International Women’s Day celebrated by hundreds in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge

Pam Mills

CAMPAIGNERS for gender equality followed in the footsteps of Suffragettes and Suffragists last week by marching through Tunbridge Wells.

Around 220 people joined a gathering on The Pantiles on Thursday [March 8] to mark International Women’s Day, 100 years after some women were given the vote.

Individuals from a variety of backgrounds then walked along the High Street to the Town Hall and onto the Opera House [now a Wetherspoon’s pub], where prominent Suffragette Emily Davison interrupted a Liberal Party meeting in 1913 [see page 9].

Many dressed up in 1900s costume for events, which also included a concert at The Forum, a reception in the Town Hall and later a Tunbridge Wells Rock Choir performance.

March organiser Carol Wilson, Chairperson of Tunbridge Wells Labour Women’s Forum said: “There was a mixture of older and younger people celebrating the fact there are so many great women in Tunbridge Wells.

“Our aim was to reach all women and not to be party political. We achieved that and I am grateful to the people who worked so hard in organising it. It was fantastic weather and it felt like someone was looking after us!”

She added: “I want to say thank you to organisations who put posters in windows and those who encouraged us as we came past.”

Mrs Wilson was part of the TW Women 100 committee who organised the march which took in sections of the route where women walked to Hyde Park in London for mass rallies in 1909 and 1913.

Re-enactments were held along the route with particular tributes paid to Amelia Scott, one of the town’s first female councillors and a prominent member of the non-violent Suffragist movement.

Mayor Julia Soyke hosted the reception at the Town Hall, which featured talks from historians Anne Carwardine and Liz Douglas, music from Charlotte Bartholemew and a presentation from students of Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School.

Ms Carwardine, who is publishing a book about women who campaigned for the vote in Tunbridge Wells called Disgusted Ladies, also spoke at The Forum.

She said: “I am interested in the history and it was nice to remember this, but also to remind people there is still a campaign going on for equality.”

Former soldier and Miss England model Katrina Hodge was one of five women chosen to speak about ‘the present.’
Councillor Tracy Moore said: “It was uplifting to see so many people in the Council Chamber for a fantastic celebration of women’s suffrage. There was so much positivity about the event.

“What I found encouraging, and I think it bodes well for the future, is that so many young women and men including students from local schools, wanted to be there and be part of the celebrations.”

Mayor Soyke added: “I was glad to see the event attended by both men and women, including many students.
“The students from Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School gave most memorable short speeches showing how they are thinking on an international plane and are deeply interested in shaping the future.”

The Forum then hosted female acts Laura Lamn, Placed and Lily & Jessie in a fundraising concert for Tunbridge Wells mental health charity DAVSS.

Liz Orr, member of the Tunbridge Wells Women’s Equality Party, commented: “There is cross party participation and this is about coming together. We are still marching and we are pressing for progress.”

BROWSING BROWNIES The 6th Brownies group in Tonbridge pays a visit to Mr Books on International Women’s Day on March 8 to look for books by, for and about women and to consider how they have changed the world for the better

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