thought in the last 100 years.

She told SalfordOnline.com: “It would deprive students of a full understanding of enfranchisement, the evolution of political parties, protest groups and political ideology, as well as the drivers for women’s rights and civil rights more generally.”

Salford has some of the most important feminist thinkers of the past 150 years.

Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, while born in Manchester, grew up in Seedley at her father Richard Goulden’s print works.

The politically radical family lived at Seedley Cottages, near the junction of Western Street and Farringdon Street.

Emmeline would also bring fame to St Luke’s Church, on Zion Hill in Weaste, when she married barrister and women’s rights supporter Richard Marsden Pankhurst in 1879.

Watch: St Luke’s Church, Kempe, and the Elvis stained glass

The pair went on to form the Women’s Franchise League in 1889, with Richard drafting the Women’s Disabilities Removal Bill (the first women’s suffrage bill in England) and authoring the bill which became the Married Women’s Property Act (1882) which gave wives absolute control over their property and earnings.

In October 1903, she helped found the more militant Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) – an organisation that gained much notoriety for its activities and whose members were the first to be christened ‘suffragettes’.

Like many suffragettes, Emmeline was arrested on numerous occasions over the next few years and went on hunger strike herself, resulting in violent force-feeding.

In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave voting rights to women over 30. Emmeline died on 14 June 1928 in Salford, shortly after women were granted equal voting rights with men (at 21).

Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy is perhaps less well-known than Pankhurst but was still an important and under-reported exponent of feminist thought.

The daughter of a Methodist minister,  she was born in Eccles on 15 December 1833.

Her father, The Rev. Wolstenholme held traditional views on girls’ schooling so Elizabeth only received two years of formal education.

After the death of her parents, her new guardians refused Elizabeth to attend the newly-opened Bedford College for Women.

Undeterred, Elizabeth home schooled herself until the age of 19, when she gained her inheritance and opened her own girls’ only boarding school in Boothstown, Worsley where she was headmistress.

She died aged 84 on 12 March 1918. Six days earlier, the Qualification of Women Act had been passed by Parliament.

Campaigners fear that girls will not be motivated to seek out these inspirational women if Feminism is dropped from A-Level Politics.

Add your vote to the petition here

Jacqueline Guderley, co-founder of the Stemettes, an enterprise inspiring girls to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths, backs the petition.

She says on her blog: “Education is the voice of a generation and all the generations before it: if the feminist movement is no longer bedded in our collective conscience through education, how will the generations to come ever speak out on female civil rights?

“How will they know that, yes, they can change gender equality if they try? They may not.”

See the public consultation online here

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