Mrs May will address invited guests exactly 100 years after the Representation of the People Act was passed, kicking off a year-long series of events and exhibitions commemorating the women and men who fought to achieve electoral equality.
The Representation of the People Act 1918 extended the right to vote to all men over 21 and the first women, making this day one of the most important milestones in British democratic history.
Opening this landmark event as the UK’s second female Prime Minister, Mrs May will reflect on the enormous progress that has been made, but also on the vital campaigning work that continues to this day.
A celebration of progress
All female MPs past and present have been invited, in what is expected to be the largest gathering of the UK’s women politicians ever organised.
The evening will celebrate the pioneering women and men who fought for the right to vote, as well as the contribution of women to politics in the UK.
As part of these celebrations, the purple white and green flag of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) will also be flown from the roof of Portcullis House on 6 February.
Representing the people
Speaking ahead of the launch the Prime Minister said:
“I look forward to joining hundreds of female Parliamentarians, past and present, to celebrate this very special anniversary.
I’m proud to say we have more women and more ethnic minority MPs in government than ever before – proving that we are committed to looking more like the country we serve.
Everyone attending tonight will be there because of the heroic, tireless struggle of those who came before us. As well as remembering and giving thanks to those who came before us, we must also look at what more we can do to ensure everyone in the United Kingdom, regardless of background, has the freedom to play a full and active role in public life.”
History on display
2018 also marks the anniversaries of three other significant milestones in the fight for universal suffrage. For the first time in history, on 6 February, the Parliamentary Archives will display all four original Acts of Parliament together in Central Lobby for one day. They are:
- Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave all men over 21 and women over 30 who met a property qualification the right to vote. (100 years)
- Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 – allowing women to be MPs (100 years)
- Equal Franchise Act 1928 – giving women the vote on the same terms as men (90 years)
- Life Peerages Act 1958 – allowing women to sit in the House of Lords as life peers (60 years)
Mari Takayanagi, Co-curator of the Voice and Vote exhibition, said:
“Bringing together these historic Acts for one day is a recognition of the vital role they have played in shaping our democracy.
They will create a fitting backdrop to this celebration of the achievements that women have made, often in the most difficult of circumstances, in Parliament.”
Celebrating Vote 100
UK Parliament’s Vote 100 project is a year-long programme of events celebrating a century of women’s voices in Parliament, the journey towards universal suffrage and the first women MPs.
Throughout 2018, Vote 100 will celebrate these milestones, and the contribution of women to politics in the UK, with a series of events, exhibitions and educational programmes.
For further information, visit our Vote 100 pages.