by Councillor Maggie McTernan

I remember as a child, going with my mum into the polling booth and watching her vote.

It seemed so exciting, going into the little wooden booth, taking the pencil tied on a piece of string, and marking an X beside her chosen name.

When I asked her why she voted, mum explained she was choosing the people who would run our schools and hospitals. And she said that you should always vote, because women fought and died for our right to vote.

We know the names of some of these women – Emmeline Pankhurst, Millicent Fawcett, Emily Wilding Davison. But there were plenty more. Some engaged in civil disobedience, chaining themselves to railings and damaging property. Those who were arrested often went on hunger strike, leading to the dreadful Cat and Mouse Act, which allowed prisons to release the hunger-striking women, and re-arrest them when they were fit again.

Other women engaged in more conventional campaigning tactics, with leaflets, petitions and public meetings. There is debate among historians now as to which campaign was more effective. But perhaps just as significant as either strand of campaigning was the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. With so many men away fighting, women stepped up and filled traditional “male” roles in the workplace.

This helped shift attitudes, and on February 6, 1918 – one hundred years ago this Tuesday – the Representation of the People Act was passed, which granted the vote to women over the age of 30. It was followed with another act in 1928 that finally gave all women and men over 21 the vote, on equal terms.

My granny was a schoolgirl at the time of the suffragette movement. But she played her part, wearing her purple and green sash to school. And she brought my mum up to know how important it was to vote, and to believe that women should be actively engaged in politics.

My mum took this seriously. Not only did she always vote, but she stood to be a councillor several times. In fact, the first time I ever voted, I voted for my mum!

So remember what my mum taught me – always vote, because women fought and died for our right to vote.