Questions for International Women’s Day

IWD logo

By Alice McNeill, Teacher of Religious Studies and Philosophy

International Women’s Day (IWD) is perhaps especially salient this year as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of near-universal suffrage, although this in itself begs some uncomfortable questions about whether we have made enough progress in the last century.

‘Press for progress’ is the theme of this year’s IWD, and this captures the renewed energy and determination we need to have in order to honour the sacrifices made by those fighting for equality before us. IWD is a great opportunity to reflect on where we are and where we need to get to. This is especially important for us in schools. Are our classrooms equal? Where are our unconscious biases? Are we accepting culturally embedded norms of gender stereotyped behaviours? Do we call out sexism?

Emma Stone faced a huge backlash this week for commenting on unequal representation in the Best Director category at the Oscars. High profile female MPs and academics are similarly shamed when they dare to speak out about sexism.  Is this echoed in our schools? All educators need to ‘press for progress’ by daring to ask these questions. Often, there is no straightforward answer, but in the very act of questioning, we push for a more honest and equal environment.

There is a huge push for more girls to enter STEM careers, which is excellent, but why, in 2018, does there need to be such a push? Why have we not got to a position of gender blindness? Surely, this would be the most empowering position for everyone?

 

By Abi Wharton, Head of Global Awareness

For this year’s IWD, we have continued to concentrate on period poverty in Global Awareness. This is not a new issue; people are aware of girls and women around the world who do not have the resources to afford sanitary products, highlighted in Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake.

What is perhaps not so well known is that 1 in 10 girls aged between 14 and 21 in the UK cannot afford sanitary products and 137,000 girls have missed school in the past year due to period poverty. We understand the vulnerability associated with this stage in a young woman’s life and this increases anxiety and a feeling of a lack of self-worth. The stigma attached to periods means that this subject is still taboo, making the problem even worse. On International Women’s Day we must work to end the stigma and begin campaigning for free sanitary products for girls in low-income families to follow Scotland’s lead. Take a look at #EndPeriodPoverty and expect a campaign and potential solutions from GA students soon.

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Bedales connection: 6 February 1918, Royal Assent to the Representation of The People Act

1911d Amy Garrett BadleyBy Ruth Whiting, Head of History, 1963-2000

On this day, I believe, Amy Garrett Badley was torn in two directions.  On the one hand she was delighted that, after years of struggle, she and other women of her age and status would have full voting rights in the election due to take place in 1919.  On the downside, however, she was determined to continue the fight so that all women would gain the rights granted by the Act to men of 21 years and over.

In 1935, receiving the testimonial book from ‘The Petersfield Society for Woman Suffrage and Equal Citizenship’ (view an extract image here), she herself said that she “was proud to be a member of a family many of whose members had worked for the same great cause, and she would have been ashamed if she had not tried to follow in their footsteps”.  She was referring to Elizabeth Garrett, in 1865 the first woman to gain medical qualifications in Britain, her own half-sister Rhoda and cousin Agnes who had been, in 1875, the first women to found and run an interior decorating business (A & R Garrett of 2 Gower Street) and, perhaps most of all, Elizabeth’s and Agnes’s youngest sister, Millicent, who for about 40 years had been the leader of the suffragists, the NUWSS.

Bedales, not just Amy, had played its part in advocating the cause of equal rights for women. Students (especially in 1907 and 1908) held heated debates, usually carried by an overwhelming majority of boys as well as girls, demanding votes for women.  Girls from Bedales took part in the famous marches which traversed London, (February 1907, the “Mud” March, and July 1908, which gained greater support from the crowds).

Garden Parties were held in Bedales grounds where speeches were delivered by luminaries who supported the movement, the most celebrated being in 1911 and 1913. In 1914 in the sitting room in The Wing, talks were given to “working women of Steep and Petersfield, many of whom themselves (or their husbands) worked for the school.  They started the series with 13 members and by July, when Amy wrote about if The Bedales Chronicle, there were 40 attenders, including some of the husbands!

The more I look at Amy’s support for the cause the more complicated it becomes: certainly by 1912 she had developed quite a lot of support for the militants which was causing The Chief some concern.  On census day 1911, filling in the return for the female staff house (Foxcot) she conspired to hide Dora Hooper, the wife of the Art Master, from the Enumerator.  Boldly across the form she wrote “No Vote, No Census. “Government must rest upon the consent of the Governed.”: it was signed Amy Garrett Badley, Dora Hooper.  Someone betrayed them and Dora’s name was added to the form, in red ink, “by Registrar General’s authority”.  I believe she had asked her husband not to include her in the school return.  It starts with JHB and  their son, then servants, teaching staff and all the students still at school that night (term had ended on Saturday)  At the end in Mr Badley’s handwriting, was added, “Amy Garrett Badley, wife, 47 married 18 years, 1 child, still living in 1911” precisely the information she had intended to deny the Registrar General.

This is a research project in progress: when I get a little relief from my researches in OBs who died in WW1 (7 in the next 8 weeks), I will return to this fascinating story.