Epping Forest MP Eleanor Laing has sponsored an important new exhibition in Parliament charting 150 years of progress on women’s rights and gender equality.
The exhibition has been produced by the UK’s leading sex equality charity, the Fawcett Society to mark the 150th anniversary of the date of the presentation to Parliament of the first petition for women’s votes.
Millicent Fawcett collected signatures on that first petition, but at 19 was too young to sign it herself.
She then went on to lead the constitutional campaign for women’s votes (the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies) and was in Parliament to witness the granting of universal suffrage in 1928, 62 years later.
The suffrage movement was not only campaigning for votes for women but also wanted to achieve wider social transformation of access to education, property rights even the right for women to exist in their own right and not only as the property of a man.
The Fawcett Society, established in Millicent Fawcett’s name, is marking its 150th anniversary with a timeline in Parliament and a call to speed up the pace of change.
The charity has also published a book about the history of the suffrage movement, In the steps of exceptional women: the history of the Fawcett Society, by Jane Grant.
Mrs Laing will be donating a copy of the book to all the secondary schools in the Epping Forest constituency.
Adding her voice in support Eleanor Laing MP said: “I am delighted to support this important exhibition. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Millicent Fawcett and the suffragists and suffragettes who campaigned alongside her.
“This is why I will be donating a book about our suffrage history to all the Epping Forest secondary schools. I hope that all pupils, boys and girls, will get the opportunity to find out more about this crucial part of our past.
"I want the young people in my constituency to experience a future free from sex discrimination. Equality – it’s about time.”
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “We are very grateful to Eleanor Laing for her support and help with bringing this exhibition to parliament. It is fitting that it should be there for the 150th anniversary of the petition presentation.
“By understanding our past we can make sex discrimination history. We don’t want to wait another 150 years for equality.”