In celebration of International Women’s Day 2018 (Thursday 8 March), 100-year-old great-grandmother, Edith Pryor has shared the remarkable changes she’s witnessed in her lifetime.
Born on Christmas Day in 1917, Edith lives at the Bupa Erskine Hall care home in London. Amongst the milestones she recalls, the Queen’s Coronation, and Margaret Thatcher taking to office.
Edith said: “When I was growing up, women were always expected to be a mother and housewife. There weren’t career options, the men would be the breadwinners and that was that. Women weren’t even allowed to have their own property! Of course, nowadays that’s different and it’s a joy to see women forging their own careers. As a great-grandmother, it’s good to see my family growing up in society where their talents can be recognised.”
Speaking of the role models who inspired her, Edith cites English actress, singer and comedian Gracie Fields, because “unlike other stars at the time, she had such a strong personality and wasn’t afraid to show it. She showed us that women could be funny and successful, while being kind and helping others too.”
Edith also feels strongly that women should exercise their right to vote, which came in within a year of her birth.
Speaking about the changes she’s witnessed, Edith said: “Gaining the right to vote was, without a doubt the biggest step forward for women during my lifetime. It was the acknowledgement of equality and that our voices matter, which is why it’s important that we don’t take it for granted.
“At 36, I remember being gathered around the television, watching the Queen’s coronation. I didn’t think about it at the time, but that was a real milestone, showing the world that women can lead. Likewise with Thatcher taking power. Whatever your thoughts on the politics, it was inspiring to have a woman in that position and made people realise that women can be just as successful as men.”
After leaving school at 14, Edith found work in a factory, before becoming a secretary at a firm that produced suitcases. She also took evening classes to study short hand typing, but stopped her career pursuits to raise a family.
Nowadays though Edith’s inspiring people herself. Megan Guest works at Bupa Erskine House, and said: “It sounds cheesy to say that Edith’s an inspiration, but she really is. As a young woman today it’s easy to take our rights for granted, but every time I talk to Edith it really hits home and makes you realise how far we’ve come. It makes you appreciate the vote and stand up for yourself.”
Asked on her advice for women today, Edith’s view was clear: “I’m fortunate to have seen some great changes during my lifetime, but we mustn’t be complaisant. There’s still further to go to reach equality and we need to stand up and keep on fighting.”
Born and raised in London, Edith was married to her husband Edward for nearly sixty years, before he passed away in 2005. She has a daughter and two sons – all of who she counts as her biggest achievement in life – as well as six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.