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Shropshire Star comment: Still a long way to go for women

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

Today is International Women's Day, and some will think that the fact that there is a special day for women tells a story in itself.

Martha Annie Holland, known as Pat Holland, who was a suffragette, driving a car during the May 1908 Newport by election campaign, in which suffragettes campaigned for their cause

It speaks of a modern world recognising the achievements of women which were once overlooked. And yet it speaks of a modern world in which things have not yet progressed sufficiently for it to be thought that having a special day to do that is a redundant concept.

Recently the centenary of women getting the Parliamentary vote was celebrated. It was only a partial victory, because only some women got the vote in 1918 and it was to be years before they all did.

They were given the vote by an all-male Parliament. Another centenary which is coming up is the first election of a female MP, in the December 1918 general election. A member of Sinn Fein, she did not take her seat, so there were still no women MPs in the Commons.

Think then of the achievements of the women of yesteryear in what was overwhelmingly a man's world in most spheres, with nursing and teaching being notable exceptions.

Influential

Shropshire can celebrate its own female champions. Who was the most influential Salopian of the 20th century? According to the Shropshire Society in London, it was a woman - Eglantyne Jebb of Ellesmere - who was chosen from among 24 nominations.

Jebb founded Save The Children and pioneered fundraising techniques which are the bread and butter of international charities today.

Then we have Dame Agnes Hunt, who founded what is today the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital. There is no shortage of other prominent Shropshire women - people like Katherine Harley, who gave her life in the Great War.

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And yet, and yet...

Look to the world of politics, and the picture is less positive. If you count the number of female Shropshire MPs throughout history, you will not have to count far, but at least the county can say it has a serving woman MP.

There is a discussion to be had about equality and how it should be achieved. Does equality simply mean equality of opportunity? Or should it mean engineering a numerical 50-50 gender equality?

There will be female Labour Parliamentary candidates in Telford and Shrewsbury at the next election, but that will be achieved through the national executive's all-women shortlist policy. No men need apply.

In the world of sport, how many female sporting figures from Shropshire have achieved national prominence? Is that a true guide to equality anyway?

In this long journey, there is still a way to go.

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