Girl (pedal) power! Bike ride celebrates the centenary of women getting the right to vote

women's ride

Women from across Harrow got on their bikes on Tuesday to mark the centenary of the female vote.

The cyclists – including Councillors Sue Anderson and Janet Mote – wore green, purple and white to remember the suffragettes who paved the way for them to have their voices heard.

Their 15-mile ride, organised by British Cycling's Breeze movement, took in some of the places that women in the struggle - as well as contemporary women in politics – lived and studied in Harrow, Wealdstone, Stanmore and Hatch End.

Cllr Anderson, Portfolio Holder for Community, Culture and Resident Engagement, who supported the ride, said: “This was a wonderful way to mark the centenary of the female vote – women riding together to mark the start of our fight for equality and remember those strong Harrow women who trod the path we all endeavour to follow. Without them none of us would be able to serve the community as we do today.

“Another political activist worth remembering is Annie  Besant - famous for the Matchgirls’ Strike. And there must be others – it would be great to have another ride soon to put some more detail on the ‘Women of Harrow’ map.”

Cllr Janet Mote, who was also at the event, said:  “I was delighted to be with Breeze Bike Rides for women members to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first women getting the right to vote - especially as a Harrow Councillor!“

Veronica Chamberlain, local volunteer ride leader or Breeze Champion said: “It is a very special day for all women in this country, and in particular for women who give their lives to public service.

“It seemed fitting to celebrate with a bike ride as bikes were a symbol of women's freedom and important for our struggle to gain the vote.”

Tuesday 6 February 2018 marked 100 years since women in the UK over 30 who were householders – 6 million women - got the vote. It was not until 1928 that all women over 21 were allowed to have their say.

Breeze Bike Rides for Women is a British Cycling initiative to get more women on their bikes. Only one woman cycles for every three men, its research shows.

Places of interest visited on the bike ride included:

In Harrow
• Harrow College, formerly Harrow County Grammar School for Girls where Diane Abbott MP - Labour Shadow Home Secretary – went to school. She was the first Black woman in the House of Commons

• Harrow Women’s Centre in Andrews Close (off Bessborough Road)

• The Harrow on the Hill home of Catherine Marshall, a suffragist who lived at Newlands House. She was the founder of the Women’s Liberal Association in Harrow, vital activist in the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (non-violent), political secretary of the No Conscription Fellowship, founding member of the British branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

In Wealdstone:
• Ellen Webb Drive - named after Ellen Webb, independent councillor for Wealdstone in the 1930s, thanks to the efforts of a female Harrow Councillor in the 1990s

In Stanmore:
• North London Collegiate School, famous for women’s education. Its former  students in politics included suffragette Dorothy Evans (1888 – 1944). She qualified as a teacher but began working full-time for the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1907. She was arrested and imprisoned several times for her links to the suffragette campaign. She recalled the founder of NLCS, Frances Mary Buss, had made “women’s enfranchisement a faith” among pupils. Also Judy Mallaber, Labour MP for Amber Valley 1997-2010

• Bentley Wood High School for Girls, where Shami Chakrabarti - former Director of Liberty and now a Labour peer – went to school

In Hatch End
• Lurline Champagnie lived in Westfield Park. She was the first Black woman to stand as a Parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives (1992, Islington North) and the first British Caribbean councillor on Harrow Council; also Mayor 2004/5