This week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Brighton Women’s Centre (BWC) conference to celebrate their 45th birthday.
It is one of the oldest women’s centres in the country and supports women dealing with bereavement or trauma, women who have been through homelessness or the criminal justice system, survivors of abuse or discrimination. All are welcomed.
Brighton is a city with strong female representation. I lead the council here where I am proud that more than half our councillors, from all political parties, are women.
We have a history of solidarity with the struggle for gender equality and women’s rights.
We were home to suffragettes like Mary Clarke – the first woman martyr to the suffragette cause. The younger sister of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, she died on Christmas Day 1910, after being force-fed while in prison.
Also to Margaret Bondfield – the first female cabinet minister who served as Minister of Labour under a Labour government – as well as Minnie Turner, Elizabeth Robins, Clementina Black and many others.
Our city is raising money for blue plaques and a statue to become permanent memorials to their courage and conviction.
We will be designing a walking trail so visitors can learn about the sacrifices they made to the further the cause of women’s liberation, and to understand our city’s unique history.
While we have come a long way from the rights that Mary Clarke and Minnie Turner were fighting for – we still live in an unequal society, which makes celebrating women’s history and creating women’s spaces so important.
That is why, I was delighted to see the Feminist Bookshop open at 48 Upper North Street just this month.
I can’t wait to have a browse and enjoy a chat over vegan cake and a cup of tea with friends. Maybe I will see you there?
Meanwhile, I want to say a big congratulations on 45 years – I can’t begin to imagine how many women have benefited from the support of BWC over the decades.
I look forward to continuing to work with them and other women’s organisations locally and ensure that support for vulnerable women is at the forefront of the political agenda.
Councillor Nancy Platts is the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.