2018 marks the centenary of (some) women winning the right to vote. To celebrate the occasion Aberdeen is hosting the ‘Rise up Quines!’ festival. There have been over 30 events taking place around the city since the 12th and the events will end tomorrow (18th November), most of them free.
The festival, funded by Aberdeen City Council and a grant from the Scottish Government, was brought together by women representing a number of institutions. Organisers come from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen University, Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeen Women’s Alliance, the Musicians’ Union, and the Women’s History Scotland.
RGU’s Professor Sarah Pedersen, who is the gender equality champion for the university and author of ‘The Scottish Suffragettes’ explains the historical and social importance of 1918:
“Until 1918 only about 60% of men in the country had the right to vote. A lot of men that were fighting and dying during the First World War didn’t actually have the vote. So there was enormous pressure on the government to [change this].
(…) [However], there was a concern that all these men that were getting the vote would be socialists or vote Labour.”
To counterbalance this tendency, the government extended the right to a group of individuals thought to be supportive of the liberal conservatives: women over the age of 30 with a property qualification.
In addition to this reform, the festival will also commemorate the efforts of a group of women known as the ‘Suffragettes’. By 1918 they had been fighting for 15 years for women’s voices to be heard.
Professor Pedersen states that the events do not only focus on the past but they very much look at the future. “We have made sure to have plenty of events that are about now.”
The goal of the festival is to encourage women to get involved in activism and politics despite the challenges they will have to face because of their gender.
The festival includes talks, music events, workshops, masterclasses and live performances.
Of particular interest is the ‘Women in Politics’ discussion panel taking place tonight. This event will feature women from every single major political party, including the Women’s Equality party.
Ms Perez said that “looking back to the women who fought for our right to vote at a time when women’s participation in democracy seemed laughable” reminds her of what women can achieve when they stand fast and united.