Celebrating our Suffragettes - Revolutionaries and Girl Power Inspiration

Dec 23, 2015

Oi co founder Bridget Healy and Cato’s (brand) Heather Ware inspired by the Suffragette movie.  Directed by Sarah Gavron, featuring Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter.

Did you know that many of the social, political, religious and sexual freedoms we enjoy today are a direct result of the suffragette movement and the determination, courage and sacrifices of those amazing women?  As the movie Suffragette breaks in cinemas across the country, we remember, celebrate and consider how far we have come and the important work in ‘gender equality for all’ that still continues today. 


Celebrating our Suffragettes -  Revolutionaries and Girl Power inspiration

As a nation, and as a world, we celebrate our sports stars, our war heroes and other high achievers in many areas from politics to art, but seldom do we acknowledge the transformational change, through the hardships and suffering, endured by women all around the world struggling for political and social equality. Many of the social, political, religious and sexual freedoms we enjoy today are a direct result of the suffragette movement and the determination and courage of these amazing women. To the Revolution!

According to the U.N women make up 70% of the world’s poorest people and own only 1% of the titled land, they are discriminated against in education, training and by employers.  Women earn less for doing the same amount of work as men in both developed and developing countries.


Today, more than 30 million primary school-aged girls, 75% of them from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, are not in school. That’s 1-in-5 eligible girls worldwide who aren’t going to primary school.  There are many reasons for this discrepancy from the cost of schooling, the high dropout rate amongst girls (often due to the inability to manage menstruation at school) and girls required to help with household duties where boys are not affected.  


The wide spread issue of sex trafficking and both women and girls being forced into prostitution is largely an economic factor as well as a lack of opportunity, drug dependency and family coercion have caused women and girls into sexual slavery.


Gender-based violence is both pervasive and consistently ranked as the top public health crisis for women in the world today.  It’s a sad fact is that women aged 15 through 45 are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.

This, often inescapable violence can take many different forms, and is constantly mutating into new forms, be it acid attacks, bride burnings, rape or domestic violence and is often perpetuated by family members and people closest to the women. The figures for female murder by male partners are also astounding: Up to 70 percent of female murder victims are killed by their male partners, according to the World Health Organization.

The Suffragette Movement

The word "suffragette" was first used to describe women campaigning for the right to vote in a British newspaper in 1906. In the nineteenth century women had no place in national politics or public life and they could not vote. It was assumed that women did not need the vote because their husbands would take responsibility in political matters. A woman's role was seen to be in the home and raising children.

During the Industrial Revolution many women were in full-time employment, which meant they had opportunities to meet in large organised groups to discuss political and social issues and ideas.

The suffragette movement escalated when Emmeline Pankhurst with her daughters Christabel and Sylvia founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903 – a more radical organisation whose slogan was "Deeds Not Words".  The WSPU became more militant and extremist as the years went on in order to force change when the British government refused to support women’s right to vote.

New Zealand

In early colonial New Zealand, like many other European societies, women were excluded from

public life and in particular politics. Public opinion had begun to change and after years of effort by suffrage campaigners, led by Kate Sheppard, in 1893 New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections, this was landmark legislation and has changed the course of history.


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