Free to what? Bishop Libby kick-starts season of conversation

The Bishop of Stockport was joined by nearly a hundred women on Saturday 17 November to kick-start a season of conversation about women's rights. Called The Big #Freeto Conversation, the campaign has been launched to mark the centenary year of women winning the right to vote and stand for election in the UK.

The launch event brought together women from the Dioceses of Manchester and Chester to give praise and thanks for the steps women took in the past for the freedoms we all enjoy today. Examples through the decades include the freedom for women to vote, own a home, buy a drink in a pub, earn equal pay, and choose to have children.

People gathered in glorious sunshine at Boggart Hole Clough, the location at which suffragettes held open-air meetings which helped women to win the right to vote in 1918. They marched a circuit of the lake holding placards and banners to remember the women that congregated there in years-gone-by. The Archdeacon of Manchester led a short service of praise and thanksgiving and Bishop Libby gave the blessing. 

Boggart Hole Clough - view more photographs from the launch event on Facebook. 

Later in the day, a contingent travelled on to Chester to gather at St Peter's Church in the city centre before marching to Chester Cathedral, the setting for Bishop Libby Lane's installation as the first woman bishop in the Church of England in 2015. Here Bishop Libby Lane delivered a homily in which she gave thanks for the sacrifices women had made and the spirit they had shown in the face of adversity in order to win the rights and freedoms we enjoy today.

Read her sermon here. 

Chester city centre - view more photographs from the launch event on Facebook. 

Bishop Libby reflects, “Jesus said the good news he offers brings freedom, but we have a part to play in ensuring freedoms are available to all. I have been free to vote, attend the university I wanted, be a parent when I chose, as well as become a bishop. Not all of these have been a reality for women in my lifetime.”

The launch of The Big #FreeTo Conversation is inviting women and men from all backgrounds, ages, and stages in life, to consider two questions:

1. What is it that we are free to do today, thanks to the women that have gone before us? 
2. What do you hope women may be free to do in the future, so we all may live life to the full?

Bishop Libby adds: "The Big #Freeto Conversation is an exciting opportunity for women from all walks of life to hold conversations with others and to listen to and share stories of success and joy, as well as regret and disappointment. Life can be difficult, for men and women, but together through our conversations, I hope we can learn from one another and look to a hopeful future when all people live life in all its fullness, the way God intended for them.” 

Some of the freedoms that have been fought for and won down the decades include:

1918 Free to... Vote in the UK
In 1918 the Representation of the People Act was passed which allowed women over the age of 30 to vote and stand for election in the UK. 

1967: Free to... Choose to be a parent
In 1967 the Family Planning Act made contraception readily available to all through the NHS.   

1970: Free to... Earn equal pay
In 1970 the Equal Pay Act prohibited any less favourable treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment. 

1982: Free to... Buy a drink in a pub
Before 1982 women trying to spend their money in English pubs could legally be refused service.

1991: Free to... Say no to marital sex
Before 1991 it was legal to have sex with one's spouse without consent.

1999: Free to... Share parental leave
In 1999 the Employment Relations Act granted all employees parental leave for the first time. 

2015: Free to... Lead the Church
In 2015 Bishop Libby Lane became the first woman to be made a bishop in the Church of England. 

Taking part in The Big #Freeto Conversation is easy. Simply consider the following two questions and share your views, thoughts, comments and observations on social media using the hashtag #Freeto, or alternatively, you are free to fill out our online form

1. What is it that we are free to do today, thanks to the women that have gone before us? 
2. What do you hope women may be free to do in the future, so we all may live life to the full?

View the Diocese of Chester's Facebook page and share your comments there using the hashtag #Freeto. 


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