“Well done, Sister Suffragette!”

sister sufragetteWinnifred Banks.  Does the name ring a bell?  She’s the mother of the children who are cared for by Mary Poppins.  In the film version of the story, Winnifred also happens to be a suffragette.  And it is in this capacity that she sings the following line: “Our daughters’ daughters will adore us and they’ll sing in grateful chorus, ‘Well, done! Well, done!  Well, done, Sister Suffragette!’”  This line is couched between “Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they’re rather stupid.” and ‘”From ev’ry corner of the land: ‘Womankind, arise!’ Political equality and equal rights with men!”  This idea, of daughters’ daughters singing in grateful chorus combines two of my soap-box issues – the importance of feminism and the importance of historical knowledge. There’s not a whole lot of cheering on the Suffragettes these days.  Not even by the daughters’ daughters (or great-granddaughters as the case may be!) For the most part, we in the 21st century Western World take women’s right to vote for granted.  Like a lot of other rights won over the years. Some of us even believe the battle is over and has been won. We think that we’ve progressed, moved forward, and beyond. But for those of us who study history, as professionals or otherwise, not only do we understand how false that belief is, we also know how dangerous it can be.


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