A MOMENTOUS date in the UK's democratic history has been marked in South Lakeland.

Westmorland and Lonsdale Labour Party members occupied the Birdcage in Kendal on Saturday to celebrate the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which extended the vote to women for the first time.

Party members wore green, white an purple - the colours adopted by the Suffragettes - and also displayed posters addressing contemporary issues affecting female voters.

Throughout the country, the anniversary has been used to highlight the gender pay gap, which affects women across many industries and professions.

Fiona Atkinson, branch leader for Kendal and Lakes Women's Equality Party said: "

Meanwhile, an exhibition to celebrate the centenary has been opened at Kendal's Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry.

Votes for Women: Suffrage and Women's Lives, which is running throughout 2018, explores women’s lives in Cumbria and the history behind their right to vote.

But historian Roger Bingham says not all local women were in favour.

"Opposition to the female vote was led by Theodosia Bagot, wife of Westmorland’s Conservative MP," said Mr Bingham.

"At the 1910 General Election she urged women to ‘tell your husbands, sons and brothers to vote for Bagot’."

At home because of her party's ‘indifference’ Theodora Wilson Wilson (she had the same name twice!) left the Liberals and joined Labour, while

But in Milnthorpe, the leading suffragette was a Conservative, Mrs McNab, who had her white front door daubed with the Liberal colour of blue by anti-suffragettes.

Mr Bingham pointed out the issue also caused a rift within families.

"The Croppers (paper mill) family of Burneside was split between Mary Cropper, an anti-suffragist, and her suffragette sister Eleanor Acland."

Mr Bingham said that locally most suffragettes belonged to the peaceable National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies chaired by Margaret Llewelyn Davies, of Kirkby Lonsdale.

Even so, Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, was in 1911 loudly applauded by a Kendal audience when she proposed that women should be literally militant and join the army because ‘if you can fight - you can vote’.

"In retaliation, the Honourable Mrs Cropper responded that ‘women would never be able to command the same wage as men as they were born to be mothers and do their bounden duty to their sons." Despite such view, women over 30 got the vote in 1918 and the rest in 1928.

The 1918 Representation of the People Act also gave electoral rights to the 40 per cent of men who also lacked the vote.