Carly Cassano looks at how women of Barking and Dagenham have fought for their freedom for centuries, playing an integral part in the feminist movement – and how the council will honour them
Barking and Dagenham is commemorating three important anniversaries in 2018: the 100th anniversary of the 1918 vote for women, the 90th anniversary of the Equal Suffrage Act and the 50th anniversary of the Sewing Machinists Strike at the Dagenham Ford plant.
Under the banner "Women and Activism", the council will shine a light on recent notable achievements by local women and pay homage to the feminist heroes who came before them.
Beginning with Women's Empowerment Month in March, the borough is hosting outreach workshops at schools, talks about radical women and art exhibits.
There will be intergenerational dialogue, and interactive events at the Valence House and Eastbury Manor House museums.
To honour the achievements of young suffragists who fought for women's rights over 100 years ago, the events will pay special attention to the activism and empowerment of young women.
Chris Foord, group manager, heritage services, emphasises that "we're exploring the representation of teenagers in museums and local heritage."
The month will be capped off with the 'Celebration Event' at The Broadway Theatre, a suffragist soiree featuring, among other things, a comedy compere, the famous Flapper Flashmob and, of course, the Women’s Empowerment Awards.
Even the annual Barking Folk Festival, earmarked for 10 June, will focus on activism in 2018.
Lucy Ward, a singer-songwriter and multiinstrumentalist who began performing as a teenager, will perform a song she's written for the occasion, celebrating young women who are engaged in community activism.
As Sade Bright, cabinet member for equalities and cohesion, says: "Our heritage inspires us to continue to support women’s empowerment. [Barking and Dagenham Council is] the first local authority in England to develop a Gender Equality Charter.
"Our focus has been to engage with communities about the charter's 10-point plan of action, and to encourage businesses, schools, voluntary and community sector groups to pledge their support.
"The response has been excellent. Improving equality for women is a long journey but I am optimistic that the Gender Equality Charter is a positive step in the right direction, and we continue to work with partners in our second year to ensure that no-one is left behind."
A longer version of this article appears in issue #9 of BOLD magazine
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