In the old days, when the Freemen were recorded in the Domesday Book, membership conveyed rights and privileges such as being able to trade in the town and to have a say in its political affairs. Now those privileges, passed down from father to son or master to apprentice, are limited to the right to fish in parts of the Thames and to graze cows in Port Meadow.
Helen Cox, one of the first women admitted, said she felt she had to join because her father, Chris Butterfield, worked to change the rules.
"My friends think it's a funny old tradition," she told The Independent. "I'm not a farmer and I don't fish, and it's not really my social scene so I don't get a lot of benefits from joining, but it's more about equality and about making a statement that women can be Freemen too, or Freewomen. I'm not sure what the correct term is yet."
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