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Celebrating the extension of the franchise in 1918

posted 13 Aug 2018, 04:10 by Dean Fostekew

Yesterday, at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Murrayfield,  we remembered those who campaigned to change the voting system in our country 100 years ago.

Sunday 12th August 2018

100th Anniversary Commemoration of Women gaining the vote.

Genesis 1:26-31

Galatians 3:26-29

Mark 12:28-34

There are times in human history or in deed in the history of God’s creation when the right things happen and change occurs. the ‘Big-Bang’ starting point of Creation was one such point, the resurrection of Christ another and so on. Some of these change points are noticed but others are so small, as to be almost insignificant. Yet, their effect upon the world can be enormous. 

Just look at the worldwide movement today that has sprung from one woman saying; ‘Enough and no more’ to Harvey Weinstein’s abuse. Women throughout the world have been encouraged and in many cases supported to speak out against their suppression and oppression and that is a very good thing. Women as over 50% of the world’s population are hardly a minority group, yet throughout human history they have been treated as second class to men; as weaker and less able and less important to the dominant male, even in the faiths of the world (or even especially in the faiths of the world) and in the church.

The dominance of the human males led to women being treated as a minority group, whereas in fact men and women are equal. Equal in God’s creation and in God’s love and affection. As Genesis, right at the beginning of the Hebrew, Christian and Islamic scriptures tells us:

“So God created humankind in his image,

   in the image of God he created them;

   male and female he created them.” 

Genesis 1:27

St.paul, also affirms this in his Epistle to the Galatians:

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

        Galatians 3:28

And Paul, as we know was rather misogynistic in many of his views on women.

Men and women were and continue to be created equal by God and are as equal in God’s eyes as when God first dreamed us up. It us humans who have decided that ‘some are more equal than others’  to steal from George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

BUT! As I have already said we know that men and women have not been seen as equal throughout human history. Within our 20th and 21st century development changes have begun that continue to develop today that have sought to redress the balance.

100 years ago, as a direct result of the ‘Great War’, the ‘War to end wars;’ 1918 saw changes to legislation that took into account the carnage that ordinary men had endured and suffered and the changes in the rôle women played during that war and the devastation war had played on their lives. Women who had been long campaigning for it finally got the right to vote. WELL, some of them did, it was class biased!

the suffrage or votes for women movement began in the late 19th century and gained increasing support from women and some men as the new century dawned. Many of us know the stories of women who campaigned for the vote and perhaps like me, you have such a woman in your family history.

On the cover of this morning’s booklet, you will see a woman in Edwardian dress. It’s not a middle class or upper-class women, you can tell that by the quality of her clothes. This is an ordinary working class woman, a feisty woman who knew her own mind and was prepared to speak it too. Phœbe Alice Money née Filewood was my great-grandmother and from stories my Grannie told me of her she was certainly as strong minded as my Grannie was.

As a young girl, Phœbe was put into ‘service’ at a large house. She lasted a day having walked out after throwing the shoe polish brush at the housekeeper for bullying her. Phoebe was not going to be bullied by anyone, she could certainly keep her three brothers in order as well! Unlike her sister Eliza, servitude was not for Phœbe, her brothers weren’t in service so why should she be? 

Phœbe supported the suffrage campaign and when she eventually came to vote in 1928 (she didn’t own property valued over £5 in 1918 and neither did my great-grandfather, so was not eligible to vote) she turned up to vote wearing the rosette of the opposite party to the one my great-grandfather was supporting! No way was she voting as her husband told her to!

Phœbe’s story is one of millions around the world but none the less I am very proud of her and she has always been an inspiration for me to stand up for what I believe in, and to challenge the status quo when it needs to be challenged, especially when some are not being treated as equal as others.

God did not create human beings to be treated with anything other than dignity, respect and equality because God made us in God’s image. We are like the very self of God. God does not discriminate and as such we the creation should not either - despite what our imperfect natures may make us think at times. We may be imperfect reflections of God but that does not give us an excuse not to treat everyone with respect and as St.Mark says:

“…to love one’s neighbour as oneself…”

Mark 12:33b

When we can learn to follow  Jesus’ commandment as Mark further tells us:

‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ 

Mark 12:34b

Equality and love bring us close to God. Today, we are commemorating a step along the way that has brought our Society closer to God. Women gaining the vote and ordinary working class men over 21 gaining the vote as well was the beginning of change that has led Scotland, today to open the franchise to all women and men of 16 and over.

Voting is not a God-given right, it is something we men and women do out of respect for each other and each others opinions. Having the vote should never be taken for granted, we have seen all too often how easily the vote can be removed or suppressed. Voting in my mind is something we should all exercise, even if it is to spin our ballot papers.

The story of the suffrage movement is a long and painful one and the story of women’s equality struggle is one that continues to be written and lived every day. Lest we forget anyone involved in helping us today try to forge a society based on the Kingdom of God, where all are equal, all are equally loved and all are treated with equal respect.

This is what Jesus teaches us!