Culture

'209 Women' celebrates 100 years since women could be elected to Parliament

Unveiled in time for the anniversary of the first election where some women could cast a vote, the exhibition includes portraits of female MPs, all photographed by female photographers in an all-female initiative

On this day, 100 years ago, for the first time in British politics women could cast a ballot in a general election. The 1918 general election was also the first time women could be elected as MPs. While equal voting rights for all wouldn’t be won until 1928, it was without doubt a landmark day in the history of suffrage and Britain.

The first woman to be elected to the House of Commons on that day was Constance Markievicz. However, the Sinn Fein candidate refused to take her seat that day, making a protest against Irish independence. A year later it was Nancy Astor who became the first woman to take her seat in Parliament.

209 Women

Opening today on the centenary of that general election, ‘209 Women’ is an exhibition of photographic portraits of all currently sitting female MPs, on display for free at Westminster for two months. It’s the work of a collective of 209 UK-based female photographers – among them The Big Issue’s own star snapper Louise Haywood-Schiefer, who shot Labour member for Dulwich and West Norwood Helen Hayes.

The exhibition will then travel to the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool.  ‘209 Women’ is delivered in partnership with Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool City Council, the Royal Photographic Society and The Sorority.

Visit parliament.uk for more information.

Image: Yvette Cooper MP by Hannah Starkey

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