Earlier this month, thousands of women and men marched through the streets of four major U.K. cities – Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and London – carrying banners and chanting in support of women’s rights to celebrate 100 years of British women having the right to vote.
Local organizations worked together to make the mass-celebration both memorable and symbolic, making the most of what many people called a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to celebrate the momentous anniversary.
When British women were first fighting for the right to vote, they chose violet, white, and green as their signature colors.
“Purple as everyone knows is the royal colour, it stands for the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette, the instinct of freedom and dignity… white stands for purity in private and public life… green is the colour of hope and the emblem of spring,” Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, editor of the weekly newspaper Votes for Women, wrote back in the 1900s.
To honor this symbolism, many organizations and activists used these colors on their posters, clothes, art and more. For instance, two organizations called 14-18 Now and Artichoke gave marchers violet, green, and white scarves to wear, and then choreographed them in color-blocked marching lines to create what they called “a flowing river of color.” The two organizations said they hoped that this performance would act as “a living portrait of women in the 21st century and a visual expression of equality, strength, and cultural representation.”
Women and girls across the UK walking together in public processions on Sunday 10 June, forming a living portrait of women in the 21st century and a visual expression of equality, strength and cultural representation. Will you be there? #loudertogether https://t.co/agunPkmsoo
— 1LV (@1LV_forwomen) June 8, 2018
Much of the celebration revolved around how liberated women have become over the past 100 years. Many people even traveled from other countries, such as Pakistan and New Zealand, just to celebrate this progress.
“It’s so energizing,” Adam Shami, who traveled to the U.K. from Pakistan to take part in the celebration, said. “We’ve come a long way, and we still have a long way to go.”
Shami’s right – there is still a long way to go. The marches also shed light on some things in the U that still need to change.
During the celebration, for example, thousands of women chanted “equal seats, equal voices,” referring to the fight to ensure parliamentary representation to be half men and half women. Others called for equal pay and equal rights for women in prisons.
One marcher named Joanne Johnson said she came to the march to “honor the women that fought for our right to vote,” though she also agreed that women are still playing second fiddle to men. “The suffragettes started this but we still don’t get equal pay, even in 2018.”
Marches and protests are a great way for the public to have their thoughts and voices heard. While we celebrate the immense progress women have made societally, we cannot forget those who are still downtrodden and marginalized. In order to truly make lasting change, we must organize and work together to bring issues into the light – just as the suffragettes did.
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