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Votes for Women

The centenary of voting rights for women

by Claire Law

Suitable for Key Stage 2

Aims

To celebrate the centenary of voting rights for women.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Votes for Women) and the means to display them.

  • Optional: you may wish to prepare three children to read out the reflections in the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly.

Assembly

  1. Show Slide 1.

    Explain to the children that you are going to show them four pictures. Explain that you want them to look carefully at the pictures and spot what they all have in common.

  2. Show Slides 2-5.

    Ask the children what they think the pictures have in common. The answer is that in each picture, half of the item shown is missing. State that half a sofa or half a car is not much use. In fact, even half a chocolate bar is disappointing. And it’s much nicer to cuddle a WHOLE teddy bear, without any part of it missing.

  3. Show Slide 6.

    Ask the children to look carefully at the picture and see if they can spot what is missing.

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Explain that there are only men in this picture. It shows people from Victorian times, but it only shows half of the people at the time – the women are missing.

  4. Explain that in Victorian times, it was widely believed that women were not as clever or important as men. Men held all the important jobs and women were not even allowed to vote. This meant that women had no say as to who was in charge of the country or how it was run. They could not vote, and they could not become Members of Parliament or prime minister. This meant that at least half of the people in the UK could not express their opinion in the form of a vote about important issues that affected everybody.

  5. Draw an imaginary line down the middle of the room to divide it into two halves. Ask the children in one half of the room to place their fingers on their lips. Explain that these children are not allowed to speak, or to ask or answer any questions today. Explain that the children in the other half of the room can speak whenever they want and can ask anything that they want. Point out that if any decisions need to be made, only the speaking side can do so.

  6. Ask the children if they think that this is fair. Is it fair that only some people can contribute?

    Select a few answers from the side of the room without fingers on lips. When children on the other side of the room put up their hands to answer, point out that they can’t give an answer because they are not allowed to speak.

  7. Explain that if we don’t listen to everyone, we will miss out on people’s opinions and ideas.

    Explain that it is always important to listen to everyone. Inform the children that they can now take their fingers off their lips and speak again.

  8. Ask the children if they think that things have changed since Victorian times.

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Explain that many things have changed since Victorian times, and one particular thing that has changed has a special celebration this year. In February 1918, 100 years ago, a law was passed in the UK that allowed women to vote if they were over the age of 30 and owned some property or were married to a man who owned some property.

  9. Show Slide 7.  

    This was a really important change in the UK because it meant that the situation was fairer and more equal. So, how did this happen?

    One important reason why things changed was because various women campaigned for equal suffrage.

  10. Show Slide 8.

    The word ‘suffrage’ means ‘the right to vote’ and many women campaigned for equal voting rights for women and men. Some of these women formed a group called the suffragists, which used peaceful means to get its message heard - printing leaflets, collecting petitions and holding meetings. The suffragists also met with politicians and argued their case.

    Some other women formed a group called the suffragettes, who were determined to win the vote by any means. Their campaigning sometimes involved violent or illegal acts, including setting fire to buildings and smashing windows. Some suffragettes were arrested and put in prison for their actions. They believed so strongly that women should be able to vote that they continued their protest in prison by refusing to eat so that people noticed their cause.

    Eventually, the protests worked and today, women have equal voting rights with men.

Time for reflection

As we mark 100 years since some women were given the right to vote in the UK, let us take a moment to be still and reflect upon what we can learn from this event.

Optional: you may wish to ask three children to read out the following short reflections.

We pause for a moment to think about things in our own society that are unfair. We think about people who are left out, who are unable to join in and who suffer from prejudices. Today, we think about how we can make sure that people are included – when we play or when we work. We think about how we can make sure that others are always invited to join in.

Pause to allow time for thought.

We take a moment to be still and to remember that in some countries, not everyone can join in with voting. We take a moment to think about these countries and to be grateful that in our country, people have this opportunity.

Pause to allow time for thought.

We take a moment to pause and remember that the right to vote came about after people campaigned and stood up for what they believed in. We think about ways in which we can speak out against unfair situations.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Prayer
Dear God,
As we mark 100 years since some women were first given the right to vote in the UK,
We pray for people both in our country and in other countries who are suffering unfairness.
We pray for anyone who is left out or ignored.
We pray for a fairer world, where everyone matters.
We thank you for the courage of people who fought for the right to vote in this country.
We thank you for people who showed courage and determination
In speaking out and standing up for what they believed in.
Please help us to have the courage to speak up when we see unfairness and injustice.
Amen.

Publication date: June 2018   (Vol.20 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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