By Sophia Ridden, Undergraduate Student
As we move into 2018, once again the time for new year resolutions has arrived. Of course, there are the classic resolutions of losing weight, eating better, improving money management and exercising more. Yet, whilst this time of year is typically used as a push to implement acts that can improve our lifestyles, the mark of a new year also brings the opportunity to show gratitude for both the big and small things in our lives that can so easily be overlooked and taken for granted. Reflecting on our lives and taking a moment to exercise gratitude has particular relevance today, as the start of January 2018 simultaneously marks the start of the centenary of Women’s right to vote.
The general election last year was the first time that I was able to vote and so, I wanted to ensure that I did so properly, by placing my vote in a party that matched my own political values and beliefs. This new opportunity of adult responsibility brought both feelings of anxiety and nervousness– as I knew little about the formalities – but also, an exciting sense of empowerment. This was the first time that I felt truly like a responsible adult and, whilst I was not particularly optimistic that my vote would change the world, it was empowering to finally have a legal say in my future. Amongst this cocktail of emotions was a great sense of satisfaction for finally having an influence, albeit a small influence, in Britain’s politics - especially after experiencing the frustration of being four months too young to vote in the European Union referendum. It was both angering and frustrating watching a decision being made that would ultimately have a significant impact on my life and my Generation’s yet, being unable to have a voice in this.
Recalling on these frustrations makes me empathise with women living in Britain a century ago. Despite the Representation of the People Act in 1918, only women over the age of 30 who appropriately met the property qualification were eligible to vote. Therefore, whilst the 1918 act was an achievement, it was only an achievement that could be enjoyed by 40% of Britain’s Women. This meant that 60% were experiencing the same frustrations and anger as I had at being so close yet so far in being able to have a say in decisions that would directly impact their lives. Yet, it is through this struggle that our society was transformed, so that people like me could become more involved in politics.
Consequently, as January 2018 begins, we should reflect on how far we have come in a century and take a moment to show gratitude to those who, unbeknownst to them, have shaped and moulded the lives that we live today. These small, taken for granted aspects of our lives, such as being able to vote, would have been seen as a big deal to them but have now been normalised and ingrained in to everyday life. It is thanks to these women who started a movement that has paved the streets of Britain with opportunities for their future: transforming our present day.