The sun was blasting out from behind the rain clouds at last, as I stepped outside earlier to amble down to the village hall and cast my vote in the EU referendum (I’m not going to tell you which way I voted!). Birds were warbling above my head, horses were galloping about in the field opposite, and the cow parsley along the side of the road was now almost as tall as me and waved about in a slight breeze.
As I skirted around larger puddles and breathed in the earthy scent that follows a rainstorm, I thought back to how hard the suffragettes had fought in the early part of the last century for the right of women to vote. Jailed for their militant tactics and also using prison as a means of publicising women’s suffrage, they had undergone hunger strikes in prison resulting in cruel force feeding by prison wardens who had held them down and poured liquid food into the women’s throats via long rubber tubes.
Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union, was horrified by the screams of women being force-fed, and in her autobiography she wrote “I shall never while I live, forget the suffering I experienced during the days when those cries were ringing in my ears.” In 1909, fellow suffragette Emily Davison was sentenced to a month’s hard labour in Strangeways Prison in Manchester after throwing rocks at the carriage of chancellor David Lloyd George. She attempted to starve herself, and resisted force-feeding. A prison guard, angered by the fact that Emily had blockaded herself in her cell, forced a hose into the room and nearly filled it with water. The door was subsequently broken down, and she was freed. After suing the wardens of Strangeways, Emily eventually became a martyr for the cause, running out to her death in front of the king’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby.
It saddens me considerably when I hear of young women saying that they cannot be bothered to vote. Emmeline and her cohorts must have been writhing in their graves if they had been watching a particular TV programme from on high a couple of nights ago. One woman shrugged her shoulders and said that she wasn’t going to vote because ‘It has nothing to do with me’.
A genial crowd of village folk were standing about chatting at the other end of the village hall, which also doubles as a café and sub- post office on Thursdays. You can cast your vote, buy your stamps, post your parcels, buy a cup of coffee at the same time, and generally have a good old natter about Mr Cameron, Mr Farage et al. I have no idea what the result of the referendum will be, but I do know one thing… if Emmeline Pankhurst was perchance looking over my shoulder in the polling booth she would have been very proud of me!