Today marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, passed on 6 Feb 1918.
After a long and bitter struggle, the act finally gave the vote to British women over 30 and ‘of property’ for the first time. It took another decade before this was lowered to 21 and put on an equal footing with men.
As a female entrepreneur running a manufacturing business, I am afforded choices and freedoms that would have been inconceivable a hundred years ago.
So I’d like to reflect today on some of the female beauty pioneers who were changing the face of the industry (and paving the way for women in business) at this same time.
Helena Rubinstein (1872-1965) was a Polish American businesswoman, art collector, philanthropist and cosmetics entrepreneur. She worked with scientists to revolutionise the world of beauty products. She invented the first moisturiser and went on to invent the first beauty institute.
Coco Chanel (1883-1971) redefined femininity and created one of today’s most iconic brands. With Chanel No. 5 she broke from tradition and created a distinctly modern perfume for the times. The fragrance was clean, fresh and used a completely new blend of scents and ingredients – it’s still the fastest selling perfume today.
Elizabeth Arden (1878-1966) famously said that “to be beautiful is the birthright of every woman”. Known for celebrating a woman’s natural beauty, she championed a scientific approach to skincare and combined it with nutrition and fitness to achieve total Beauty.
I salute all these incredible women and the achievements of countless others who have shaped our history.
Today is a reminder of how much progress has been made, but also how far we still have to go. 100 years on, full gender equality has yet to be reached.
We should never take even our basic liberties for granted nor think they can’t be taken away – when so many in the world remain oppressed.