New Project

We are in the final few months of “Snapping the Stiletto” and would like to keep the momentum going with a second project.

Our funding has meant that we could only work with objects and images already within our partner museums. In conducting our research, we have found that BAME, LGBTQ+ and working class women’s experiences are almost completely missing from that narrative.

We would therefore like to right that wrong. We believe it is incredibly important that these women’s experiences are recorded and preserved for the future.

Can you help us secure funding by completing this short survey? And share the link as widely as possible on social media, encouraging your friends, family and neighbours to do the same?

Needles, Threads & Fancy Dress

Snapping the Stiletto has an opportunity to take part in Colchester Carnival this September.

To help us celebrate 100 years of change we’re looking for volunteers to dress as women from each decade of those 100 years (as well as volunteers to make the costumes).

Are you skilled with a sewing machine and able to help? Click here for more information about our costume-making challenge.

Or if you like dressing up and fancy being in the carnival procession on Saturday 14th September, click here to volunteer.

Marvel-ous Heroes: Fictional Essex Women

Avengers Endgame was released at midnight. What has that got to do with a women’s history project in Essex you ask? Well, did you know that there are two female superheroes whose biographies list their birthplace as towns in our county? In today’s post, we examine how these fictional characters have been inspired by and reflect the diversity and personalities of the real women of Essex.

 

 

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Image copyright of Marvel Entertainment

Psylocke 

 

Elizabeth “Betsy” Braddock was originally created in 1976 as a supporting character, the twin sister of Brian Braddock aka Captain Britain. According to the comics, the twins were born in Maldon, the younger children of Sir James Braddock (their older brother Jamie is a Marvel villain).

Betsy is a Charter Pilot who develops psychic powers including visions of the future, telepathy and telekinesis. She briefly served in her brother’s role as Captain Britain, before taking the name Psylocke and joining the X-Men.

Betsy/Psylocke, while fictional, is definitely a Strong Essex Woman. With over 40 years of plot-lines, she obviously has been through a lot, including having her mind placed in the body of a Japanese warrior, dying and coming back to life, modeling and helping teach a new generation of heroes at a school for mutants, she has continued to fight (mostly) on the side of good against the baddies in the Marvel universe.

 

faiza

Image copyright Marvel Entertainment

Excalibur

Doctor Faiza Hussain is a much more recent addition to the “Marvel Universe”. Created in 2008 by Paul Cornell to be a main character for the series “Captain Britain and MI13“, she is a doctor, born in Chelmsford and a big fan of cricket. Her parents are from Pakistan and she is Muslim.

In the comics, Faiza is performing emergency triage on a battlefield when an energy-bolt gives her an extreme level of control over biological organisms. According to Cornell, she can “safely open up a body, see what’s wrong with it, and sort it out on a subatomic level” – useful skills for a doctor.

Faiza joins a team of heroes led by Captain Britain, and wields the mystical sword of legend, Excalibur.

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Image copyright Marvel Entertainment

We spoke to Paul Cornell about creating Faiza, and he said:

“I wanted to make a British muslim woman super hero, and for her to be not ‘the other’ but the point of view character, the down to earth one.  I’d lived in Chelmsford, and I liked the double take of the Essex coat of arms looking vaguely Islamic, but also being very British. In that the swords look like scimitars, all very cliched Arabian Nights.  So use that as a super hero insignia, and it brings all her meanings together.  I asked a group of Muslim women to advise me on her, and they did for the whole run”. 

Cornell worked with this group to ensure that Faiza was a realistic representation of someone whose cultural background is very different to his own, that he respected the character’s Muslim faith but conveyed that this was only part of who she is. The result is a character that many Essex women can relate to. She is a hardworking, intelligent and complex. Cornell told us:

“I gave her Excalibur as a sign of archetypal British identity, of absolute mystical acceptance of her”. 

 

Sadly, neither Betsy Braddock or Faiza Hussain feature in the new Avengers film, however Betsy/Psylocke was portrayed by Olivia Munn in X-Men Apocalypse, and is briefly glimpsed as a child in Wolverine Origins.

Faiza/Excalibur, the superhero doctor from Chelmsford, has yet to be seen on screen. Maybe we can convince Marvel make her the star of her own film?

It Isn’t Over…

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North East Essex Girl Guiding at the Snapping the Stiletto: Essex Women’s History Festival

Today marks the end of Women’s History Month for 2019. Our festival took place earlier in the month, we ran two guided tours of Colchester and our touring exhibition in the process of moving from Epping Forest District Museum to the Museum of Power.

You would be forgiven for thinking that Snapping the Stiletto is winding down. In fact, we’re really excited about our remaining months’ work.

New opportunities for researching local women’s history with our museums continue to come up, and current opportunities can be found here. We have just launched our “Wikipedian” opportunities and have already received some great responses.

Our project manager, Pippa Smith, is in the process of arranging events and “pop up” displays to help share all of the exciting opportunities we’ve uncovered and we’ll post details here as soon as possible.

Great things are coming, so please do by sign up to our newsletter or follow us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram to stay in the loop.

This project has been very much steered and delivered by the people of Essex, who have advised us in shaping the programme, done the research, written the exhibition and helped with our events. We are incredibly grateful to all of you.

We were therefore delighted to receive these two poems, written by attendees of poet-in-residence Elelia Ferro’s session at our Snapping the Stiletto: Essex Women’s History Festival. The first is by Wendy Constance, and the second is by Juliet Townsend, Chairwoman of the Essex Women’s Advisory Group.

 

Unpaid work                            Unjust disparity                       Undermined lives

Hidden women

Cruel anti-suffrage                 Fearless campaigning                         Women’s rights

Hidden stories

Printed propaganda                Seditious stitches                    Dangerous coats

Hidden pockets

 

A new century arrived

under fresh skies

women gathered, raised awareness

inspired each other to

seek liberation – but

injustices continue

still much to do

 

Women’s resilience                Shared stories                         Snapped stilettos

Voices heard

Wendy Constance 2019

 

 

Folk devil                               Dumb blonde                                    Reject reclaim                                                                                    Rock bitch                                                                                         Bereaved mothers               Brave stance                                      Subtleprose

Pacifist

In a progressive place                                                                                                                                    progressive women

meet and talk,                                                                                                                                                   storytelling lights                                                                                                                                                 new ideas

Blood red                             Think hard                         Share tales

Free the period

 Juliet Townsend 2019

Strong Essex Women: A Celebration in Poetry

Last year we put a call out for a poet-in-residence. We had a fantastic response and, after a tough selection process, appointed Wivenhoe-based poet Lelia Ferro.

If you attended Lelia’s session at our festival earlier in the month, you will have heard about how she uses words and phrases to create a sense of place. Using phrases she overheard during the day, and others supplied by festival attendees, she has written two poems, shared below.

Some of the attendees at Lelia’s festival session were inspired to create their own poems and have kindly agreed to share them with us. Check back on Sunday, when we’ll be using them to make the end of Women’s History Month 2019.

workshop

Phrases donated by attendees of the Snapping the Stiletto Women’s History Festival. Image courtesy of Lelia Ferro

 

Anti-suffrage                         Factory acts               Male curators                                                                                                Hidden histories

Station rollers                       Tax resistance          Family ties                                                                                                     Women’s history

 

Our life achievements

will no longer be sidelined.

Essex girls, deeply dissent

uncover traces

of powerful treasure –

trailblazing their way

into the hawken sky.

 

Dangerous pockets            Propaganda kimono                        Red threads

Brave new sparks

 

 

Lelia Ferro 2019

 

 

Women’s refuge                  Witch hunts                         Sexual politics

Violent patriarchy

Handkerchief messages    Suburban neurosis             Minding the baby

Period poverty

 

With confident eyes                                                                                                                                   we weave new connections

with the everyday extraordinary –

revealing sisterly secrets

for rebellious bad-arse

young feminists

to take forward

 

Raised fists                          Free nipples              Reclaimed bodies                                                                                        Fight back

 

 

Lelia Ferro 2019