TWENTY thousand women and girls will march along Princes Street next month in a huge parade to mark the centenary of the first votes for women.
Crowds are expected to line the route and the event – along with simultaneous processions in Cardiff, Belfast and London – will be broadcast live on television.
Councillors agreed unanimously to the request to close Princes Street between The Mound to North Bridge to allow the march on the afternoon of Sunday, June 10.
The move means those taking part can follow in the same footsteps as Scottish suffragettes, who famously marched along Princes Street in 1909 during a demonstration arranged by the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).
The event – officially entitled Processions – is also an artwork organised by public art producers Artichoke and NOW14-18, the art project commemorating the First World War.
The women and girls taking part will be handed scarves to wear in the suffragette colours of green, white and violet and carry handmade banners to create a river of colour.
Banner-making workshops are being organised in advance of the march.
Lord Provost Frank Ross said: “The closure of Princes Street is a major decision and one the council does not propose often. As a major tram and bus route, and centre for retail and business, normal policy would be to avoid halting traffic as much as possible.
“But Processions will be no ordinary day. This is going to be a unique historic occasion where thousands of women and girls from all backgrounds and parts of the country can walk together, not only in remembrance of Scotland’s suffragettes, but in unity for further gender equality. I felt it was important to allow the route to take in the original street Scottish women marched along 100 years ago and I am delighted to receive the backing of the rest of the council.”
Councillor Amy McNeese Mechan, vice convener of culture and communities, said: “It will feel all the more poignant to walk along the same street that Scotland’s suffragettes marched down over 100 years ago. We want this to be the type of event people look back on with pride in the future and say, ‘I was there’.”
Full details of the route are due to be unveiled later this month.
Helen Marriage, artistic director and CEO of Artichoke, said: “We are delighted with the council’s decision to close Princes Street on June 10. We want Processions to be the largest mass participation artwork made up of women ever seen in the UK, walking together in the green, violet and white wraps we’ll distribute.
“We hope that women and girls from all over Scotland will join us to celebrate the memory of all the incredibly brave women who marched through the city’s streets 100 years ago.”
The Edinburgh branch of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage was one of the earliest campaign groups to be established in the 1860s.
The long struggle for women’s suffrage led to the passing of the Representation of the People Act in 1918, which gave the vote to all women over 30 who met minimum property qualifications.
It took another ten years before the franchise was extended to all women over 21, giving them the vote on the same terms as men.
Those wishing to take part in the march can registrations in advance at www.processions.co.uk