Ask her to stand- One hundred years of voting

One hundred years ago today women in the UK voted for the first time in a General Election. Two-thirds of women in the UK (8.5 million) were eligible to vote at this first election. One woman – Constance Markiewicz – was elected to the House of Commons in 1918 although, as a member of Sinn Fein, she didn’t take her seat and it wasn’t until the following year that Nancy Astor became the first woman to sit in the House.

In the last election (2017) 208 women were elected as MPs – 32% of the total. Essex roughly follows this pattern with six women and 12 men serving the 18 constituencies.

 

The campaign 50:50 Parliament has been working toward more equal representation

https://5050parliament.co.uk/

50:50 Parliament’s Mission

To achieve an inclusive gender-balanced parliament, that draws upon the widest possible pools of talent, including men and women equally, incorporating their full range of diversity and experience.

50:50 Parliament drives this mission by encouraging, inspiring and supporting political engagement, particularly from women. In addition, 50:50 Parliament lobbies Parliament and the political parties to be more inclusive of women.’

Do you know someone who would be a great MP? Has a friend always said she’d love to be involved but doesn’t know where to start? 50:50 Parliament has a campaign #askhertostand looking for women who may be interested in standing and working with them to support and mentor them. If we want to be represented then some of us need to take a deep breath and think ‘I’ll give it a go!’

If you need inspiration just think of all the amazing Essex women who campaigned for us to get the vote- today we say thank you to them all!

Rosina Sky protesting ‘No Vote, No tax’ after her goods were seized.

Grace Chappelow campaigning

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Construction: A conference on identity

construction landscape

Construction: A conference on identity. Fashion/Curation/Art/Photography event, 2nd November 2018, 10:30-15:45, Beecroft Art Gallery

Tickets: £25 & £10 student tickets  (includes lunch and refreshments)

Join leading creatives at the Beecroft Art Gallery to explore identity creation through fashion, art, photography and fashion curation.

Snapping the Stiletto is about sharing inspiring stories of Essex women and how they lived their lives. For many of the women we have been researching they created distinct identities for themselves in the way they acted and presented themselves in public. At the Beecroft Art Gallery we are exploring the ways people construct identities for themselves in a one-day conference on the 2nd of November.

In an image-obsessed world the concept of identity is extremely topical. We have invited leading curators, designers, photographers and historians to bring in differing perspectives on concepts around identity creation and gender identity.

Speakers include: Art Historian, Dr Mark Banting will explore Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and the re-presentation of gender roles. James Cutmore, Founder of the fashion brand The Ragged Priest will be discussing how he designs for the modern woman. Dr Tracey Loughran, from the University of Essex will be speaking about women’s representation of the self.

Other speakers include, Martin Pel, Fashion and Textiles Curator at Brighton Museum discussing his Queer Looks project around LGBTQ identities and fashion photographer Tessa Hallmann. All are focusing on the ways we ‘construct’.

There will be lots of opportunities to ask questions and the day will finish on a panel discussion with all speakers.

20181016_101416.JPGThis day is in collaboration with the subversive fashion and art exhibition Construction: An Exhibition on Clothing, Image & Persona on show now at the Beecroft Art Gallery. Curatorial Manager Ciara Phipps will be sharing her design process and inspirations behind this zeitgeist exhibition. There will be opportunities throughout the day to explore the exhibition.

 

For tickets and more information visit Eventbrite

Booking is essential. It is advised to book your tickets soon.

Follow Southend Museums on Facebook for updates.

The Beecroft Art Gallery are part of Southend Museums service which has been researching campaigning Southend women as part of Snapping the Stiletto.

International Day of the Girl

One of the aims of our project is to dispel the negative stereotype of the Essex girl and the girls and young women I’ve met through this work certainly confirm that the horrible and sexist stereotype of ‘dim’ Essex girls couldn’t be farther from the truth!

Early on I met with members of the Guides and Girls Brigade to ask for their help in steering the direction we were going in and setting our themes.

They came back with a range of ideas for us and it was clear that today’s Essex girls are interested in human rights, women scientists and engineers, women in the services, women who served in wartime, and those who worked undercover.

Planning themes for the project

The girls and young women have a strong sense of fairness and want to know WHY women couldn’t be treated as equals to men both now and in the past. The idea of women doing the same jobs as men and getting paid less amazed them and the continuing gender pay gap infuriates them. They admire women who stand up for women’s rights and want to find out more about them.

 

Photographs from the Essex Police Museum prompted an interesting discussion around the uniforms worn by the WPCs. The girls pointed out how restrictive the clothes would have been and how far they would have limited the women – ‘they couldn’t chase anyone wearing that!’ This led to a conversation about how clothes and fashions had limited girls and women and they came up with some great ideas for practical activities for people to try at our events to show how it would have felt to wear the clothes that women were expected to live and work in over the years.

Women Police Officers. Image courtesy of the Essex Police Museum

Photo courtesy of the Essex Police Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stereotyping angers these girls and although some of them like pink they want to make it clear that pink is not always a girls’ colour! They want choice and they want to challenge prejudice and stereotypes and are interested in talking to women who have fought for their rights.

These girls and young women have a strong sense of pride in the place they live and want to celebrate women who are important in their local communities.

You can hear their own voices on the GENE radio show- I was interviewed for the latest programme.

Pippa being interviewed by the GENE Radio team

These girls are proud to be Essex Girls

History Festival: Call For Content

EKCO works. c.1930s

We are excited to announce the Snapping the Stiletto: Essex Women’s History Festival. The FREE event will take place on Saturday 9th March 2019 at the University of Essex Business School, Wivenhoe.

The event, organised in partnership with the University of Essex, will bring together stories of inspirational women from around the county, as well as including a range of hands-on activities. Like the rest of the project, the festival is focussing on the hundred years since the Representation of the People Act 1918.

We would like to include as many people as possible in the event, so have launched our call for content. We are looking for:

  • 20 minute presentations about individuals or groups of Essex women
  • 8 minute “lightning” presentations
  • “Craftivism” art or craft activities
  • Introductory digital “maker” demonstrations
  • Films
  • Display stands/exhibits for relevant organisations
  • Other – if you have an exciting idea that’s not included above, we still want to hear from you

More information and an application form can be found here.

If you want to hear more about the festival, including when tickets become available, you can sign up to our mailing list.

“Singing” the Stiletto

“We’re brazen husseys and we don’t give a damn

We’re loud, we’re raucous and we’re fighting for our rights

And our sex and our need to be free”

(The Greenham Songbook)

 

Music is powerful. Patients with dementia often remember songs from their youth long after other memories have gone. The right melody can stir our emotions, moving us to tears or to the dancefloor. It is little wonder then that protest movements down the century have regularly used music as a call to action.

 

Probably the best known suffrage anthem is “March of the Women” by Ethel Smyth. She was a trained musician and a prolific composer, writing in a range of styles. Smyth was the first female composer ever to be made a Dame and, while serving two months in Holloway for breaking windows during the suffrage campaign, conducted a choir of her fellow inmates while using her toothbrush for a baton.

This performance is by Glasgow University Chapel Choir, but it is important to remember that it would have been sung by ordinary women as they protested, not just by formal choirs.

 

Ethel Smyth wasn’t the only woman writing suffrage songs, and the tradition of women writing and singing campaign songs didn’t end in 1918 with the vote. Music has been at the heart of campaigns including equal pay and nuclear disarmament. The handwritten Greenham Songbook, passed around between protesters, has been digitised and can be viewed online.

More recently, “Quiet” by Milck has been picked up by the anti-Trump women’s movement in America. This video shows her performing it with other women at the women’s march in Washington DC

 

We are really keen to incorporate music into the Snapping the Stiletto project. Do you know of any protest songs from the last 100 years which were written by an Essex woman? What were the Dagenham Ford workers singing as they campaigned for equal pay? Which lyrics filled the air at Brightlingsea as women campaigned against live exports? Are there any other “local” protest songs we should be singing? Please email pippa.smith@essex.gov.uk with your suggestions (and don’t worry, we know the lyrics may include a few swear words).

More mystery women

We have a great team of volunteers in Southend working with the museum service there and they are looking into the stories of two local women- Rosina Sky and Adelaide Hawken.

Rosina Sky was a suffragette who ran her own business (a tobacconist shop) and was active in the Tax resistance league. We know that she had goods and chattels sold at auction as she had refused to pay tax- ‘No Vote, No Tax’

Rosina Sky protesting ‘No Vote, No tax’ after her goods were seized.

The team at Southend have managed to make contact with some of Rosina’s descendants who have allowed us the use this photograph which shows Rosina (on the right of the photo) along with supporters. Apparently supporters went to the auction and bought many of Rosina’s goods back for her.

Supporters of Rosina Sky.
Thanks to Peggy Ditton the granddaughter of Rosina Sky for allowing us to use this image

Several well-known suffragettes were supporters of the League and of Mrs Sky.  Anne Cobden Sanderson was a founder member of the Tax Resistance League. She had progressive ideas for the time and when she married she and her husband combined their surnames (she was Anne Cobden and he Thomas James Sanderson). Anne was an active and well-known suffragette. She and her husband were also important figures in the Arts and Crafts movement and friends of William Morris. Anne started her political campaigning for the vote as a suffragist believing that change could come about by education and discussion but became frustrated by lack of change and joined the WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union) – one of the first well known suffragists to move to the more militant protest group.

Anne is reported to have travelled to Southend from London in September 1911 to ‘attend the sale of Rosina’s Sky’s chattels’. She wrote in a letter in 1912 that she wouldn’t be able to visit a woman just imprisoned as she had to go to an afternoon sale in Southend (again of Mrs Sky’s goods) (The Women’s Suffrage Movement- a reference Guide 1886-1928).

We also know that Margaret Kineton Parkes came to support Rosina at one sale along with members of the Southend and Westcliffe Branch of the WSPU. Margaret was the secretary of the Tax Resistance League and her home was also their office near to Covent Garden in London

We’d love to know if Anne Cobden Sanderson or Margaret Kineton Parkes are in the photograph above. We’d also love to identify any of the women in the photograph- many must have been local. One is intriguing us in particular as we wonder if our ‘mystery suffragette’ could be in there?

Could this be the same person?

Can you help? Is an ancestor of yours in there? Do you think our mystery suffragette is one of these women? Please get in touch if you can help!

Some mysteries we need help with

We have been a bit quiet recently as lots of our volunteers are busy researching stories and we are starting to get results back in. There are some really great stories coming in and it is clear that Essex women have been contributing to life in the county in a positive way for a long time!

One of the challenges we are facing is the low visibility of some of these women. We get tantalising glimpses of stories but because womens’ history hasn’t always been recorded and celebrated the project is coming across a number of ‘dead ends’.

We’ll be launching some appeals for help over the next few weeks to see if we can get more information to help us tell these stories.

Mrs Wilson in 1918 Image Courtsey of the Essex Police Museum

One thing that is puzzling me at the moment came from the transcripts a team of volunteers have completed of Alice Wilson’s Notebook from the Essex Police Museum. Alice was a patrol women working in Romford in 1918 and much of her notebook describes her dealing with domestic things such as ‘had a complaint about children knocking in doors in London Road’.

 

Two pages stand out a little and I can’t work out whether there are one or two stories here or whether Alice was being economical with space in her notebook and the two are mixed up!

‘Alice Roberts (Roberto?) will be sent to (Balsal ?) Heath as had a bad injury single Hospital  to X ray’

Where was Alice sent?

‘Police was asked by N.C.O to take notice of any girl wearing WAAC uniform without badge on front. Also badge on armbit. They are (unliked?)’

What does the comment about WAAC uniform mean?

Does anyone have an idea where Alice was sent?

What was the story behind women wearing WAAC uniforms without badges? Why were police asked to look out for them?

Any ideas or further information would be great to have!

Please email pippa.smith@essex.gov.uk or leave a comment below if you can help