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Marking 100 years of the Women’s Vote

Merseyside / February 06

Merseyside's Deputy Police Commissioner has marked 100 years since some women gained the right to vote by encouraging other young women to get involved with politics.

Cllr Emily Spurrell was speaking at a ‘Wonder Woman’ event hosted by Edge Hill University marking the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. On this day in 1918, the Representation of the People Act marked the first time that any women in the United Kingdom were able to vote, meaning for the first time, the country’s MPs were elected by women as well as men.

It was a change which sparked others. In 1928 another Act gave women the vote at 21, equal to men, and in 1969 the voting age for both sexes was lowered.

The event, which was officially opened by the University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience Lynda Brady, aimed to celebrate the victory of those who campaigned for Votes for Women and asked what more needs to be done to empower women to reach their potential and break through barriers. It gave the Deputy Police Commissioner the opportunity to talk about her own experiences in politics and encourage other young women to pursue a career in public life.

Emily said: “I was delighted to support the Wonder Woman event hosted by Edge Hill University celebrating the victories of those early pioneers who campaigned relentlessly and put their own freedom, well-being and safety on the line to fight for our right to vote today.

“We have made huge strides forward over the last century, but there is still a long way to go. Sadly, being a woman in any field, but particular in politics, can still make you a target for abuse, vitriol and even threats.

“Over the years I have often been described as bossy, but I have tried not to take that personally. Our society encourages men to be authoritative and to show leadership but in women it can all too often be branded as arrogance or self-importance.

“I attended this event today to encourage other young women not to be deterred or put off if they face similar attitudes.  My advice for the students I spoke to today was ‘just say yes’.

“Put your hand up at every opportunity. Get involved. And don’t worry if you are that lone voice in the room.”

Emily recounted how she first got involved with politics at university, joining groups including the Feminist Society. The 30-year-old told how after graduating she thought seriously about applying to become a Councillor and completed the application form, but at the last minute backed out.

She said: “I convinced myself that I wasn’t ready, I didn’t know enough about politics to put myself out there.

“And then, after the election, I suddenly thought to myself, ‘I could have done that’. I was so cross with myself that I promised that wherever I ended up I would not let that opportunity pass me by again. So a year later in Liverpool I submitted an application form and was elected as a Councillor in Mossley Hill. And now six years later I am the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner.”

Emily also used the opportunity to talk about the progress and achievements of women in policing. She said: “2015 marked 100 years of women in policing. Edith Smith was Britain’s first ever female police constable with official powers of arrest when she began patrolling the wartime streets of Grantham. Back then policing really was a man’s world.

“I’m pleased to say that picture is very different today. Nearly 41% of Merseyside Police’s officers and staff are women and we have two excellent female Assistant Chief Constables. I’m also proud to say that Merseyside is just one of three areas across England and Wales to have a female PCC and Deputy PCC.

“We now have female leaders at some of the largest and most important policing organisations in the country – the Met, the National Crime Agency and the National Police Chiefs’ Council.  There are no limits to what women can achieve, in policing, in politics, in any sector and it is vital we continue to encourage young women to break down the barriers which still exist.”

Find out more about Edge Hill’s Wonder Women programme here: https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/wonder-women/