Parliament, indeed the whole country, has been celebrating the 100th anniversary of women having the right to vote.
In fact, in 1918 it was only women over 30 who could vote, and it took another decade, to 1928, for the age that women could vote to be equalised with that of men.
Looking back, it just seems weird that women were not allowed to vote as recently as that. After all, it is in the lifetime of both my (late) grandmothers, so I have a direct personal connection to that time.
Yet the struggle for equality continues.
It is only just this month, for example, that women have been allowed to drive for the first time in Saudi Arabia. That may seem a long way from Chester, but the principle, and the struggle, is the same.
Several schools in Chester take part annually in the “Send My Friend to School” project which looks at the plight of young people in developing countries who are denied an education. Indeed, recently I met two pupils from Upton High who were representing that campaign nationally. All these schools tell me the same story: that girls suffer disproportionately across the world in being denied a full education, and also suffering abuse.
So, in the UK and across the world, true equality is still a long way off.
Chester has a proud history in the fight for women’s votes. You may have seen Jan Bengree’s play Loud Hailers, performed around town this year. It tells the story of suffragette Mary Phillips who famously flour bombed then Prime Minister Herbert Asquith when he came to our city in 1912.
She was imprisoned, but an anonymous benefactor paid her fine and had her released. There is some speculation that the fine was paid by Phyllis Brown, of the family who owned Brown’s of Chester, now Debenhams.
Modern day Chester is also leading the way in terms of local leadership. The Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council are both women – Councillors Samantha Dixon and Louise Gittins. As are the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition – Councillors Lynne Riley and Margaret Parker.
That’s a unique situation but it shouldn’t be unusual: nobody remarks when the leaders of a council are all men. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another hundred years before women’s involvement and leadership is not a matter of curiosity but just, well, normal.