“We Can Make A Difference”

Ahead of the Snapping the Stiletto: Essex Women’s History Festival, we put out a call for volunteer bloggers to come along and then share their experiences of the day. This post was written by blogger Laura Kerry, and is also available on her own website.

KODAK_00016.JPG

Professor Pamela Cox from the University of Essex spoke about the origin of the term “Essex Girl”

To mark International Women’s Day, Snapping the Stiletto swapped glass ceilings for the grass roof of Essex Business School to explore the lives of Essex women. The festival largely explored the decades prior to the early 1990s, when I was born; I imagined these women marching for their rights while I was learning to walk, aspiring one day to follow in their footsteps.

We couldn’t celebrate Essex women without acknowledging the ‘Essex girl’ stereotype, which was bred in broadsheets and pop culture and remains popular today with the rise of shows like TOWIE. By showcasing Essex women, Snapping the Stiletto reclaims and redistributes this stereotype. I also learnt how the everyday woman felt about the Representation of the People Act (which, amusingly, was used to promote clothing sales) and how they were affected by high maternal and childhood mortality rates before we had the NHS, an incredibly precious resource which could now be undone in my lifetime.

Seeing Red

The post Laura made during the Seeing Red workshop. Courtesy Laura Kerry.

I was surprised, but not shocked, at how buying sanitary items was once as covert as buying class A drugs, as this ‘shame’ continues presently. I saw reflections of today’s often poor education surrounding periods and bodily knowledge. While a great deal can be learnt from magazines, these often become our enemies as we enter adulthood.  It was interesting to see that, despite attitudes changing vastly, advertising for sanitary products has changed little through the ages, with decades-old adverts showing women engaging in physical activity during their period. During the Seeing Red craftivism session, we looked again at this advertising as well as the evolution of the products themselves – sanitary belt, anyone? I was perplexed that menstrual cups were introduced in the 1930s, yet are scarcely seen in adverts. It left me questioning why this is; no doubt linked to a lack of ongoing profit.

Accounts of domestic violence were met with a murmur of appalled familiarity and empathy. Another familiar tale was the initial shock that refuges for women were even needed in the first place, until statistics were recorded and shared. I enjoyed hearing of the persistence from the women running the refuges, who became key decision makers through their roles; the physical progression of the first run-down refuges to the more visually appealing spaces we have today was also encouraging. One of my favourite parts of the day was hearing stories from celebrant Katie Deverell about everyday working women in Essex; there was something comforting in hearing about their passion and determination and the impact this had on the lives around them.

The main thing I took away from the festival was the sense that we can make a difference to the world around us through our everyday lives. It’s easy to worry that we’re not taking big enough actions to influence the world, but these strong Essex women influenced the world around them with their various skills and qualities along with their warmth and wit, both at work and at home. We may not have the time to start a revolution, but we can donate items to charities like the Red Box Project or help paint a women’s refuge; we can all identify something we feel passionately about, get involved in our community, and take small steps to change the world.

Body, Self and Family

The Snapping the Stiletto: Essex Women’s History Festival on Saturday 9th March 2019 is being organised in partnership with the Body, Self and Family Project. In this guest post, the BSF project team tell us about their work.

body self family bannerThe Body, Self and Family project at the University of Essex is researching women’s psychological, emotional and bodily health in Britain between the 1960s and 1990s. We want to find out more about the everyday health experiences of women in a period when the pattern of women’s lives changed almost beyond recognition. Across these decades, women entered the workforce in larger numbers, became involved in feminist activism, limited their families, and increasingly chose to marry later (or not at all).  By the end of these decades, women expected to lead very different lives to those of their own mothers and grandmothers.

 

This project asks: How did women experience these sweeping social and cultural changes? What did these shifts mean for women’s own emotional wellbeing, and for their traditional roles as carers? How did women of different ages, social classes, ethnicities and sexual orientations experience these social changes differently? To find answers to these questions, we are interviewing women born between 1940-1970, including 25 women from around Essex. Our talk at the Snapping the Stiletto Festival will present the team’s initial findings for the first time, focusing especially on the experiences of girls growing up in Essex in the 1950s and 1960s.

 

Another part of the project is work with community groups, Girl Guides and schools to develop toolkits that draw on historical resources to improve the emotional health and wellbeing of adolescents today. You can get a taste of some of these activities at our two craftivism sessions at the Festival, on ‘Body Image’ and ‘Seeing Red: Periods, Poverty and Protest’.

 

To find out more about the Body, Self and Family Project, see our website

Tracey Loughran

Daisy Payling

Kate Mahoney

Hannah Froom

The Festival is now fully booked but please do join the waiting list if you are still interested in attending. We will offer out any returned tickets as soon as possible.

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.