When I learned to ring as a teenager in the early 1970s there was no messing about: men were men and women were ladies. And the men
organised the rotas, called the peals, occupied the Guild and Branch offices and did the teaching, and the women made the ringing teas and rang the treble extremely well. At university there were very, very few women ringers: I thought they deserved medals because the level of sexism and general unpleasantness among the 18-20 year old young men was remarkable. I lost a lot of my confidence. The exception - both when I was still at school, and at university - was handbell ringing, carried out by more thoughtful types, and which I enjoyed more.
When I came back to ringing (after a very long break)a couple of years ago the centenary was coming up of the first women to gain the vote. It was wonderful to be included in some of the ladies’ quarter peals being organised locally for the centenary. The confidence and acceptance of the conductor, who made all the arrangements at the different towers and conducted almost all the quarters, which were rung to a high standard did a great deal to soothe my nerves and rebuild my confidence as a wobbly ‘returner’. Would that have happened in a mixed band? Of course it could have done: but we were celebrating a specific achievement by and for women and it just seemed fitting that the bands were all-women. It was also enormous fun, helped me make friends with other women ringers and confirmed my tentative belief that I could get back to a reasonable standard of ringing.