Women Demand Human Rights

LONDON: Militancy isn’t a male prerogative. And women took to the streets in London to demand their rights as Tory MPs talked the Womens Rights Bill into the ground. Next day the CHE women were having their national conference in Manchester.

The Women’s Rights demonstrators were meeting at Caxton Hall and marching on the House of Commons bearing flaming torches.

Women hissed and jeered from the packed galleries of the House of Commons as Martin Maddon, the Tory MP from Hove talked the Bill out.

The Bill, a private member’s Bill (and therefore only discussed on Friday afternoons) has been tabled by Mr Will Hamilton, the Labour MP for Fife. It demands an end to lower wages for women and the introduction of equal opportunity for women in industry.

Women marching from the House of Commons to 10 Downing Street after the Anti Discrimination Bill had been “talked out”. Photographs: Serena Wadham

But it doesn’t go far enough. Mrs Ethel Chipchase, vice-chairman of the Trade Union Congress’s women’s advisory committee complains it’s a bill without teeth.

May Hobbs of the Night Cleanersn Union calling for action at Caxton Hall.

The Bill aims at making it illegal to advertise for an exmployee of either sex, just as it’s illegal now to advertise for someone who is or is not a certain colour.

The Caxton Hall rally supporting the Bill featured May Hobbs of the Night Cleaner’s Union and Audrey Wise, the Labour candidate for Coventry.

May Hobbs said once the Bill finally became law – after Martin Maddon has been persuaded to stop his bloody-minded histrionics – women’s equality will have to go on evolving and not become frozen by the law.

Audrey Wise warned: “Don’t be misled into thinking that equality is an abstraction: we don’t want all the disadvantages men already have.”

Many of the keenest supporters of the Bill went to Manchester the next day for CHE’s conference for gay women.

ED: We tried to get a more exciting picture of the Women’s Rights demonstration, but the clerical staff belonging to NATSOPA, one of the print unions, was on strike, and despite our having ordered a photograph, it couldn’t be printed for us. We’d like to thank Time Out and Angela Phillips, the photographer, for letting us use their picture of the rally.