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Grantham Journal column: US following in our footsteps but fight for equality is far from over

Grantham and Stamford MP Nick Boles. EMN-151105-160103001
Grantham and Stamford MP Nick Boles. EMN-151105-160103001

On 7 June 1866, Elizabeth Garrett and Emily Wilding Davison went to Parliament to present a petition calling for women to be given the vote.

The suffragettes’ campaign would start bearing fruit in 1918 when some women were enfranchised but it took another 10 years before full equality in voting rights was achieved.

Exactly 150 years after the suffragettes first lobbied Parliament, on Wednesday of this week, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to win the presidential nomination of any party in America. If she is elected in November she will be the first woman President of the United States.

We in Britain can take some pride in the fact that we got there 47 years ago when Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister. But even we have to admit that progress towards full political equality took far too long, and that there is still a lot to be done to achieve real equality of opportunity, and treatment, for women.

I come from a family in which strong independent women dominate so I have never needed to be persuaded that women are at least as competent and capable as men. If anything I tend to the view that they are, in most respects, superior. But we need to recognise that both conscious and unconscious discrimination against women persists in our society - and is endemic in lots of other countries around the world. We must continue to press for more women to be appointed to senior positions in business and the civil service. We must put pressure on employers to make sure they are paying women the same as men who do equivalent jobs. And we must insist that all communities in Britain, whatever their religious affiliation, adhere to British values and give women the same freedoms, rights and respect as men.

The suffragettes eventually won their battle. And Hillary Clinton has won the first of hers. But the campaign for full equality is far from over and there is lots more work to be done.


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