ONE hundred years ago today women secured a right to vote for the first time, sparking reflection from the Andover community to mark the anniversary.

After half a century of women’s suffrage campaigning, the Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed on 6 February giving voting rights to women over 30-years-old who owned property.

Andover Afternoon Women’s Institute (WI) took to the town centre in suffragette colours to spread awareness of the achievement today.

In purple, white and green they handed out ballot cards to passers-by who would have been eligible to vote under the reform.

WI committee member Anne Short said: “Women died so we could have the vote, they were force fed, given illnesses in prison because of being force fed, they were vilified to give us the vote.

“There’s no reason why we can’t spend two hours out here getting cold for them.”

The group members also agreed gender parity "in full" still needs to be achieved.

Historically some evidence also points to the women’s movement coming to Andover in the years leading up to reform.

Historian David Borrett told The Advertiser how suffragette icon Emmeline Pankhurst could have stayed in the town.

In the 2013 edition of the journal Lookback at Andover, Mr Borrett wrote: “As far as the suffragette campaign is concerned little if anything has ever been written about any movement in Andover to win women the vote, although my own grandmother claimed that Mrs Pankhurst and a companion came to the town, probably around 1907-8 in order to gain support for her cause.

“Reputedly the two women lodged here for a week or so with my grandmother’s parents, Mr and Mrs Feltham in Old Winton Road. However, although my grandmother was sure such a visit took place, having heard it from her own mother, it has apparently been lost to history.

“Maybe the arrival in Andover attracted little or no comment in the local press- it was before the determined lady had ever been arrested and her later notoriety was something for the future.

“However one would imagine that some sort of public event must have taken place, otherwise why come?”

The Andover History and Archaeology Society journal editor also referred to an Edwardian-era photograph of well-known local woman Fairlie Harmar of Ramridge House selling copies of The Suffragette on High Street.

Mr Borrett suggested it was likely to coincide with a suffragist rally or meeting or perhaps even Mrs Pankhurst’s visit.

The Advertiser's archival records also reports on women voting for the first time in the December 1918 general election.

A 20 December report read: "In a number of instances husbands and wives attended together, but in others they came at separate times.

“It was noticeable that the ladies in most instances voted before doing their shopping, while many of the men waited until they had had their Saturday shave and secured their supply of tobacco and matches."

Looking from the past to the future, members of the Andover community have told The Advertiser what they think about the progress in women’s rights, and what still needs to be achieved.

Andover Women in Business (AWIB) president Andrea Barry:

“First and foremost the issues we have had this year clearly indicated there is a lot that needs to be done. Issue of pay equality, the business with sexual harassment of women, that is the forefront and we still haven’t won these battles, have we?

“The other issue is targeted to women as they get older, not only do they become invisible they are just not appreciated for the skills and experience that they have. There is a real issue of ageism which I think is worse for women than men and dismissive attitudes that employers have around women when they are older.”

Andover Crisis and Support Centre manager Yvonne Bradbury:

“Currently survivors of domestic abuse are allowed to vote anonymously without their address on the electoral register if they can prove their lives and safety are at risk. But they have to prove it with certain types of evidence and court orders. Most survivors don’t have that so lots of women are unable to register to vote and use their right to participate. So if they [the government] can make it easier for women in a refuge to register anonymously it would be amazing.

“The first refuge was opened in 1972 and 305 refuges were running in November 2017. Women’s Aid statistics taken from that year found 90 women couldn’t find a refuge space because everywhere was full. Resources for these women need to be increased. The funding for refuges is always very unpredictable.”

Test Valley Borough Council leader Councillor Phil North:

"This week marks the 100th anniversary since Parliament gave (some) women the right to vote - and a century later there is still more to do to ensure women are equally represented.

“Just 13 of the 48 current Test Valley councillors are women so I want to see many more in public life. At the Test Valley 'Be a Councillor' event this week, I was encouraging more women to stand - and I hope to see more women candidates standing for election in Test Valley in 2019 than ever before."

Andover College digital marketing officer Meg Bullock:

“Recent media coverage shows there is still a way to go to gain gender equality, particularly for women in the workplace.

"In the past, we’ve see young women steer away from subjects stereotypically branded as ‘masculine’, including science, technology, engineering, maths (STEM) and particularly digital.

"To inspire and encourage more girls to think about going into these fields we have created a bespoke event, ‘Women into Digital Industries’ for students from local schools. We aim to open up young girls’ perceptions of what is possible when you choose a future you enjoy and can excel in.”

North West Hampshire MP Kit Malthouse said:

“It’s hard to believe that with so many accomplished and talented women MPs and our second woman prime minister in office today that they would not have been allowed to hold those positions, let alone vote, 100 years ago.

“There’s been great progress, but we still to see more women standing for elected office and I’m confident that we are not far away from having half of the seats in the House of Commons held by women.”