Sheffield’s Women of Steel in Suffrage flag relay

Standing side by side at the Women of Steel monument in the heart of the city, they unfurled the flag in solidarity with millions around the country and the globe as the standard continued its relay across the country.

The 44-week journey, which started in February, comes to an end in London on 13 December – the eve of when women were allowed to vote in general elections for the first time.  In Sheffield a celebration event will be held in December in recognition of the milestone.

In parallel with the UK national relay is a global journey is underway and has so far reached South Africa and Nigeria.

The flag was in Sheffield from 8 to 11 October at the Department for Work and Pensions in Sheffield and visited various locations across the city. The flag even took centre stage at Sheffield’s annual literary festival, Off the Shelf, during a Suffrage Afterlives panel discussion with Leeds MP Rachel Reeves.

Councillor Olivia Blake, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance at Sheffield City Council, said: “We’re proud to fly the flag of the UK women’s suffrage movement here in Sheffield. Our women played a major role, more than 100 years ago, in winning the vote so it’s fitting that Sheffield has been a part of this relay.

“We have a proud history of strong and inspirational women in Sheffield, without whom I might not be in the position I am today, as deputy leader of the council.

“I know I speak for my fellow councillors when I say how grateful I am for the actions of all the women who have fought bravely throughout history for gender equality, we know there is still a long way to go but we’re proud to carry on their work in the fight for equality.”

Sheffield councillors with Suffrage Flag in the Town Hall

The struggle by British women for suffrage began in the mid-nineteenth century and the first known suffrage society in the country, The Sheffield Women’s Political Association, was founded in Sheffield in February 1851. Run by women for women, the association passed a resolution in support of the suffrage of adult women, which was submitted as a petition to the House of Lords.

In 1908, Adela Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, (WSPU) opened, one of the very first suffrage shops in the UK, with the Suffragettes of Sheffield.

The shop on Chapel Walk and its upstairs committee rooms were the regional headquarters of the WSPU, from which the Suffragettes made big efforts to get the vote for women.

Ten years later, the Representation of the People Act 1918 came into force, giving women over 30 the right to vote in all national elections.

Following a crowd-funded appeal, enough money was raised to design, make and install a commemorative plaque at the site of the former suffrage shop. The plaque was unveiled at a celebration event on International Women’s Day in March this year.

People can follow the flag relay on Twitter on the @SuffrageFlag account, using the hashtag #SuffrageFlagRelay.