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100 years of women’s right to vote – celebrating the pioneering women of UCL

6 February 2018

UCL is celebrating 100 years since women in the UK first won the right to vote with a varied programme of activities taking place throughout 2018.

Alumni and supporters are invited to join us at all events - see the full programme of activities here: www.ucl.ac.uk/culture/projects/ucl-vote-100 

The Representation of the People Act, passed on 6 February 1918, extended the franchise to almost all men – and, for the first time, women who were over the age of 30 and met minimum property qualifications. Ten months later, on 14 December 1918, 8.5 million women voted for the first time.

Votes for Women

As a university founded by radical thinkers, UCL had become one of the first universities in England to admit women in 1878, 40 years before women were finally granted the vote. This year’s programme of exhibitions, talks, tours, comedy and performance will uncover the stories of the pioneering women who helped build UCL, and explore the battles still to be won.

The year began with Prize & Prejudice, a major exhibition in the UCL Art Museum shining a light on the women to win the coveted Slade Prize. UCL’s Slade School of Fine Art admitted women from its foundation in 1871, and many of the winners of its prestigious Prize have been women. The exhibition will focus on the experiences of these leading artists, largely now forgotten, and uncover the circumstances and prejudices that constrained their careers.

Highlights of the year also include UCL Female Firsts – an exhibition focusing on twelve women drawn from UCL’s twelve faculties who have made a far-reaching impact on UCL and the world, ranging from a leading code-breaker to the UK’s first female doctor.

kathleen Lonsdale

All the women celebrated have transformed their field and the world, and their stories will be illustrated with original artwork by artist Kristina Clackson Bonnington, exhibited in the Cloisters from March 2018.

Other activities include Disruptors and Innovators, an exhibition in the Octagon Gallery exploring the first two decades of the 20th Century and the UCL women who faced significant barriers but also made the most of huge opportunities during the period.

The year will also see a wikithon – a Wikipedia editathon to increase the visibility of pioneering UCL women, led by UCL staff and students as part of the Global Citizenship Programme.

Welcoming the varied programme, UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur said: 

“These events will give us an eye-opening insight into the barriers women have faced at UCL and in the wider world, and how far they were able to reach despite them. It is also an important opportunity to examine where equality is still to be achieved and learn from the past. I’m delighted that UCL is playing such an active role in celebrating this centenary year, and I think it will provoke a lot of debate about how far we have come and how far we still need to go.”