February 2018 marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act of 1918, which gave some women over the age of 30 the right to vote in the UK and catalysed the continuing fight for gender parity. While not a UK Friends of NMWA event, the breadth of activity across the UK merits our listings.
Below we list how museums across the UK are recognising this with exhibitions and events. Click on the exhibition titles for more detail.Women’s suffrage started in the 19th Century, becoming a national movement. By 1906, when sentiments hardened, the militant campaign began with the formation of the Women’s Social & Political Union (WSPU), led by Emmeline Pankhurst of Manchester.
- To explore the timeline and obtain a better understanding of the movement’s history, there is an interesting article in The Telegraph – Suffragette timeline: the long march to votes for women.
- For a graphic timeline see LSE’s: Suffrage Timeline Graphic.
UK-wide, organisations are taking the opportunity to commemorate this significant anniversary in the form of exhibitions, lectures, plays, performances, music, book displays, and many other types of events.
- Manchester, the birthplace of the campaigns, has a full programme based around the People’s History Museum.
- At the LSE they have Suffrage 18: a centenary of exploration.
- The National Archives are marking it with a season of 100 events.
There are numerous exhibitions which aim to capture the effects of the movement, and cater for all tastes.
- If you seek enlightenment on campaigns, the vote and politics visit: At Last! Votes for Women @ LSE Library Gallery, 23 April – 31 August 2018.
- Voice & Vote: Women’s Place in Parliament Exhibition @ Westminster Hall, 27 June – 6 October 2018.
- For its influence on the provision of women’s education: Suffrage! Education, Activism and Votes for Women @ Royal Holloway College, 15 January – 17 March 2018.
- The Cambridge University Library is exhibiting 100 famous suffrage posters in “Our weapon is public opinion.”
- If you are fascinated by iconic objects go to: Votes for Women @ Museum of London, 2 Feb – 27 March 2018.
- Or if your interest is in history or story-telling: Making Her Mark: 100 years of women’s activism @ Hackney Museum, 6 February – 19 May 2018. Or Celebrating Women of Bedfordshire, @ the Higgins Bedford, 10 March – 23 September.
- The Foundling Museum is showcasing objects from the collection chosen by remarkable women who have achieved firsts in their fields in First Among Equals; and later Ladies of Quality and Distinction will replace the Museum’s portraits of male governors with portraits of women who signed the first petition to call for the UK’s first children’s charity in 1735.
- The Tate has created an online walk-through exhibition, Women and Power looking at artists who have resisted traditional expectations of what women can and should do.
- A pioneering artist, suffragette and feminist campaigner, Annie Swynnerton, born Hulme, Manchester, 1844, has a major retrospective: Painting Light & Hope, Annie Swynnerton @ Manchester Art Gallery, 23 February – 6 January 2019.
- UCL’s Slade School is recognising its prize-winning artists, mostly women, now largely forgotten due to prejudice and circumstance in Prize and Prejudice.
- The Fawcett Society has a series of pamphlets to mark the event https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk.
The Centenary has led several groups to commission new work:
- Art on the Underground has commissioned work by international selection of women artists for 2018.
- Gillian Wearing’s statue of Millicent Fawcett will be unveiled in Parliament Square this Spring.
- Or for new work inspired by the suffrage banner collection:100 Banners: Digital Drama @ Women’s Library, LSE.
There are myriad other exciting events to entice you, such as
- The National Portrait Gallery has a year long season of events, Rebel Women.
- Tate Modern is celebrating women in a vibrant mix of art, music, film, drop in workshops, pop up talks and street food in conjunction with its Tate Lates programme.
- British Museum will hold a gallery talk – Gallant actions: the women’s suffrage movement and the British Museum by Ben Alsop 16 Feb, 13.15-14.00;
- An LSE lecture – Who were the suffrage artists? lives revealed, by Elizabeth Crawford, Wolfson Theatre, 23 March, 6.30-8.00;
- And the National Trust’s “Women and Power” programme is offering talks, tours and exhibitions including a travelling exhibition of portraits in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery and special exhibitions at properties that have connections to women who influenced the suffrage movement.
There is music and theatre!
- Helen and Lucy Pankhurst have collaborated to produce a choral work commissioned by the BBC, which will be premiered on Radio 3’s website, 6 February, and at the opening of the BBC’s Free Thinking Festival, at Sage Gateshead.
- The Royal Albert Hall has a series of concerts from 25 January – 26 April, called Women and the Hall.
- Blackheath Halls are holding a weekend of celebrations – Breaking Barriers: celebrating 100 years of votes for women, 2/3 February. Dr Sophie Fuller will lead an event called Women and the Orchestra.
- The RSC is presenting a gender-balanced Troilus and Cressida.
- Lynx Theatre’s play ‘Sylvia’@ Working Class Movement Library, Manchester, 3 March 2018, and at Old Vic, London.
International Women’s Day – occurs annually in March, and some organisations are using March to also recognise the Suffragettes. A select few are included for your information:
- Dundee Women’s Festival 4 – 17 March, 2018.
- Royal Academy – International Women’s Day RA tours, 1 – 10 March,
- And of course, the fabulous Women of the World 2018 @ the Southbank Centre which includes a panel “Would you have been a Suffragette?”
For a contemporary take on the topic of Suffragettes, read the very entertaining article ‘Meet the New Suffragettes’, in Vogue, February 2018. We can’t list them all, but hope this flavour of events encourages you to look locally for even more suffrage celebrations. Check inews, Stylist, The Guardian and The Culture Diary to name a few.