Our blog hadn’t been live very long when I was compelled to write an article about ‘Boro Girls’. It’s made me think more and more about Northern girls ever since.
The ‘Boro Girls’ story came about from yet another piece of negative press about where I live and love. Sometimes you let the negativity flow over you but sometimes you can’t keep quiet. This was one of those times.
Never in my life had the fact that I was born and bred in the North East made me feel inadequate or that it held me back in any way shape or form. Maybe it was my upbringing, my friends, my personality. Whatever it was I felt strong as a Northern woman and I felt really sad that there there was a whole generation of girls growing up some of whom potentially didn’t feel like I have and do. Yes, we all have our insecurities and are sometimes overwhelmed with self doubt about our capabilities but for me it’s got nothing to do with being Northern. Maybe female but that’s for another time!
I decided to research about strong, Northern female role models both past and present that I could feature on the blog and came across an interesting campaign by local feminist campaigner, Emma Chesworth. Her campaign is called ‘The Eighth Plinth’.
Emma had done her research and found that there wasn’t one single statue of a famous female in any of Middlesbrough’s public places. She set about to change this and campaigned for the public to choose one. They shortlisted for Ellen Wilkinson MP. Emma’s website describes Ellen as,
“Born in 1891 she was elected Labour MP for Middlesbrough East in 1924, serving until 1931. In 1925 her campaigning saw the amending of anomalies adversely affecting widows in the Pension Bill. She returned to Parliament in 1935 representing Jarrow and leading the Hunger Marches. In 1945 she became the first female Education Secretary, introducing free milk and school meals.”
Clearly, a force to be reckoned with. Emma is now fundraising to raise all the money for the statue from members of the public who want to support and donate.
I’d been meaning to write a follow up piece and you know time has passed quicker than I ever thought but this week I read an article on the guardian website and my thoughts turned to the subject once more. The news was that Britain was going to celebrate not one but three pioneering women with statues and the three of them are Northern and one was Middlesbrough’s Ellen Wilkinson! What a result!
Emma was asked to comment for the article in the guardian and I love what she said …
“When I started the campaign, the abuse and backlash I got were quite unbelievable. People were saying things like, ‘I don’t know why you are bothering. I’ve never heard of anyone on your list’, which rather proves my point. It is so important to celebrate women’s achievements in order to inspire the next generation. As the phrase goes: you cannot be what you cannot see.”
I created a hashtag when I wrote the Boro Girls piece called #ThisNorthernGirlCan and it was picked up a bit but I’ve decided I’d like to build on this more and get as many Northern women to join in using it as possible. If you were born in the North or you’ve adopted it as your home or workplace we’d love to hear from you. Tag yourself and/or your photos of achievements that you are proud of on your favourite social platforms so that we can share your support for the younger generation. Let’s show them that anything is possible to matter where you live. With a bit of support and encouragement our young Northern girls can do anything and be encouraged by those who have done before them.
We would also like to do a regular #ThisNorthernGirlCan feature on the blog. We are putting the questions together right now so if you would like to be involved do get in touch and we’ll let you in on our vision.