GDST Chief Executive, Cheryl Giovannoni, on the day after the US Presidential election...
There’s a suffragist poster from about 1912, ‘What a woman may be, and yet not have the vote’. It lists the responsibilities a woman might have – as a doctor, teachers, nurse, mother, mayor, and more – and contrasts this with the men who retain their right to vote regardless of having been (in the language of the time) a convict, lunatic, drunkard or ‘proprietor of white slaves’ (a people-trafficker, to you and me).
A hundred years later, it seems to me that the poster is due for an update, covering what a woman may have been, and yet still not be President. (I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks on the male half of the poster.)
Whatever one’s political views, the election of the first female President of the United States would have sent a powerful message to girls and women worldwide, including those in our schools. I know that many were very excited at the prospect of a woman achieving such a great goal.
Today, I am worried by the alternative message this result sends to the girls and young women in our schools and elsewhere.
It’s very tempting to go back to one’s cave and lick one’s wounds, and let the world move on.
Tempting, but wrong.
Over the next days, weeks, months and no doubt years, there will be comment, analyses, and post mortems aplenty. Some will blame Clinton for her ‘flaws’, her ‘ambition’, her ‘hubris’. When we hear or see that, we should call it out. There is nothing bad about being ambitious. There is nothing bad about aiming for the top job, or the big prize. There is nothing bad about fighting for justice or campaigning for what you believe in.
It didn’t get anywhere, but it was the first of more than 16,000 petitions presented to the House of Commons and House of Lords asking for votes for women between 1866 and 1918.
Those campaigners for votes for women didn’t give up when their first petition didn’t succeed. They regrouped, readjusted and, with renewed vigour, tried again and again until they achieved what they set out. And it wasn’t until 1928, 62 years later, that women achieved equal voting rights with men.
So for those girls and women out there today feeling disappointed, upset, and angry, my message to you is simple: don’t get mad, get organised.