Volunteering- Essex celebrates Essex Women!

I’m sure everyone running projects like ours says at some point ’we couldn’t have done this without our volunteers’- in this case it is so true! This week we are joining the the celebrations for National Volunteers’ Week to say a big Thank You to our volunteers

Five of the volunteers

Some of the many volunteers who made the Festival happen

 

The Festival in March could only happen because people volunteered to speak, brought stands and activities and acted as stewards. Thanks also to the great student volunteers who joined us for that day. Without volunteers we couldn’t have spent the day celebrating #StrongEssexWomen

 

 

The travelling exhibition

Snapping the Stiletto traveling exhibition at Epping Forest District Museum

The stories told in our travelling exhibition were researched by volunteers across Essex who uncovered photographs, dug around in museum archives, hunted out newspaper clippings, tracked family records, visited record offices and helped transcribe oral histories and notebooks. The exhibition itself was created by volunteers who took the time to come along to training to help with this and then put this training in action by writing the panels you can see at some of our partner museums.

In the last two weeks we have managed to get a stand out at events and spoken to nearly 400 people – this wouldn’t have happened without Jo and Lily- so thank you! Jo and Yvonne will be at the Planet Essex Festival at Cressing Temple Barns on June 22nd– come along and chat to them.

Lily and Jo running our stand at the Seaside Revival day in Clacton

We also have a large group of volunteers who regularly spend a few minutes online sharing stories and news about the project and our partner museums. Every minute counts and we estimate that this team of social media champions have contributed 28 hours to the project and helped us spread news and stories much more widely than we could have without them.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @snapthestiletto

Have a look at the variety of volunteer challenges still live – even if you can only spare us a few minutes every contribution is valuable and valued

So far, we have been helped and supported by more than 200 volunteers and we are proud to be able to say that the success of this project is largely due to the people of Essex joining us to celebrate the amazing achievements of Essex women over the last 100 years.

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Getting out there

We are delighted with the feedback we’ve had from the first ‘stop’ of the travelling exhibition. Next stop is the Museum of power – you can find details here 

The travelling exhibition

Snapping the Stiletto traveling exhibition at Epping Forest District Museum

Now we want to get the stories of these amazing Essex Women out to more people, so we’ve been looking for events, festivals and other places to have a stand.

Our first excursion is to the seaside!

Resorting to the coast website

We’ll be at Resorting to the Coast’s Seaside Revival Day in Clacton on May 26th This looks great fun but hopefully people will have time to fit in a visit to us on the Greensward.

 

 

 

The next trip out will be to Cressing Temple Barns for their Planet Essex Festival on June 22nd

Grace Chappelow campaigning

This event is a celebration of everything environmentally friendly, sustainable and local and will include a diverse range of talks, demonstrations and workshops- we’ll be there celebrating local women including suffragette Grace Chappelow.

Later in the year we’ll be at High Chelmer shopping centre chatting to shoppers (September 19th and 20th ) and we’re looking for other Essex venues and events. If you are running an event and would like us there do get in touch (pippa.smith@essex.gov.uk) and we may be able to p bring a stand, send you information to display or provide a display board with information about women local to you if they have featured in the project.

As we’re a small team this project has relied very heavily on volunteers and we’re asking for help again. If you’d like to come and help us at these events have a look at our festival and events challenge on Volunteer Makers and sign up. It will be a great way to help us spread the word that Essex women are amazing!

 

Women on Wikipedia: Addressing the Gender Gap

photo of woman using her laptop

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

As of October 2018, only 17.82% of biographies on Wikipedia are about women. This is not because there are a lack of notable women worthy of inclusion in the online encyclopaedia, but because the majority of their contributors are Western men who do it for fun, therefore writing about the subjects that interest them or that they already have good knowledge of. This is not to say that men don’t or can’t write about women, it is just that they are less likely to.

The Wikimedia Foundation, who runs the website, is aware of the problem and is taking steps to address it. They have set up projects to identify women who should be the subject of articles and to research them, which has led to an increase from only 15% of biographies being about women in 2014.

They are also looking at other ways gender bias presents on the site. For example, the word “divorce” occurs four times as often in articles about women, probably because they are more likely to be written about in terms of their relationships.

 

With Snapping the Stiletto, we have been researching the lives of Essex women represented in museum collections about whom little was known. We want their stories to reach as wide an audience as possible. This has so far led to out touring exhibition, events, posters in railway stations and our social media accounts. However, we want to share these stories even further and to have Strong Essex Women better represented on Wikipedia. Therefore, we are recruiting volunteer “Wikipedians” to help us update existing and create new articles to share these women’s incredible lives.

 

What’s involved?:

While it is not necessary for you to already be a contributor to Wikipedia to sign up to this volunteering opportunity, you will find it easier of you have good IT skills. There is a useful page on their website which explains how to do it. We would suggest that you familiarise yourself with this information, their policies and conventions if you are new to writing for Wikipedia. If you don’t already have one, you will need to set up an account on the site.

You can sign up as a volunteer oven on our VolunteerMakers page. You will then receive an automated response with a list of subjects to choose from and our contact details. Once you have let us know which article you are interested in contributing too, we will send you the research our volunteers have collected along with any relevant images which we have the rights to use.

You may find it useful to read this article on Grace Chappelow, which was updated by a volunteer at Chelmsford Museum.

National Volunteers’ week

June 1st to 7th is Volunteers’ week – a time to say thank you for the fantastic contribution volunteers make across the country. We’ve talked about our volunteers before but can’t miss this chance to celebrate the work they have been doing – and have signed up to do- again.

We launched our volunteering programme in International Woman’s Day (March 8th) using the Volunteer Makers platform. Through this we have recruited 113 volunteers who are supporting our 12 partner museums with research, by transcribing oral histories, decoding 100-year-old handwriting in a police notebook and sharing information across social media.

 

Some volunteers have enjoyed the fact that they can fit volunteering around busy lives and have taken up challenges that means they can work from home when they get a minute (and every minute adds up). Others find that they enjoy being part of a team and there is a very active group in Southend working with the Museum service there.

The research stage of the project is going well – although we’d really like to find out more about the women who worked in various engineering firms across Essex- can you help?

There are also opportunities to visit various libraries and record offices to explore what information they hold– we can help with travel expenses so don’t let that put you off. Braintree museum would love more help in researching Katherine Mina Courtauld and Redbridge Museum would like volunteers to look through the newspaper archive at the Heritage centre for stories of local suffragettes.

The next stage is to start to put all of this research together so we can tell the stories of strong Essex women over the last 100 years. Volunteers are signing up to help design an exhibition, to work on an engagement programme and to help take these stories out to events across the county. There are still spaces on these teams if you’d like to sign up.

We are lucky that we have an experienced museum curator who has volunteered her time to support the project (thank you Becky!) but you don’t need any experience of working in museums, exploring archives or designing exhibitions to get involved as we will provide any training and support you need. You just need enthusiasm and an interest in celebrating the lives and achievement of strong Essex women over the last 100 years.

Finally- THANK YOU to all of you who have taken part so far

100 volunteers and counting

I missed the actual moment when our 100th volunteer actually signed up but last weekend we passed the 100 mark and now have 104 people signed up on our Volunteer Makers site to help with the project.

Since we launched the volunteering programme on March 8th (International Women’s day) there have been 30 challenges offered by our 12 partner museums and we estimate that volunteers have given us 227 hours of their time.

It’s really interesting to see how the minutes add up. Our Just a Minute challenges have been popular and people who have signed up to share information on social media have spent around 16 hours on this- it may not feel like you are doing much at the time but every tweet or Facebook share really adds up! We could do with some more help on this, particularly for our own Social Media accounts so please sign up to help us spread the word about the project.

Some of the Hour or Two challenges have been very popular and the most popular of these saw people deciphering 100-year-old handwriting in a Police Pocketbook- trickier than I first thought!

Alice Wilson’s Pocketbook from the Essex Police Museum

We were surprised by how many of you were keen to transcribe oral histories and have paused this while we work out how to convert more old recordings on tape so we can email them out to you. Lots of volunteers are looking online for stories of women who worked at various engineering companies across Essex and we are particularly keen to get more help looking for stories of women who worked at Fords, Paxman or Bentalls.

Spare a Day challenges have seen people sign up to research stories at the Essex Record Office, look at a collection at the Essex Fire Museum and research untold stories for Epping Forest District Museum. Brightlingsea and Braintree museum would both like some help with research so have a look here if you think you could spare some time.

Volunteers who have a little more free time have been signing up to the Regular Help Challenges. A team in Southend have made great progress researching Rosina Sky- a local suffragette and are also exploring the work of Adelaide Hawken who set up one of the first mother and baby clinics in Southend. Other volunteers are working with museums to investigate their collections or are spending time researching a specific story. If you’d like to help a museum out then the Museum of Power would really like your help to create a Museum of power party

A mother and baby clinic in Southend

We are just launching some team challenges and if you’d like to help us out at events please have a look at this challenge and see whether it’s the sort of thing you’d enjoy.

Thanks to all of our volunteers- the project wouldn’t work without you are we are grateful for every minute of the time you give us!