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!

 

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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

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.

“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.

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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.

Snapping the Stiletto Festival – Can You Help?

HMS Westcliff Cooks - courtesy of Southend Museums

HMS Westcliff Cooks – courtesy of Southend Museums

It’s just under a month until our Women’s History Festival at the University of Essex Business School and we’re really excited. We’ve got a great range of contributors, who’ll we be talking about over the next few weeks, and tickets have been going so fast we’ve shuffled things around so we can add 100 extra seats.

We are currently recruiting volunteers to help us in the run up and on the day. Please can you help by signing up to one (or more) of the “volunteer challenges” below?

Social Media

Can you help spread the word about the festival amongst your friends, family and colleagues? We’re asking people to sign us as social media volunteers, who’ll keep an eye out for our posts on Twitter, Facebook and on our blog and share them on their own accounts. Click here to learn more or sign up.

Stewarding

We want everyone coming to our festival to have a great time, so we need some extra people to help us welcome attendees, show them where the different events are taking place and to assist with the evaluation. Click here if you’d like to help.

Donate

On the day, we’re going to be collecting items on behalf of two important causes. The Red Box Project battles period poverty by distributing sanitary products to young women via schools. Beauty Banks collect beauty and hygiene products and pass them on to those who need them via foodbanks and shelters. Click the links to find out more.

A Volunteer’s Perspective

In honour of National Volunteers’ Week, Jan Whitelaw tells us about her experience volunteering at Southend Museum.

I came to be involved with the ‘Snapping the Stiletto’ project through a rather circuitous route. I am the Chairlady of the Prittlewell Victoria Townswomen’s Guild in Southend. All branches of the Guild had been tasked with producing a commemorative plaque of a notable local lady to display at the National AGM in Brighton. A google search helped me to find Rosina Sky, a Suffragist who had lived in Southend c1900. This was of particular interest to us as the Townswomen’s Guild grew out of the Women’s Suffrage movement. We were very keen to portray Rosina on our plaque. Unable to find a picture if her I e-mailed Southend Museums asking if they had one in their archives, which was the very best thing I could have done. Very soon I had a reply from Iona saying that they didn’t have any pictures of her, but would we be interested in carrying out research on Rosina for the ‘Snapping the Stiletto’ project, and inviting us to a training session. Yes – we would! This generated a great deal of interest amongst our members and five of us volunteered. At the training session we also heard for the first time about Councillor Adelaide Hawkins, the lady responsible for founding the very first Mother and Baby Clinic in Southend. So often the achievements of women (particularly those born Essex) are sidelined, so having the opportunity to help smash that negative ‘Essex girl’ image really appealed to us.

 

We have discovered so much about Rosina – a very strong woman who not only fought for women’s suffrage but managed to bring up four children, completely on her own, whilst running her own tobacconist and fancy goods shop. What a wonderful role model. We also found that elusive photograph for our plaque! The added bonus was hearing about Adelaide. One of the volunteers even managed to track down Adelaide’s granddaughter and had tea with her.

 

There is still much research to do, and we’re hoping that we can discover information about other, perhaps more recent, notable ladies of Southend whose stories have been lost in the annals of time.

 

If you are interested in getting involved, have a look at out current volunteering opportunities 

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