The Isle of Man is proud to host the UK Suffragette flag which is touring the United Kingdom as part of the Suffragette Flag Relay, a component of the one-year campaign of events and activities linked to the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918: the first time that some women could vote in the UK.
By 1918 in the Isle of Man, women could already vote in general elections as the House of Keys' Election Act 1881 had extended the franchise to unmarried women over the age of 21 who owned property worth at least £4 a year. The changes in the 1881 Act made the Isle of Man the first national parliament to give women the vote in a general election, albeit only some women. By 1919, all women resident in the Isle of Man were given both the vote and the right to stand for election, regardless of their property status.
The President of Tynwald, The Hon Steve Rodan MLC said:
“Giving women householders the vote in 1881 was the first in a long line of extensions to the franchise, all of which can be summarised by the principle of ‘no taxation without representation’. I am proud to have made my own contribution to the development of the Isle of Man’s democracy when I successfully moved an amendment to the Registration of Electors Bill 2006. This lowered the voting age to 16 years old, making us the first country in western Europe to do so. The ability to influence government-introduced legislation in this way is a great strength of our consensus democracy and parliamentary system.”
To celebrate enfranchisement and promote the positive changes for equality, the Suffragette Flag will be visiting Island secondary schools and Members of Tynwald will talk to 16 and 17-year-olds to examine these important topics. University College Isle of Man will be hosting an interactive display highlighting worldwide democratic issues.
The Suffragette Flag will also be the focus at a number of other events around the Island, including a talk with the Women of Mann discussing equality, a lunchtime seminar with the Employment & Skills Committee of Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce and an activity session with members of Girl Guiding Isle of Man supporting the Vote 100 Girl Guiding badge.
Karen Walker, Chair of Girl Guiding Isle of Man said:
“Girl Guiding IOM is proud to be part of the Suffragette Flag journey and share the story of Manx women’s suffrage. We recognise the important to remember those who fought for the right to vote so that we value the democratic rights we enjoy today and the right to vote for our representatives in Tynwald. We are committed to educating and supporting young people in the Isle of Man to acknowledge that gender should never be a barrier to achieving all to which they aspire.”
When the Suffragette Flag is not touring the Island, it will be on public display in the Tynwald Library with a small exhibition celebrating Women's Suffrage in the Isle of Man. The Tynwald Library is located on the ground floor of Legislative Buildings and is open to the public from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
The planned events this week are part of the outreach programme organised by Tynwald to encourage involvement in democracy and to promote the right to representation. Women in the Isle of Man may have had the right to stand for election for nearly 100 years but until the General Election in 2016 and the Legislative Council election in 2018, there had only been 12 women Members of Tynwald in total. Jane Poole-Wilson MLC was re-elected to the Legislative Council in 2018, one of five women to be elected in March. As Equality Champion, she is attending many of the planned events for the week. She said:
“The opportunity to share the history of Women's Suffrage and the fight for equal representation is an important story to tell. The Isle of Man was pioneering in giving women the right to vote in the 19th Century. As Equality Champion in the 21st Century, I want to make sure discrimination is an issue of the past and we are an Island of opportunity and inclusion for all.”
(Photo of the UK Suffragette Flag with the Hon Juan Watterson SHK, Speaker of the House of Keys, Ann Corlett MHK, Jane Poole-Wilson MLC, Marlene Hendy MLC, Kate Lord-Brennan MLC, Kate Beecroft MHK, Daphne Caine MHK, Clare Bettison MHK, the Hon Steve Rodan MLC, President of Tynwald)