By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
A PREVIOUSLY banned speech prepared by a noted suffragette will be presented during a “special sitting” of the House of Assembly in honour of the women’s suffrage movement‘s 50th anniversary, the Minister of Social Services announced yesterday.
Melanie Griffin was speaking at Police Headquarters’ Paul Farquharson Centre where nearly 100 women, including police officers, gathered for a presentation on the suffrage movement as part of National Women’s Month.
Mrs Griffin announced the sitting will take place on Monday, November 26, and will feature a 1959 speech by Dr Doris Johnson. Dr Johnson was not allowed to deliver her speech in the House by the then governing United Bahamian Party.
“Hopefully it will be a joint sitting of both the Senate and the House of Assembly where we expect that 50 years later – you will recall, those of you who are aware will know – Dr Johnson, who represented the women’s suffrage movement at the time, was not allowed into the House of Assembly, was not even allowed to the bar to present the petition on behalf of the women.
“But 50 years later we will make sure – the women who stand on their shoulders will make sure – that petition, that speech she wanted to make will have its day in the House of Assembly,” Mrs Griffin said.
The country is “very proud to be able to do that” and give the speech the prominence it needs, the Minister continued, explaining Rawson Square will be transformed to accommodate those who wish to be apart of the occasion.
“Because the gallery in the House of Assembly is small, we will have a full set up in the Square with televisions so that the general public can come sit with us,” she said.
“We’ll have some students come down and we’re going to have a good time as we celebrate and tribute the women’s suffrage movement, the leaders of the movement, and all those who would have supported that movement. We also intend to lay in Parliament – put a resolution in Parliament where we will be of course paying tribute to our fore-mothers.”
Mrs Griffin explained next Monday’s sitting is part of a larger celebration of 50 years since the suffrage movement.
“This year we celebrate the 50th year, a significant milestone for us. As we celebrate, we thought it was important that we do it throughout the month. You would have seen the exhibition in the Square, you will have seen the telephone books... We want to really celebrate it,” Mrs Griffin said.
“It is so important for us to do it because it is important for women to know their history, it is important for the country to know its history.”
She said women “have an awesome obligation to move the struggle forward” and continue the fight for gender equality in the country.
“As long as our sisters live in poverty, the struggle is not over. As long as domestic violence and family violence exists, the struggle is not over. As long there is not equal pay for equal work, the struggle is not over. As long as there is not constitutional equality for our women who marry foreign men to be able to pass on their citizenship to their children and their husbands, the struggle is not over,” she said.
“And so I call you to duty today, as we move forward, the suffrage has done their part, the movement has done their part. It is now our time, let’s step up to the plate.”
• See Editorial, page 4