The Start of Activism

The Four Demands

At the first British Women’s Liberation Movement (BWLM) national conference, held at Ruskin College in Oxford between 27th February 1970 and 1st March 1970, a set of four demands were produced.


  1. Equal pay for equal work
  2. Equal education and equal opportunities
  3. Free 24-hour nurseries
  4. Free contraception and abortion on demand

The Three Additional Demands

At the National Women’s Liberation Conference in Manchester in 1975, three extra demands were added – making a total of seven demands


  1. Financial and legal independence
  2. A right to self-determined sexuality and an end to discrimination against Lesbians
  3. An end to violence against women


There were many women from all walks of life who were already banding together to fight against many different kinds of discrimination and injustice. Trade Unions provided one platform for these voices to be heard, but other organisations, both local and national, provided targeted opportunities for activism to take shape.

SUE CASTILLON was born in 1949 and has lived the past 27 years of her life in Portsmouth working as a member of UNITE the Union, and before that as a full-time youth worker.

She leads a programme Stand up for Racism, based on the Show Racism the Red Card campaign, and has stood for local council as a Labour member, speaking out about the increase of xenophobia in the city:

“I went on to get involved with a group in Portsmouth called Stand up for Racism who advocate for educational programmes in particular for young people.

It took me a year but I managed to get the charity Show Racism the Red Card that attach to football clubs and do that anti-racist work card to come to Portsmouth Football Club for a day and in the morning they trained up myself and a few other tutors to deliver that programme in schools because Show Racism the Red Card as an organisation haven’t got the capacity to deliver this work in Portsmouth schools.

Since then I’ve delivered this in two schools …In those courses we talk about language and how to practically deal with something that exploded in the school…”

KATHRYN RIMMINGTON was born in 1950 in Landport, a working-class area of Portsmouth. Kathryn’s long and interesting career took her in various directions, including the Civil Service, the Ministry of Defence and teaching at the University of Portsmouth.

During her working life Kathryn was an active member of CND [Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament] and the Socialist Workers’ Party, as well as being a Trades Unionist.

Kathryn was keenly aware of social changes within her own family and within the local areas. As a teenager in Portsmouth in the 1960s, and a frequenter of the Birdcage Club, she was very conscious of the additional freedoms she enjoyed, even in comparison to her sister who was only four years older.

“Being a teenager in the 1960s was an awful lot of freedom, a lot more money spent on us, marketing targeted us, the Mods being a fashion, music being targeted at us with Pirate radio stations which were wonderful because the BBC was very fuddy duddy.”

Kathryn also worked in a nightclub and remembers the sexism of the 1970s:

“Some of the men who came in the club, and the male staff, just felt you were game for anything. And it was very sleazy and typified the 1970s. Drugs were very prevalent.”

Katheryn was also very politically aware and was involved in non-violent direct action when she was involved in a CND Protest on HMS Victory, the historical tourist attraction, in the Portsmouth Dockyard.

“A group of us went on HMS Victory as one of our protest campaigns, we had planned it for a very long time…

The idea was we would go on the HMS Victory as tourists, and as we walked round, we would get on to the top deck and two people had a banner rolled up and they would throw it over the side, and at the same time, others of us would give out leaflets about the campaign for nuclear disarmament. And then two of us would climb up the rigging.
So, we were on the Victory going round and I was getting more and more nervous as some of the decks were dark

… but as Shaun started to climb, two huge burley Marines were up there like rats up a drainpipe and he didn’t get very far…

But we made the point and it was on the front of the free newspaper that week.”

More recently, Kathryn has become involved in WASPI [Women Against State Pension Inequalities]

PENNY FOSKETT was born in 1952 and moved to Portsmouth in 1958. She was a teacher for forty years and was the National Union of Teachers representative at St Vincent’s School, Gosport.

Penny Foskett

Penny joined the Socialist Workers Party at the early age of nineteen and has been involved in socialist politics ever since. She has been an active campaigner in all sorts of ways concerning education, and teachers’ working conditions and pensions, but has also campaigned against the Poll Tax, nuclear warfare and climate change.

“Oh, no. I mean, whenever there was a national dispute, I was very much involved with it, because obviously, I was the rep in the school and there were national strikes over pay in the 1980s. And we won somewhat of a pay rise then.

We had one-day strikes over pensions in 2011, which I was very much involved with. One of them was a whole public sector dispute, so we had UNISON [the Public Sector Workers union] and GMB [General, Municipal, Boilermakers] were out as well. And I remember we had enough people in Gosport, and we gathered on the Gosport side. So, I had to go from Portsmouth to meet them in Gosport. And we came over on the ferry with our banner, the Fareham and Gosport NUT [National Union of Teachers] banner on the ferry, and then we marched up from the ferry to the Guildhall, behind our banner.”

Penny also worked hard within her teaching curriculum to encourage girls’ careers in the 1970s and 1980s to create equal opportunities amongst girls and boys in school.

“And I was involved with various groups in the 1980s. Involved in encouraging equal opportunities in schools and encouraging teachers particularly, and resources to be far more equal. Because boys in terms of, sort of, pictures in books and that. Making sure that the whole curriculum was accessible for girls and for boys. Which wasn’t the case up till then. It might not be written down that the girls couldn’t do woodwork, but it was certainly expected, you know. So, we did have training days in Gosport to try to encourage all the schools to do that.”

Knowing that Gosport was less multicultural and more insular than Portsmouth, Penny found innovative ways of ensuring the curriculum contained important aspects of personal and social education too:

“We had what was called a mode three CSC, which was an exam that we wrote ourselves, and all four secondary schools in Gosport did this course, and it was compulsory for all 14 to 16-year-olds. And we did sex education, health education, a lot of careers education and political education, but we called it, sociology, economics and politics.”

AMANDA MARTIN is the National President of the National Education Union (NEU). Her entire family originates from Paulsgrove and she originally trained as a teacher. Her grandfather was involved in the train driver’s union and this early exposure influenced her to be politically active.

When the #Metoo movement broke she was working in secondary schools on feminist agendas, and the girls that she was working with suggested It’s Just Everywhere as a project that reflected their own experiences of sexual harassment in school.

“And it’s an amazing, hard-hitting project that we did. When it talks about things that mainly girls go through in the school – and female teachers – but because we are a union that wants some positive and acts on things, we looked at

‘How are we going to do this?’

So we produced a project that’s looking at school councils drawing up codes of conduct around sexual harassment in school. Because if it’s good enough for celebrities, for me it’s good enough for kids in Portsmouth…

And it’s talking about – you go home, and you tell your parents at home and they go

‘Oh it’s all right – don’t worry about it.’

 But actually, you should worry about it, because if we don’t stop it in school and have those conversations with the people that are doing it – who don’t realise how much it impacts and hurts the people that are their friends – then we’re not going to change society.”