Carol Gibbon, left, and Susan Pearson, investigated archives at the London School of Economics to make the victory breakfast as authentic as possible

WOMEN got the vote a century ago – but not all women.

That didn’t come until a decade later, and was marked with a victory breakfast at London’s Cecil Hotel on Thursday, July 5, 1928.

On Thursday, July 5, 2018 at Swindon’s Marriott Hotel, the breakfast will be recreated and the achievement of 90 years ago celebrated.

Carol Gibbon, 64, is a retired civil servant whose 20 years as a voluntary worker include 17 at Prospect Hospice and a stint at Open Door, the Swindon organisation which helps people with learning disabilities reach their potential.

Susan Pearson, 55, has worked at Open Door for 13 years while volunteering for Prospect.

The two met and became friends while working at the Prospect Hospice charity shop in Old Town. They share respect and reverence for all who secured votes for women.

“The women’s suffrage movement,” said Susan, “was going right from the middle of the 19th century.

“Millicent Fawcett, who recently had her statue unveiled in Parliament Square, was involved right from the beginning, when she was a teenager. One of her sisters was the first female doctor, for instance. They were a very feminist-minded family.

“She married an MP who had been blinded in a shooting accident, so she was a secretary from quite a young age and gradually got more and more involved herself. She was there in 1928 at the victory breakfast, so she’d been working all those years and saw the culmination of her efforts.

“But the Suffragettes, which is what a lot of people think of when they think of suffrage, really only started at the end of the 19th century because people were frustrated that the thing hadn’t got any further just by negotiating. There was an awful lot of to-ing and fro-ing between suffragists and MPs.

“Women got the vote straight after the war, in 1918, but it was only women over 30. At the same time they extended the men’s franchise down to 21. It wasn’t until 1928 that we got suffrage on an equal basis with men.

“They carried on campaigning after the First World War.”

Carol said: “We’re celebrating the start of women’s suffrage. It was originally commemorated with the victory breakfast in London. It was on July 5, 1928, so we’ve used that to try and replicate it. We’re going to try and recreate the event from 1928 as near as possible as we can in modern times.

“We’ve got the original speeches. We’ve taken extracts from them and we’ve asked people from the Swindon community to deliver them for us.”

The speakers will include High Sheriff of Wiltshire Nicky Alberry, Deputy Lord Lieutenant and broadcaster Shirley Ludford, Deputy Lord Lieutenant and Wiltshire Community Foundation trustee Helen Birchenough and Richard Deacon, head of the family jewellery business currently celebrating its 170th anniversary year.

Liberal Democrat councillor Stan Pajak will speak, as will Labour councillor Nadine Watts, and South Swindon MP Robert Buckland is consulting his schedule in the hope of being able to attend.

The cross-party approach is no accident.

“There were three MPs at the original breakfast,” said Carol. There was one Labour, one Liberal and one Conservative.

“We thought we’d do the same because this isn’t a political event. We’re quite keen to say it’s a celebration.

“It’s not limited to women only, because at the original breakfast there were quite a few men who had campaigned.”

Also invited to speak are Commonweal students Ruth Flame and Meagan Watts, who organised a school library display about the fight for suffrage.

Carol and Susan spotted the Adver’s story about them, and asked them to talk about their hopes for the next 100 years.

Carol said: “They will be the women of the future and we hope they’ll remember when they get to my age that we celebrated this occasion.”

Even the menu will be similar to the one from 1928, albeit with one or two concessions to the 21st century. Not many people in 2018 start the day with fried plaice.

Carol and Susan tracked down documents relating to the Cecil Hotel gathering at the London School of Economics Women’s Library.

They also found an enormous photograph of the 250 people who attended.

“None of them are alive now,” said Carol. “They can’t be. That makes you more determined to celebrate what they did for us.

“My vote means a lot to me. I’ve always voted in every election since I was 18, and there were people there in that room who made sure I’d get that vote.

“That’s why we’re celebrating. Women died so that we could have our vote.”

Tickets for the breakfast cost £10, with all proceeds going to Swindon Women’s Aid.

The choice of charity was not a difficult one.

Carol said: “It runs a building that is a safe place for women who are affected by violence in the home, either physical or mental.

“It does outreach work – it helps women who are still in the community and unable to get out of violent or threatening situations, and it safeguards children.”

n Tickets are available from Carol on 07934 538979 or Susan on 07842 489819.

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