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London 100 Jahre Frauenwahlrecht
Image: picture-alliance/Zumapress/R. Pinney

Thousands march to mark 100 years of women's suffrage

June 10, 2018

British cities were awash with green, white and violet, as thousands marched to celebrate 100 years since women first won the right to vote. In London, the crowd marched from Park Lane to parliament.


Thousands of women sporting the colors of the suffragette movement marched across British cities on Sunday to honor those who led a decades-long campaign for female franchise.

The processions, which saw women march through the cities of London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, marked 100 years since women first won the right to vote in the UK.

Participants were given a piece of fabric to wear in one of the colors of the suffragettes — either green, white or violet — and marched in a choreographed fashioned to appear as a flowing river of color.

Read more: UK gender pay gap obvious across most sectors

London march celebrating 100 years of women's suffrage
London marchers started Sunday's procession in honor of the suffragette movement in the heart of the capital before heading to WestminsterImage: Imago/i Images

In London, the bands of color began their procession in the heart of the west end, along Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square, before walking to the British parliament in Westminster.

Sunday's marches were organized by the British arts group Artichoke, which specializes in organizing large-scale participatory events.

It asked 100 artists to work with women's groups to design banners inspired by the designs of the suffragette movement.

In London, an organization of female ex-prisoners and the Worshipful Company of Upholders,one of the Livery Companies of the City of London, named for the archaic word for "upholsterer", lofted their banners during the march.

WorldLink: Struggle for suffrage

Artichoke director Helen Marriage said she was taken aback by the amount of enthusiasm for the project. "A craft shop in London told us they'd run out of purple and green tassels, and they didn't know why," she said.

100 years of voting, but work left to do

Women first won the right to vote in the UK through the 1918 Representation of the People Act, although the right was only extended to women above the age of 30 with a minimum property qualification.

Women only won the same voting rights as men in 1928 with the Equal Franchise Act, which reduced the voting age to 21, regardless of property ownership.

Women won the right to vote through the militant approaches of the suffragettes and the more civil, law-abiding suffragist movement.

Read more: Who were the pioneers of Germany's women's movement?

London march celebrating 100 years of women's suffrage
For many taking part, the march was a way to express their gratitude to the Edwardian suffragette movementImage: Imago/i Images

After years of peaceful campaigning failed to win women the right to vote, the suffragettes resorted to more militant tactics, including chaining themselves to railings, smashing shop windows and blowing up post boxes. As a result, the movement's legacy remains far more controversial than their suffragist sisters'.

In April, a statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett was erected in Parliament Square, the first stature on the site to commemorate a woman. However, it is unlikely that such an honor will be extended to any figures from the suffragette movement.

Unveiling of statue honoring the first female Suffragist Millicent Fawcett
UK Prime Minister Theresa May and London Mayor Sadiq Khan attended the unveiling of the suffragist icon Millicent Fawcett's statue in Parliament SquareImage: Getty Images/D. Kitwood

"They were really extraordinary people," Artichoke's Marriage said. "A thousand of them went to prison. They were force fed in prison. In today's terms they would be described as terrorists."

Marriage also said that while the mood on Sunday was celebratory, it also intended to draw attention to work that still needs to be done to achieve full equality — from closing the gender pay gap to ending sexual harassment at the workplace.

London march celebrating 100 years of women's suffrage
The choreographed procession, which saw women march in rows of green, white and violet, was acted out in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and BelfastImage: picture-alliance/Zumapress/R. Tang

dm/jm (AP, AFP)

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