Happy International Women’s Day to all! ❤
Today is a day for all women to come together and celebrate the strides we’ve made, but to also look at how far we still need to go. It’s also a day for some men to moan about “why isn’t there a International Men’s Day?” (November 19th btw). What makes this IWD so special is that 2018 marks 100 years since some women (and all men) were able to vote in the UK (#100yearsofsuffrage whoop!)
To commemorate IWD and 100 years of suffrage, I really wanted to talk about a woman who I only recently found out about, but have been obsessively researching and reading about.
I was listening to the Suffragette Centenary Special with Guardian Live – part 1, which you can listen to on any podcast app (I use CastBox) or you can also listen on YouTube, when a member of the panel, Anita Anand, mentioned Princess Sophia Duleep Singh. To be honest every time I hear an ethnic sounding name I instantly sit up straighter and commit the name to my memory so I can go on a Wikipedia binge. It’s still so rare to hear them that I’ve almost trained my brain to seek them out.
Princess Sophia Duleep Singh was a fascinating woman. She was the daughter of the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire (who gifted the Kohinoor diamond to Queen Victoria), the god daughter of Queen Victoria, became involved in, and an active member, of the Suffrage movement, then became President of the Suffragette Fellowship Commitee after Emmeline Pankhurts death in 1928, and rubbed King George V and Winston Churchill up the wrong way with her activism and refusal to pay taxes.
There’s a story that Anita told on the panel about Princess Sophia and it’s stuck with me and really just embodies what International Women’s Day is all about, and what we should strive for. During the Black Friday incident of 1910 many women were severely assaulted physically and sexually by police after marching on the House of Commons to protest the stopping of extending the right to vote. Now, Sophia was one of the women who led the march, alongside Emmeline Pankhurst and Louisa Garrett Anderson and was severely manhandled by police, but what really got her blood boiling was she she saw a fellow suffragette be thrown repeatedly on the floor by a policeman and she demanded recompense. She put herself between the two of them, pushing him off the woman, and then followed after him. After getting his police number she wrote numerous complaints to the police force about the way the women were treated. Her complaints were so numerous and vast, and she so famous, that they made their way from police to the government, all the way to the Home Secretary at that time – Winston Churchill – who scored the words “send her no more replies” deep at the end of her last complaint.
God, I love that so much. She never backed down from a fight and dedicated her life to attaining what was right and true for all women. She didn’t have to. As a woman of status and wealth and who had the favour of Queen Victoria, she could have led a simple and easy life. But she saw that her privilege and her status could be put to better use. To make a real difference and change in this world regardless of how much money she did or didn’t have. She fought for every woman and not just herself.
We as women should work together, building each other up rather than tearing each other apart. Division will not make us stronger, and if we are divided what will we accomplish? I feel so blessed, proud and insanely lucky to have so many strong, independent, fierce, beautiful women in my life who will always have my back. Who will forever see the best in me and raise me up when I am at my lowest. And to the random women who’ve helped me when I’ve fallen (I’m very clumsy!), those who’ve helped console me after public racial discrimination and abuse, the women who’ve complimented me on the streets, and the women who’ve liked, read and shared my blogs in the past, it means so much. Because this is what IWD is – coming together, working together, fighting for each other whoever we are and where ever we may be in the world to achieve equality.
You can get Anita Anand’s book about Princess Sophia here Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, and I would highly recommend it.