Nottingham celebrates hero suffragette Helen Watts with a call for women to register to vote

100 years ago today on Friday 14 December, women were able to vote in a General Election for the first time (it was also the first time that women were allowed to stand for election to Parliament).

Nottingham honours suffragette Helen Watts for her pivotal role in the fight, with a new plaque next to a juniper tree planted in her honour in The Arboretum.

The unveiling will take place just after 2pm on Friday 14 December, 100 years to the day when some women were first able to vote in a General Election following the passing of the Representation of the People Act on February 61918.

Helen, a vicars daughter from Lenton, was a founding member of the Women’s Social and Political Union in Nottingham, and was jailed repeatedly in her efforts to secure women the vote.

Democracy and the right to express your view on who should govern is a basic human right that was only achieved after more than eight decades of campaigning, including by the courageous suffragettes.

When some women got the right to vote in 1918, the change led the way to all women getting the vote ten years later and forced politicians to consider the views of women when they wrote their manifestos and put new laws into place.

In the 21st Century most of us can only imagine a time where women had no legal status, no rights over their own children, no ability to divorce, except for the wealthiest (and only in the cruellest of circumstances).

The right to vote led to significant improvements to women’s basic rights and later to progressive laws like equal pay and the Sex Discrimination Act.

Councillor Linda Woodings, Portfolio Holder for Housing, Planning and Heritage at Nottingham City Council, said: “It’s fantastic to see this plaque to honour Helen being installed in the Arboretum – I hope that it will remind us all that that Helen and other Nottingham people played a huge part in the fight to achieve the vote – something we today take for granted.”

It’s vital to our society and future that women should be heard, their voices counted and their views known. On this important anniversary, I’d urge all women to make sure they are registered to vote.”

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