Islanders join town march to celebrate women’s suffrage
HUNDREDS of people – including past and present politicians – marched through St Helier on Saturday to celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage.
The march, which began at Charing Cross and saw the crowd stretching back to the Parade, started with performances by local dancers, before the procession walked together through town.
Island groups Women in Politics and the Soroptimists International Jersey led the parade, while choirs Concordia and Vocalize sang ‘March of the Women’.
Participants – many of whom were dressed in the suffragette colours of purple, green and white – followed while waving banners and cheering ‘votes for women, equality for all’.
Once assembled in the Royal Square, the crowd enjoyed renditions of songs in the sun, including Sister Suffragette, before listening to the event’s guest speakers.
Kate Wright, of Women in Politics, first thanked everyone for coming and paid tribute to the pioneers who fought for women’s equality.
Speakers at the event included Education Minister Tracey Vallois, Lucy Layton of Jersey Heritage, who champions equality in the workplace, and Charlotte Valeur, chairwoman of the Institute of Directors.
Quoting Emmeline Pankhurst’s ‘freedom or death’ speech, Ms Valeur said: ‘Let the men imagine that they were not in the position of being voters at all, that they were governed without their consent being obtained, that the law turned an absolutely deaf ear to their demands – what would the men do then?’
To a cheering crowd she continued: ‘I find that quite an interesting question, even today. What if the roles were reversed and men had to ask their wives for permission to get their tax returns? What would they do? Could the men please tell us what they would do and maybe we can learn from them.’
Addressing the crowd in a heartfelt speech, Senator Vallois said: ‘On the 8th of December 2008 I stood in the Royal Court, just a short distance from here, to take my oath of office for the first time as Deputy of St Saviour.
‘At the age of 25 it was a surreal experience, but also an honour to take an oath which allowed me to represent an area so close to my heart.
‘As a single parent and under the age of 30 at the time, I wouldn’t have been able to have done this 100 years ago.
‘But what happened 100 years ago opened up opportunities and rights that many take for granted today. I feel honoured and grateful to be one of the 45 women to serve the Island as your representative.’
The parade came a day after 21 past and present elected female politicians pledged to fight on for equality in the States Assembly, a century after the passing of the ‘Franchise Bill’, which allowed women in Jersey to vote.