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.

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.

An exciting year ahead

Happy New year! Last year was an exciting year and you can’t have missed that it was a year when we celebrated 100 years of some women getting the vote. Teams of Snapping the Stiletto volunteers worked with our partner museums throughout the year to uncover stories of Essex women and their achievements over the last 100 years.

 

 

This year we are telling these stories across Essex starting with an exhibition at Epping Forest District Museum opening this Saturday (12th  January) and staying there until March 16th. See our exhibition page for details of where else the exhibition will be over the coming year.

This exhibition contains stories both researched and told by Essex women. They chose the title ‘Essex Women; Adversity, Adventure and Aspiration’. Project volunteers and the Project Team consulted local groups to steer the research and volunteers worked hard with our partners to find these stories. A team of volunteers have written much of the text, chosen images and come up with interactive ideas all designed to celebrate 100 years of change for women.

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Volunteers attending a text writing workshop

Come along and find out what it has been like for women serving in the police and Fire services, working the land during wartime and moving here to support our health services.

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Women Police Officers. Image courtesy of the Essex Police Museum

 

Discover Essex businesswomen and engineers.

Women worker at a machine

A worker at the EKCO factory in Southend. Image courtesy of Southend Museums

 

Grace Chappelow campaigning. Image courtesy of Chelmsford museum

Find out more about Essex women who campaigned for lots of different causes and let us know who is your strong Essex Women!

 

(The exhibition will be on display at Epping Forest District Museum in Waltham Abbey from Saturday 12th January until Saturday 16th March. It will then visit other venues around the county – dates and details can be found here).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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