Thursday 19th June 2014

11am – Glenda!!!

I’m scared, I feel sick. It’s not often I feel like this but I do; I keep telling myself not to be silly, but the tightening in my chest won’t leave. On the tube, to distract myself, I look around the carriage and wonder what sort of day my fellow travellers will be having. Nothing like mine, I reckon.

On the phone, we arranged to meet under the trees in Portcullis House. I say ‘I’ll be the woman wearing navy blue and you won’t be able to miss me.’ (What was I talking about?)

From across the room I see the unmistakable figure striding over towards me. She is older than I remember, but of course she would be – I had an image of her in her mid-30s burnt into my mind.

Glenda Jackson. Image: UK Parliament

Glenda Jackson. Image: UK Parliament

The instant I set eyes on her I feel myself again and the anxiety recedes. We’re all just human; even Glenda Jackson.

We shake hands and fix eyes on each other. ‘Would you like a coffee Mary?’ ‘Well…’ I hesitate, looking at the queue, not sure that I want us to stand in a line for ages. ‘I’m OK.’ ‘Well I do’ she says. I quickly change my mind and say ‘yes please black please thank you’.

Glenda is gone, and in an instant and returns with two coffees. (How did she do that?) ‘So, tell me what you are doing?’ Is how she opens our conversation.

I launch into my now well-honed description of my endeavours thus far, my voice a bit wobbly.

‘What an exciting project – and about time!’ she says. (All my tension relaxes. Talk about getting to the point!) I feel as though she has picked up on my enthusiasm and believes it’s the right time for this project.

I asked her what she thought should be included in the work. She talked about working class women and how much of an important and underestimated role they played in the movement. She went on to tell me about the overtly masculine environment of Parliament, and how the women working here are still only a small minority.

We talked for over an hour. She was fabulous – forthright, powerful. Glenda did not disappoint.

Come back on Tuesday 11 October 2016, when Mary travels to Manchester to meet suffrage expert Jill Liddington…