Visitors to Dartford’s Central Park this Summer will be welcomed by a floral reminder of the historic first milestone in the campaign to secure women’s suffrage exactly 100 years ago.
Council Leader Jeremy Kite has announced that the park’s popular carpet bed will be dedicated to the Votes for Women campaign that secured the first extension of voting rights to women in 1918.
Revealing the design of this year’s flower bed, Jeremy said “We always try to find designs that will speak to lots of people and provoke some thought or delight among the tens of thousands of park users who pass by the bed every year. This year, it was was very fitting that my colleague Patsy Thurlow should suggest a commemoration of the important first steps to equality that were taken in 1918. The bed features one of the traditional ‘Votes for Women’ designs that featured in the suffrage campaign and although the 1918 Act only granted votes to 40% of the adult women in the UK, it was a key milestone in the suffragette’s long struggle.”
Councillor Patsy Thurlow said “I’m actually very proud that one hundred years after the first women were granted their right to vote I had an opportunity to make my own small contribution to marking their struggle with the suggestion that the carpet bed should remember the campaign. Today, women take our place in civic life at local and national level not just as voters but as effective representatives, leaders and even Prime Ministers but these first tentative steps towards equality one hundred years ago deserve to be celebrated.”
The carpet bed features flowers in purple and green marking the colour scheme adopted by the Women’s Social and Political Union established by Emmeline Pankhurst. To the suffrage movement purple and green stood for dignity and hope. The colours became a familiar, if controversial, sight in towns and cities across Britain in the early years of the twentieth century.
The bed will be planted by council gardeners in early Summer and stay in place for the entire season. Information regarding the suffrage campaign will be installed nearby which Councillor Kite hopes will spark and inform conversations across generations about the hard-fought rights of people. He said, “It seems to me that we need more than ever to safeguard the equalities that have been won and continue to push tirelessly for those where they have not been fully secured. The lesson is that every time we fail to recognise any person’s potential it wastes talent, limits ambition and holds every one of us back. In 1918 the issue was the right of women to vote. Today there are new boundaries and it would be nice if even this small commemoration in a town park sparked some thoughtful conversations.”