Suffice to say that we consider ourselves as a fair race, but the battle for equality between the sexes is far from having been won in 2014. In the home, the workplace, the financial markets, the community, church and parliament, discrimination between men and women still exists. It took almost 600 years to arrive at the advancements women have made today, so are we looking towards another half millennium before we can say, 'Fair is fair!'
As a consequence of the 'First World War,' the Government was persuaded to expand the right to vote, not only for the many men who fought in the war yet remained disenfranchised, but also for the women who'd helped in the factories and elsewhere as part of the war effort. The Representation of the People Act was enacted in 1918. All men aged 21 and over were given the right to vote. Property restrictions for voting were lifted for men. Votes were given to 40% of women, but.....'with property restrictions' and 'limited to 30 years of age and over.'
Is it any wonder that women across the world, but particularly in Great Britain have felt so discriminated against for so long? The right for women to vote had been granted in New Zealand, Sweden, Finland and some of the American States during the late 19th Century. While Australia introduced it in 1902, it kept restrictions against aboringinal women until 1962 when all restrictions were removed.
It took the trials, lives and endeavours of Women Suffragists, along with the 'First World War' for Great Britain to grant women over the age of thirty the vote (who met minimum property qualifications). It then took a further ten years to extend the voting francise to all women over the age of twenty one years.
I remember as a Probation Officer going into mining communities in Emley, Skelmanthorpe and Denby Dale in the Huddersfield area during the bitter times of the miner's one-year strike between 1984-85 when I often had to prepare reports for the Court after someone had been prosecuted for having committed an offence. Even as late as the 1980's, a woman's role in the house of most miners was clearly defined and was in no way considered as being equal to the man of the house.
Between 1990 and 2002, I visited over two thousand Yorkshire schools and saw for myself, the discrimination that the girls experienced in the classroom; not just from the boys but also from their teachers. Even the school curriculum discriminated between the sexes; particularly in the area of sports and gymnastics. My numerous years in the Yorkshire textile mills as a labourer, shop steward and mill manager witnessed women getting paid less than men for doing virtually the same work. Women were also the first to be made redundant or placed on short time hours when trade was slack and staff cuts needed to be made.
This situation disgusted me and I believe that it also demeaned all of the men in society who allowed it to happen. In response, I wrote a dozen stories for the 5-9 year old about a girl who is as bright, crafty, confident and courageous as is any boy and I called her 'Annie.' The late Dame Catherine Cookson and her husband Tom (as a special gesture to mark one of their wedding anniversaries) funded the publication of a 500 book print called 'Action Annie' and we allowed all the money to go to Mencap. The Chief Inspector for Schools and Ofsted at the time (Chris Woodhead) read from the 'Action Annie Omnibus' at Littletown Junior School in Liversedge. He later went on to describe the book to the press as 'High quality Literature.'
These 'Action Annie' books are available from all reputable e-book providers. Book one can be obtained free, books two to twelve cost $1 each and the complete omnibus edition costs $3. All monies go to charity. Brigit Forsyth (of 'The Likely Lad's' fame) recorded all twelve stories to be used for radio transmission. Unfortunately, the company who was negotiating this contract went bust and some of the tapes were lost. However I still have tapes for four of the stories which I intend to put up on my website for free audio access in due course.
Equality between man and woman is far more than a concept. It is not only a human right, it is a necessity for humanity! Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as upright men and women. It is not something that half the world's population should have to strive for or have granted to them by well-meaning men. It is no less than a prerequisite for human balance, a more peaceful and prosperous country and world harmony." William Forde: June 24th, 2014.