Today marked the last day of my first week at POST. A productive week, I completed the scope note and left the office with a couple of interviews in the pipeline for the following week. We – some of the fellows and I – decided to head out of our building for lunch today. We made our way into the Palace and over to the terrace café. Thanks to one of our colleagues, Henry, who is permanent staff, we were allowed out onto the terrace – yes, onto the terrace! Sneaky! That’s the bit between the water and the Houses of Parliament (have a look at Martin Robson’s (2012) photo below from Flickr). It was pretty special being out there and the food was good: fish and chips Friday with as-much-as-you-can-eat-tartare-sauce and good conversation; election fever is certainly in the air!
After lunch we headed back to the POST office, taking in a few sites on our way. I returned to the chapel of St Mary Undercroft and took a closer look at a cubbyhole I’d spotted the other day. In fact, the cubbyhole, which is found at the back of the church and can’t possibly measure more than 150 cm x 150 cm, has a rather great history behind it. Emily Davison – that marvellous suffragette who died under the horse of George V in 1913 – spent the night of 2nd April 1911 hiding in that tiny cubbyhole. It was a well thought out plan: by hiding in the cubbyhole on the night of the census, Emily was then able to claim the same political rights as the men of the house of commons. What a great idea! We wandered the corridors a little more (more on that to come) and Henry took us up into St Stephen’s hall. There he showed us a statue of Viscount Falkland with a crack in his sword and a broken spur on his ankle. These idiosyncrasies, Henry told us, were due to another suffragette chaining herself to the statue in the early 20th century. Thinking about Emily and the suffragettes today I was struck by just how much I take for granted my right to vote – it’s something I don’t even question. Just 100 years ago, my foremothers were doing crazy and audacious things for the sole purpose of trying to obtain the right to vote and here I am at Westminster – not only will I have the right to vote in the general election this Thursday, I am a woman working in Parliament. This Thursday 7th May I’ll be thinking about Emily and the suffragettes and all that they did for us.