Democracy in Dover – A Century of Change

The Council commemorated the passing of the Representation of the People Act on 6th February 1918 with a display in the Council Chamber. The Act gave the vote to women for the first time (although only women over 30 who had property rights were eligible to vote) and all men. Women had to wait for another 10 years until 1928 to be allowed the same democratic rights as men to choose a Government.

The Town Council chamber has been decorated in the colours of the suffragette movement who had campaigned for women to have the vote, purple for loyalty and justice, white for purity and green for hope. On display are two watercolour paintings of Dover by Laura Bomford, Dover’s first female Councillor from 1919-1921 and a leader in the local campaign for female suffrage, and a real vintage wooden Dover ballot box.

Since formation in 1996 Dover Town Council has elected as its leader 8 female and 7 male Mayors (with some Mayors serving for more than one term) and women now comprise one third of the total Council.

Councillors were delighted to see the display for the first time at the meeting of the Community and Services Committee of the Council on the anniversary of the Act. It will remain in place to be enjoyed by the many local voluntary groups who are able to use the Council chamber free of charge for activities.

Councillor Sue Jones, former Mayor and Speaker of the Cinque Ports said

Democracy – the right of every adult to have a say in the way they are governed – is fundamental to our way of life. We can always learn and do things better but that starts for each one of us by taking part and casting a vote in a responsible and thoughtful way. Dover Town Council is the Council closest to the people of the Town – it is your Council elected by you and for you. For most of history ordinary men and women in Dover had no say in the laws that they had to obey – that things are different now is due to the women and men who worked so hard against a system stacked against them to change things for the better.