The much loved hymn ‘Jerusalem’ has been celebrated for its Centenary at Beamish Museum with a mass singalong and a parallel celebration of the Suffragette Movement, the event was significant because composer Sir Hubert Parry gave the hymn to the Suffragette Movement to aid their cause. Indeed, the hymn has been loved and hated in almost equal parts having been the musical ‘banner’ of the Women’s Institute for 90 years or so, whereas some clergymen point to the reference ‘among those dark satanic mills’ and will not allow it to be sung in Church, meanwhile many of us sing along with gusto loving the power and majesty of the piece. The words are by Parry but the orchestration is, famously, by Sir Edward Elgar, it’s not just the words but the way that you say them and without the rousing anthem perhaps this lovely hymn would not have become so popular, but loved it is by many. People who have working experience of those dark satanic mills, coal mines, ship yards, steel works etc., would understand the yearning for their saviour to be amongst them.
In the early 21st Century it is hard for some younger folks to grasp the reasons for the equality movement and that people died for the women’s suffrage movement, better education is the answer. There are parallel equality causes currently let us not forget. Happily, in our Country we all have an equal right to vote, but that vote was made possible because of the life and death struggle by the Suffrage Movement. So when misogynistic people demean women we should stand firm and reject their thesis. One hundred years on the equality of women is established as fact that must not be undervalued or lost. It is often said that behind every great man there is a great woman, perhaps the truth is that men would be nowhere without great women to keep us in line?
Regardless of the choice; Remain or Leave on the 23rd of June, just think on, it is not just the lads of the DLI who gave their all in two world wars, it was also the lasses of the Suffrage Movement who gave us all the right to vote, a wasted vote is an affront to the memory of those brave souls.
Voluntary movements such as the Women’s Institute are to be applauded, they represent all that is best in our contemporary society and they have created a more level playing field for today’s ladies, but there is much still to do. Not only do the ladies of the WI make excellent jam and sing Jerusalem with heart and soul but they lead the way to civilisation.
The party at Beamish was enjoyed by all, and rightly so, congratulations to all who took part in celebrating 100 years of this grand hymn and of the women’s equality movement. Sir Hubert Parry wrote, ‘And, did those feet in ancient times walk upon England’s pastures green.’ We should like to think so.