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Young People by delivering Law and Justice education at national heritage sites.

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Young People by delivering Law and Justice education at national heritage sites.

Student blog: International Women’s Day

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017 - Blog, Events and National Weeks

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To mark International Women’s Day 2017, our placement student Krysalyn Quainoo has written this short post about the origins of the day and reflected on some of the most important movements relevant to the history of women in the justice system. Kryslayn is currently on an undergraduate placement at the museum as part of her studies at Nottingham Trent University.

International Women’s Day

8th March marks the day as International Women’s Day. It is a day to look upon the social, economic, cultural and political achievements by women. This year’s theme is called #beboldforchange. The aim is to encourage women to help build, and be a part of, a better working world. This initially means to become more inclusive, make sure women are respected, and showcase gender parity. It holds historic value and is a tradition that we can recognise today. It is a day where we can recognise great women in society today. It is a celebration which is now on a global scale.

In the 19th century women started to form groups where they learned how to cooperate with one another as part of the social movement which would lead to International Women’s Day, becoming more structured in the 1920s. The earliest celebration of the day was in 1909, and it was recognised globally by the UN in 1977.  The movement encouraged women to be seen as equal to men. Fundamentally, one of the focus points of the social movement was working towards helping nations eliminate discrimination against women. Women were often paid 30-40% less pay than a man for the same job, there was no equality.

In history, we can see several examples of women fighting against inequality. In relation to the history of the justice system, suffragettes and prison reformers are some of the most important.

Suffragettes are a prime example of women that changed the dynamics of things. They are now known as true inspirations. There had been a drive towards women’s right to vote through the nineteenth century in the United Kingdom. Emmeline Pankhurst founded the WSPU – Women’s Social and Political Union – which would see more militant ‘suffragette’ action just before the First World War, with women fighting for the right to vote. In Nottingham, the most well-known suffragette was Helen Watts, from Lenton, who was imprisoned several times for suffragette actions.

In the penal system, Elizabeth Fry was an influential woman, becoming well known as a prison reformer in the nineteenth century. She went to different prisons and saw how prisoners were in unsanitary conditions with bad health, and a lifestyle that she felt was “indescribable”. She brought in standard clothes for the prisoners and worked to provide a better environment by encouraging these prisoners to look after themselves. Fry spent a day in a prison to get a feel of the conditions that prisoners were in. She worked hard to produce better conditions and was the first woman to give information about prisons to the House of Commons. After this prisons were changed and became better – cleaner and more disciplined – environments for women.

To learn more about women in the justice system, the Galleries of Justice Museum is hosting a free interactive workshop for adults on the 8th March from 12pm-1pm to celebrate International Women’s Day. Many topics will be discussed in this workshop, for instance themes of women, democracy, and the law.

 

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