14 December 2018 - SIS Commemoration of Centenary of Women’s Suffrage

“Give women votes”

2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which first gave women the right to vote. The act gave the vote to women aged 30 and over who owned property, permitted women to stand as candidates and be elected as MPs. This was a significant milestone in the hard-fought suffrage campaign, which continued until 1918, when women finally won the vote under the same terms as men.

To commemorate this important moment, the Government Equalities Office led a programme of events across the year, culminating on the 14 December 2018, the centenary of the first Parliamentary vote to include women. On this date, government buildings will be lit up. SIS is proud to be taking part in this event, illuminating our building in Vauxhall, in suffrage green, white and violet – the colours of the Suffrage movement.

It’s worth reflecting on the changes that have taken place in our society over this time. 100 years ago, women could not:

  • Serve on a jury
  • Apply for credit or a loan in their own name
  • Work in the legal profession
  • Inherit and bequeath a property on the same terms as men

A hundred years ago, Captain Sir Mansfield Cumming, the Service’s first Chief, was keen to ensure women formed an important part of his team during the First World War. Although most of his female staff were unmarried, he did not exclude married women and event sent some of them abroad (with good salaries). This was in contrast with practice elsewhere in the civil service, where women were often obliged to resign from their posts on marrying. Not all of his successors were as enlightened as Cumming though and SIS subsequently applied Whitehall's more restrictive employment practices, until these were amended throughout the 1970's.