100 years after (some) women won the right to vote, the City of Manchester was named as one of the U.K. Government’s ‘Centenary Cities’ because of the significant role it played in the early suffrage movement. 2018 witnessed a flurry of activity exploring the history of the campaign for ‘Votes for Women’, and thinking about the position of women in the city today.
Hidden stories of law-abiding supporters of women’s suffrage were revealed, little-known heroines of the militant movement uncovered, and a more nuanced and democratic understanding of the history of the campaign came into being as communities took ownership of this past. School children, university students, and voluntary and public and private sector organizations from across Greater Manchester commemorated in different ways the struggle for women’s rights and the successes of the women involved in the Votes for Women campaign, against all odds.
Manchester’s celebrations were not a coordinated city-wide programme, but a spontaneous outpouring of projects and events with difference audiences and aspirations. Television and radio programming, national and regional exhibitions, walking and cycling tours, academic and family history talks, performances, women’s marches, and a whole host of community engagement projects took the history of the campaign for votes for women as their starting point, though the focus was very much on the future.
As part of the centenary celebrations, the Pankhurst Centre have been collecting and archiving material from these events for the feminists of the future. This included a 2018 #Vote100 events listing, a Centenary City digital map of Manchester, as well as the physical archive. Parts of the archive was on display as part of the Centenary City exhibition, at the Pankhurst Centre from 21st November 2018 until the 10th March 2019, just after International Women’s Day.