In the aftermath of the US elections, and amid concerns that the rhetoric unleashed legitimises the downgrading of women’s rights (not to mention ethnic minority, LGBT, disabled, and immigrant people’s rights), it’s important to stand up for yourself and others, writes GDST Chief Executive Cheryl Giovannoni.
In 1872 four women defied convention and changed the course of history for women in the UK when they started the GDST. The organisation has, since that time, been responsible for the education of about a quarter of a million girls, often against the odds, helping them to realise their potential and to make a meaningful difference in the world.
Thirty-five years later, in 1907, 3,000 women, led by Millicent Fawcett (a GDST parent), braved the elements to take part in what became known as the ‘Mud March’ through the streets of London, in one of the first large-scale demonstrations in support of women’s suffrage. Six short years later, their numbers had swelled – 40,000 took part in a similar march and rally, showing how a large movement can grow from small beginnings.
While women may have made real progress over the past 150 years, we all know that there is so much more to be done. Like the founders of the GDST, I believe we are on the cusp of changing the course of history again, as the evidence for a gender-equal world becomes ever more compelling and women continue to shatter glass ceilings, defy convention and change the world for the better.
But I’m conscious that recent events have made these advances seem more fragile – reversible even. We have been reminded that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance; that we cannot take the rights we have gained for granted; that every generation has to defend and build on the progress made by those who came before them.
I’m still optimistic for the future. I’m proud of our remarkable organisation’s long history and look forward to contributing to its shining future. And, as we prepare for that future, I’m proud that so many students, staff and alumnae – women like you – are prepared to take a stand. I look forward to marching with you on Saturday. See you there!