Suffragettes carrying a banner at the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. Photo: REUTERS.
This year’s Olympics has been billed as the "Women’s Olympics." For the first time, every participating country fielded female athletes and there was more equality in the women’s games, with the inclusion of sports like boxing. In the UK, we have been celebrating out Heroines of the Women’s Olympics; rejoicing that the likes of Laura Trott, Nicola Adams, and Jessica Ennis have shown the next generation of young girls that they can be just as good as the boys when it comes to achieving their goals.
The spirit of equality ran throughout the games, even from the start of the quirky opening ceremony. In the History of Britain routine which saw the stadium transform from a pastoral landscape to an industrial city, there entered a marching band of women representing the Suffragette movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Adopting drastic tactics, such as chaining themselves to railings and setting fire to mailboxes, these women fought for their right to vote. Many were imprisoned and there was scandal as stories emerged of force feeding when the female activists went on hunger strike. Prominent suffragette Emily Davison died for the cause when she attempted to throw a protest banner over the King’s horse at Epsom race course. Their struggles inspired the feminist movement which pervaded the 20th Century.
In the 21st Century, the Olympic volunteers who were chosen to represent these brave women have been enthused by their cause: they’ll once again don their Edwardian costumes to march on Parliament. Lesley Covington, a 57 year old Olympic volunteer, told journalists, "But why shouldn't we take this opportunity? Women are still under-represented in parliament and the upper echelons of business; childcare is a huge issue. I want to get involved and I want to make a difference. You can change things – you have to believe that, or you would never try." Led by Helen Pankhurst, great granddaughter of the great Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, the march on Parliament is planned to coincide with the UK Feminista Rally on 24th October.
It is wonderful that this great sporting event has inspired girls, not only to compete in sport, but to once more take up the banner and fight for gender equality in the UK. Come on girls, let’s get active!
Girl Museum Inc.