Category: Representation

Amendment to Canon C2 of the Canons of the Church of England

Amendment to Canon C2 of the Canons of the Church of England

On the 17 November 2014 the Church of England’s General Synod formally changed the Church’s Canon Law passing legislation enabling women to be consecrated as bishops, and formally amended Canon C2 of the Canons of the Church of England to state that “a man or a woman may be consecrated to the office of bishop” [C2.1]. For the avoidance of doubt, the Canon also made explicit that “In the forms of service contained in The Book of Common Prayer or in the Ordinal words importing the masculine gender in relation to bishops are construed as including the feminine” [C2.6].

Colour photo of female priests
From Diverse Magazine

For the Church of England, this was the culmination of theological debates over women’s ordination which had spanned the twentieth century. From a legal perspective, it was even more significant. Because the Church of England is an established church, the Canon Law which governs its operation forms part of the law of the land.

The position of Church of England bishops is enshrined in the British parliamentary system, as the House of Lords comprises both Lords Temporal (those holding hereditary or life peerages) and Lords Spiritual (the most senior Church of England bishops). The Lords Spiritual had until this point been the last element of the Houses of Parliament that was legally barred to women, and so this Canon removed the final constitutional barrier to women’s full participation in parliament.

The full version of this landmark is written by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes.

Learn More

BBC News, ‘Church of England Formally Approves Plans for Women and Bishops’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30074257

Fabiana Barticioti, ‘Archive of the Movement for the Ordination of Women’ (LSE History, 1 December 2016) http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsehistory/2016/12/01/archive-of-the-movement-for-the-ordination-of-women/

The Independent, ‘Church of England Shatters ‘Stained-Glass Ceiling’ by Allowing Female Bishops’ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/church-of-england-votes-to-allow-female-bishops-9865764.html

Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012

Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012

Colour photo of three hands placing ballot in ballot boxThe Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012 introduced a political gender quota in Ireland. Section 42 provides that political parties will have their State funding cut by half, unless at least 30 per cent of their General Election candidates are of each gender. This quota will rise to 40 per cent in 2023.

The Act has already begun to have a transformative effect on Irish politics. It was applied for the first time in the 2016 General Election, in which a record 35 women were elected to the Dáil out of 158 TDs (Teachtaí Dála or members). Women now make up 22 per cent of TDs for the first time; 16 per cent was the highest percentage previously achieved.

Experience elsewhere, and now in Ireland, clearly shows that, without enforceable legal targets or quotas, the numbers of women in politics will not rise. Without this landmark law, the work of the suffrage campaigners would not have been fully vindicated, and Irish democracy would have remained unfinished and incomplete.

Ivana Bacik

The full version of this landmark is written by Ivana Bacik.

Learn More

National Women’s Council of Ireland http://www.nwci.ie

Welsh Assembly Election 2003

Welsh Assembly Election 2003

A landmark may mean different things. It may be something unique in an otherwise uninspiring landscape. Or it may be an indicator that from here on in the terrain changes. Let it be hoped that 2 May 2003 is an example of the latter

Catrin Fflur Huws

On 2 May 2003, the National Assembly for Wales became the first legislative body in the world to have an equal number of men and women returned as Assembly Members.

National Assembly for Wales – Welsh National Assembly [CC BY 2.0(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)]
A number of factors contributed to this result. First, the National Assembly for Wales was created at a time when increasing the proportion of women in Parliament was high on the Labour Party’s agenda and the political climate was encouraging for women. Second, as new institution the National Assembly for Wales was not fighting entrenched attitudes. Finally, it had size on its side. 50 per cent of 60 is, perhaps a more achievable target than 50 per cent of 650 Westminster MPs.

Since 2003, the proportion of women Assembly Members has remained consistently high – 47 per cent in 2007, 43 per cent in 2011 and 42 per cent in 2016. It is also significant that in all three of these elections, the near-equality of representation was achieved, not through the use of the regional list process, but rather, with women standing as constituency candidates in their own right.

The full version of this landmark is written by Catrin Fflur Huws.

Learn More

BBC News, ‘Largest Number of Welsh Female MPs Elected’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-40218112

Owen Holzinger, Helen Jones and David Millett, ‘Assembly Election 2016: Women’s Political Representation’ (In Brief: the National assembly for Wales Research Service Blog, 27 May 2016) https://assemblyinbrief.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/assembly-election-2016-womens-political-representation/

Equality and Human Rights Commission, ‘International Women’s Day 2012 Update: Who runs Wales? The Journey Towards Gender Equality’ https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/wrw2012_update.pdf

Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002

Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002

Political parties now seem to have embraced the importance of gender in their selection processes as an integral part of modernisation and election strategies, recognising it as a matter of democratic legitimacy as well as individual justice. Achieving women’s full and equal participation in elected bodies is one of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed by 193 United Nations member states (including the UK) in 2015

Susan Atkins

The Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002 was an enabling measure which allowed political parties to change their internal processes to improve women’s representation in elected bodies. The Act allowed political parties in the UK to use positive discrimination to tackle persistent under-representation of women in Parliament and other elected bodies. It did so by excluding from the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and Sex Discrimination Order 1976 (which applied to Northern Ireland) any arrangements made by political parties for the purposes of reducing inequality in the numbers of men and women elected as candidates.

Colour photo of the House of Lords during the Queen's speech
The Queen’s Speech from UK Parliament [CC BY-NC 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/)]
Proposals for a Bill were announced in the first Queen’s speech after the 2001 election, which saw a fall in the numbers of women MPs. This was in marked contrast to the doubling of the numbers of women MPs (to 18 per cent) following the 1997 election in which all women shortlists had been used by the Labour Party for half its “winnable” seats, until stopped by a legal challenge.

Passed with all party support in 2002, the Act put positive action to increase female representation in Parliament firmly on the map. Representation of women as MPs (which had remained at under 5 per cent until 1987) has increased at every following election up to 30 per cent by December 2016.

The full version of this landmark is written by Susan Atkins.

 

Learn More

Home of Commons Library, ‘Women in Parliament and Government’ (SN01250, 12 July 2017)   researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN01250/SN01250.pdf

The Telegraph Media Group, ‘Labour to Change Law on All-Women MP Shortlists’ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1329406/Labour-to-change-law-on-all-women-MP-shortlists.html

Life Peerages Act 1958

Life Peerages Act 1958

In 1918 women over the age of 30 were able to vote following the enactment of the Representation of the People Act 1918. In the same year, the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 permitted women to be elected to the House of Commons. A year later, the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 allowed women to become senior civil servants, magistrates and judges, although none of these statutes extended to membership of the House of Lords. These significant changes to the position of women in public life had not gone unnoticed.

Black and white photo ofMargaret Haig Mackworth, 2nd Viscountess Rhondda
Margaret Haig Mackworth, 2nd Viscountess Rhondda by Bassano Ltd from the National Portrait Gallery [CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/)

In 1918, Margaret Haig Thomas, Viscountess Rhondda (1883-1958) – the only child of Viscount Rhondda a member of the House of Lords’s member and Liberal politician – announced her intention to claim ‘the right to have, hold, and possess a seat, place, and voice’ in the House of Lords. The House of Lords Committee for Privileges initially ruled in her favour, however the Lord Chancellor, Lord Birkenhead and other Peers objected. The case was referred back to the Committee, which voted against Viscountess Rhondda’s petition holding that women would only be admitted to the Lords when law would specifically allow their entrance.

The Life Peerages Act 1958 was such an Act. For the first time life peerages could be granted in the House of Lords to both men and women for other than judicial purposes. Lady Rhondda lived to see the passing of the Act, but died before she could see the first women take their seats.

The full version of this landmark is written by Supuni Perera.

 

Learn More

BBC News, ‘1957: Lords to Admit First Women Peers’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october/30/newsid_3116000/3116144.stm

BBC News, ‘Suffragette Viscountess Rhondda’s Newport Bomb Attack Remembered’ http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-22740340

Glenn Dymond, ‘The Life Peerages Act 1958’ (House of Lords Library Notehttps://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/LLN-2008-011#fullreport

Parliament, ‘Life Peerages Act 1958’ (Living Heritage: The Parliament Act And the Role of the Lordshttp://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/evolutionofparliament/houseoflords/parliamentacts/overview/lifepeeragesact/

Parliament, ‘Peerage Act 1963’ (Living Heritage: House of Lords Reformhttp://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/evolutionofparliament/houseoflords/house-of-lords-reform/from-the-collections/from-the-parliamentary-collections-lords-reform/lords-reform-1963-1999/peerage-act-1963/

Parliament, ‘Campaigning for Women in the Lords’ (Living Heritage: House of Lords Reformhttp://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/evolutionofparliament/houseoflords/house-of-lords-reform/from-the-collections/from-the-parliamentary-collections-lords-reform/campaigning-for-women-in-the-lords/

Article 7 of the Covenant of the League of Nations 1919

Article 7 of the Covenant of the League of Nations 1919

The women who went to Paris in 1919 and lobbied for Article 7 showed the type of change that could happen if women’s voices are heard. While this was insufficient to break the patriarchal grip on international law, women’s presence pushed debates on gender equality into the mainstream of international law.
Aoife O’Donoghue

Male domination of the formal worlds of diplomacy and international law had, prior to World War I, ensured that women were excluded, just as they were in the domestic sphere, from formally engaging in public international law. The Paris Peace Conference in 1919, which created the League of Nations, was the first occasion when women officially addressed delegates and, for a few women, took part in negotiations.

As a direct result of women’s lobbying at the 1919 Peace Conference, Article 7 of the Covenant of the League of Nations stated that its Secretariat – an international civil service – would be open to both women and men.

Women-led non-governmental organisations including the Women’s Peace Party, the International Women’s Congress for Peace and Freedom and the Inter-Allied Suffrage Conference (IASC), were at the forefront of pushing for legal and political change at the domestic and international levels in the decades before 1919. In Paris, these organisations held meetings (the first international NGO parallel conferences), sent petitions and representatives to push for changes on key issues such as women’s suffrage, employment rights, citizenship, and women’s roles in the new, and at the time novel, international organisation, the League of Nations. While some calls, such as those regarding suffrage, went unheeded, because of these women’s interventions women’s role as essential to the creation and operation of international law was finally recognised.

Today, gender inequality remains a critical issue at the international level. In 2016 the UN Secretary General admitted that 83 per cent of its entities have failed to hit gender targets with no overall progress since 2012 and only 33 per cent possessing a gender unit or equivalent to aid in achieving gender equality.

The full version of this landmark is written by Aoife O’Donoghue.

 

Learn More

United Nations Gender Network, ‘Welcome to the United Nations Gender Network’ https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/united-nations-gender-network/

United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service, ‘Women at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference’ https://www.unngls.org/images/multilateralism/gender_part_3_main.pdf

United Nations Women http://www.unwomen.org/en

 

A Pageant of Great Women

A Pageant of Great Women

A Pageant of Great Women, written by Cicely Hamilton, was one of the most successful plays of the British women’s suffrage movement. The play foregrounded the legal arguments for the vote by creating a court setting in which ‘Woman’ and ‘Prejudice’ presented the case for and against women’s enfranchisement before ‘Justice’. This dramatization of the political arguments for legislative change was a landmark in empowering female political activists to create their own court at a time when women were excluded from the legal profession.

Written at a time of heightened intensity in the suffrage campaign, the play rehearsed the principal arguments on the topic of women’s enfranchisement and gave women practice in public speaking and debate. The spectacular dramatization of these arguments raised awareness about women’s history.

 

 

By gathering over fifty ‘great women’ of the past from many countries on stage as evidence that women deserved the vote, the play had a visually stunning impact and a didactic function. It created opportunities for local women’s suffrage activists and supporters to perform as these ‘great women’ alongside leading figures of the movement, such as Lady Constance Lytton. All of those assembled, the performers and the audience, effectively acted as witnesses to the successful prosecution of the case before ‘Justice’.

A Pageant of Great Women successfully used theatrical performance to raise awareness of a political campaign, to empower and educate. … The use of performance, especially before a live audience, and on tour to promote a political position, inform an audience, build a community and empower women … [continues to be] demonstrated in the women’s theatre – Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and V-day are the inheritors of the women’s suffrage theatre legacy

Katharine Cockin

A Pageant of Great Women was staged a number of times in London as well as in Swansea, Eastbourne, Beckenham, Sunderland, Sheffield, Ipswich, Cambridge, Bristol, Nottingham, Middlesbrough and Liverpool, the USA, South Africa and Ireland.

The full version of this landmark was written by Katharine Cockin.

Learn More

GlasgowWomen’s Library, ‘March of Women’ https://womenslibrary.org.uk/discover-our-projects/march-of-women/

Glasgow Women’s Library, March https://womenslibrary.org.uk/event/march-film-screening/

Representation of the People Act 1918

Representation of the People Act 1918

Image of the Representation the People Act 1918
Representation the People Act 1918 from the LSE Library Collection (https://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/)

The Representation of the People Act 1918 gave the Parliamentary vote to all men aged 21 and over, and all women aged 30 and over who met (or whose husband met) the minimum property qualification for the local government franchise, meaning occupation of land or premises of a yearly value of not less than five pounds or of a dwelling-house. The Act also gave women the university franchise, a second Parliamentary vote for university graduates, providing they were 30 years old and would be entitled to be so registered if they had been men.

Women were formally excluded from the Parliamentary franchise in England, Wales and Ireland by the 1832 Reform Acts, which made many reforms to the electoral system and enlarged the electorate, but also defined a voter as a ‘male person’ for the first time. By the first half of the nineteenth century many women, including Barbara Bodichon, were involved in election campaigning, exercising patronage, campaigns for Parliamentary reform, and in the Chartist movement. By the early 20th century, the vote had become the most pressing issue for feminists, a prerequisite to tackling other inequalities. While the stories of many suffragettes and suffragists are now well-known, the significance of the suffrage campaign has been (and often continues to be) downplayed. Many MPs at the time and historians subsequently preferring to give credit for the achievement of the vote to women’s war effort rather than their campaigns, which have often been presented as damaging rather than advancing the cause. In truth, however, many women who had assisted the war effort were still unable to vote. Women campaigned for a further ten years before they got the vote on the same terms as men by virtue of the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928.

The 1918 Act is that it was a huge concession of principle: women could now vote in Parliamentary elections, as constituents able to put pressure directly on MPs to look after their interests … It was also a compromise, as legislation so often is; the age and property qualifications ensured that its actual significance, in terms of the numbers and proportion of women allowed to vote, was limited for a decade to come until the 1928 Act.

Mari Takayanagi

The full version of this landmark was written by Mari Takayanagi.

Learn More

Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘Reform Bill’ https://www.britannica.com/topic/Reform-Bill

Parliament, ‘Women Get the Vote’ (Living Heritage: Women and the Votehttp://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/electionsvoting/womenvote/overview/thevote/

Parliament, ‘The 1866 Women’s Suffrage Petition: The First Mass Votes for Women Petition’ (Living Heritage: Women and the Votehttps://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/electionsvoting/womenvote/parliamentary-collections/1866-suffrage-petition/

Parliament, ‘The Reform Act 1832’ (Living Heritage: The Reform Acts and Representative Democracy) http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/evolutionofparliament/houseofcommons/reformacts/overview/reformact1832/

The Guardian, ‘Reform Bill Passed: Women’s Vote Won’ (The Guardian News and Media Ltd.https://www.theguardian.com/world/1918/feb/07/gender

Find out more about the Women’s Legal Landmarks Project

Project leaders, Rosemary Auchmuty and Erika Rackley, talk to Elizabeth Woodcraft about the aims, methodology and ambitions for the Project for PodAcademy

Get involved

The landmarks that appear on this website were chosen by participants in the Women’s Legal Landmarks Project.

If you think a key positive legal landmark for women is missing and you’d like to write about it – then get in touch.

Search the Landmarks

Follow us on Twitter