Marking a centenary of women’s suffrage
My notes for yesterday’s speech marking the important centenary of some women gaining the vote:
Can I thank the leader of the house for her statement which I am pleased to note acknowledges the sacrifices of those who went before us and all those who spoke up for women’s right to vote and indeed women’s right to stand for election.
In the case of the Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney constituency, it is matter of pride to me that such support included that of former MP Keir Hardie.
In 1905, Keir Hardie wrote a plea for women’s suffrage and about attitudes to the franchise.
“we do not now speak of women as being in the same category as “idiots” and “lunatics,” but for political purposes we treat them as if they were”.
And so it is perhaps a matter of reflection for me that since Keir Hardie spoke of his support for the women’s vote, it was not until I was elected in May 2016, over 100 years later, that his constituency was represented by a woman in either Parliament or this National Assembly. So I am also delighted to be involved in the Chwarae Teg leadhership campaign, encouraging other women who want to come into politics.
I am sure you will agree with me that the impact of the Labour Party policy on all women shortlists that has seen Labour as the party that has delivered more women representatives in both Westminster and here in Cardiff Bay than any other is a proud achievement, but one which demonstrates the need for us to be proactive in our pursuit of equality of representation.
I’ve spoken of the support that came from Keir Hardie, but support for women’s suffrage came from other quarters in Merthyr Tydfil as well.
While the Crawshay family may be renowned as the ironmasters – it is also true that Rose Mary Crawshay, wife of the last ironmaster Richard Thomas Crawshay, was a staunch feminist of her times and signed the first women’s suffrage petition in the 19th century.
Indeed such was her support that she was accused in the media of disturbing the peace and leading Wales’ women astray!
So, can I ask the leader of the house if she agrees with me that, as the debate about further changes to our national assembly unfolds, we should ensure that our democratic institutions give a real voice to the women of Wales, and would she further agree that, like Rose Mary Crawshay, we should continue to disturb the peace as long as the fight for equality continues.