St John's Marlborough celebrates Vote 100

Written by Sue Round on .

St John's Year 9 Reading Group with author Sally Nicholls in the Suffragette Exhibition in the school librarySt John's Year 9 Reading Group with author Sally Nicholls in the Suffragette Exhibition in the school libraryFebruary 6  marks the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which for the first time allowed property owning women who were over thirty to vote.

To mark the occasion many events are being organised countrywide.  St John’s Marlborough are contributing to the celebrations with an extensive exhibition in the school library organised by school librarian, Anne Stokes, together with a visit from prize winning author, Sally Nicholls, who writes young adult historical fiction.

Sally visited Year 9 History classes earlier today, 31 January and discussed her latest book, “Things a Bright Girl Can Do”.  The book spans the World War I years 1914-1918 and follows the lives of three very different teenage girls, who all join the suffrage movement for different reasons.  Evelyn, 17, wants to go to university but as a woman is denied the chance to gain a degree.  May is opposed to violence and is a peaceful campaigner.  Nell,14, is working class from Poplar, in the East End of London, with a fulltime job in a factory.  The story follows the onset of war and contains two love stories.

Sally told the students, “I hope that by using three different characters I have been able to show the depth and broadness of the suffrage movement and also reveal different aspects of the movement.  I chose to show a lesbian love story in the book in order to cover an aspect of the suffragette movement that is often ignored.”

“The book is about people trying to challenge the boundaries of what being a woman means and it was a fascinating and very challenging book to write.”

Many real historical events are included in the book, such as the march on Buckingham Palace, the Women’s Peace Congress and Sylvia Pankhurst’s escape from Bow Baths Hall.  The title of the book was inspired by a 1914 book, “301 Things a Bright Girl Can Do.”

Sally told Year 9 students that the 1918 act was just the beginning.  “These battles are not all won.  There are still inequalities today.  When I get frustrated I remember those women and how they changed the whole face of society.  The way change happens is by challenge.  The battles that are worth fighting are not just individual battles but everyone’s battles.”

 ‘Things a Bright Girl Can Do’ was published in 2017 with the paperback copy released  on Feb 1 2018.  The Year 9 Reading Group read the book on publication and were very excited to meet the author. They gave the following recommendations to :

“I liked the diversity in the book as it showed all angles of the suffragette movement.” (Alice)

“The book is really well researched, really interesting and it covered so many different aspects of the time period.”(Eleanor)

“I don’t usually read historical fiction but I couldn’t put this book down.” (Sarah)

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