Soldiers in Petticoats

Posted by Laura Bennett on

Being a student at an all girls' grammar school, I studied the Women's Suffrage movement at length as a teenager.  I learned the usual facts about the Pankhursts, Emily Wilding Davison and I think at one time I wrote an essay comparing the different approaches of the Suffragists and the Suffragettes. 

I watched the film 'Suffragette' last night and it really brought home to me how fortunate I am, a young woman forging a career in what used to be considered a 'man's world', and how much I personally owe to the brave women who campaigned to make that possible.  However, the film struck the deepest chord for me with its portrayal of the Suffragettes as mothers, not just campaigners.  It is astonishing now to think that in the early twentieth century, children belonged to their fathers, and mothers had no legal recourse against this.  One of the central characters, who brought 'shame' upon her family by her actions as a suffragette, was prevented from seeing her child by her husband.  I was reduced to tears by the scenes between a separated mother and her child.

This really brought home to me how the law relating to the care of children has developed over the years.  Parents with parental responsibility are now equal in the eyes of the law and able to make decisions about their child's welfare.  There is no distinction between mother and father.  It is assumed that the involvement of both parents in a child's life will be of benefit to the child and so parents who are separated are encouraged to work together to ensure that a relationship with both parents is maintained.  This is only departed from where there are concerns for the child's welfare. 

'Suffragette' rightly focuses on the legal development of voting rights for women, but it is gratifying to think of the enormous social changes that resulted from this, and how much mothers today owe to the 'soldiers in petticoats' who fought for them just one hundred years ago. 

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Photograph of Laura Bennett

Laura is a Senior Solicitor in the Family team based in Oxford.

Laura Bennett
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