The People’s History Museum opened its exhibition Represent! Voices 100 Years On (2 June 2018 to 3 February 2019) by recreating a defining moment in the history of suffrage. Today’s campaigners for equality filled the places of those who in 1910 were seeking to have their voices heard, ahead of a march which would become known as Black Friday due to the atrocities that were inflicted upon those seeking to gain the right to vote.
A century on from when the Representation of the People Act in 1918 gave all men and some women the right to vote in Britain, Represent! Voices 100 Years On asks what progress has been made since this time.
This question also led the discussion for those participating in the #BlackFriday1910 opening, including Helen Pankhurst, great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, Sally Lindsay, whose programme Emmeline Pankhurst: The Making Of A Militant airs on BBC NW on 8 June 2018, Erinma Bell MBE, who has campaigned against gun crime and Sisters Uncut, who have campaigned against cuts to domestic violence services.
Helen Pankhurst, says: “What’s on show is the power of people caring, of activists from many different backgrounds and perspectives, and the differences they have made over the last hundred years. The focus is not just on history but on how the symbols of the past can help us all to reflect and move forward. It is a reminder of the progress but also of continuity and how difficult it is to change entrenched social norms that constrict and diminish some categories of people. It is also a reminder that we need to shake off complacency – that dissonance and disruption are at the heart of democracy and citizenship.”
Helen Antrobus, Programme Officer at the People’s History Museum, says, “Our opening reflects the powerful stories that are explored in the exhibition, which acknowledges those who have campaigned for equality by looking to those who are continuing this quest today. These stories, and the exhibition, make people feel uncomfortable at how little has changed, but also empowered and inspired to be the change that is needed. The exhibition highlights that the words and campaigns of the past are still very much alive in the present.”
Creatively influenced by feminist zines, the exhibition features significant objects from 1918 that help to tell the story of what those campaigning for suffrage went through to achieve equality, both the suffragists and suffragettes. The exhibition also shines a light on the forgotten champions, looks at those who opposed votes for women and tells of the challenges being faced by contemporary campaigners.
Speaking about the exhibition at the launch Sally Lindsay, says: “Represent! is just that, it’s a brilliant exhibition that shines a light on all we have achieved to change society but also explores how far we have to go. I could spend hours getting inspired here.”
This Family Friendly, Heritage Lottery Fund supported exhibition has been led by an editorial panel of community members, that includes Digital Women’s Archive North, Girl Gang Manchester, Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, Manchester Metropolitan University, Safety4Sisters and the Women’s Equality Party.
Some of the nation’s most significant Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) pieces feature in the exhibition, reflecting the powerful and iconic legacy of the suffragettes. The Manchester suffragette banner (1908), that declared ‘First in the Fight’ as a reminder that Manchester is the city where the suffragette movement began, is on display for the first time. It takes its place alongside a Holloway brooch (1909) gifted to those suffragettes who were imprisoned, a WSPU hunger strike medal that in 1910 was awarded to suffragette Selina Martin, posters announcing WSPU demonstrations, and promotional postcards from the time, including some featuring Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst.
The militancy of the suffragettes was at odds with the suffragist campaigners represented by organisations such as the Women’s Freedom League, the Actresses Franchise League, the Men’s Political Union, the Suffrage Atelier and the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), whose manifesto from 1914 states its strong opposition to such methods.
The stories of champions who were almost forgotten in their time, such as suffragist Margaret Ashton, are told alongside those whose achievements have gone down in history. These include Ellen Wilkinson, one of the first female MPs elected into parliament (1924) and Diane Abbott, the first black female MP, who was elected in 1997 and whose portrait from 2004 (on loan from the Houses of Parliament) appears in the exhibition. Just as importantly, the stories of everyday inequality are explored; from playing football to getting a mortgage, from birth control to equal pay.
People have been marching for equality for centuries and the placards and posters that carry their messages symbolically represent the fact that this is an ongoing journey. Modern pieces displayed in the exhibition emanate a sense that those who campaigned before them are the inspiration for those taking forward the quest today. This connection is seen in the From The City Of Pankhurst With Love placard from the Women’s March Manchester (2017) and in the This Is For Holloway banner from campaigning organisation Sisters Uncut, who have been fighting to reclaim the former prison as a safe community space for women since it closed in 2016.
Many of the pieces from the People’s History Museum’s own collection, including an original Representation of the People Act (1918), are on public display for the first time alongside objects crowdsourced from private collections and items recently acquired by the museum through the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme.
The People’s History Museum is open seven days a week from 10.00am to 5.00pm, Radical Lates are on the second Thursday each month, open until 8.00pm. The museum is free to enter with a suggested donation of £5. This is a Family Friendly exhibition that runs from 2 June 2018 to 3 February 2019. To find out about visiting the museum, its full events programme and more, visit www.phm.org.uk.
For further information or to arrange a visit / interviews please contact Fido PR:
0161 832 3588
A selection of images of the exhibition can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/nkvu0ffqoej71yi/AAAsJ1UX9gcz-nTl2U9eJX7ua?dl=0
A selection of images of the #BlackFriday1910 opening can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/desmp8vacxcpum9/AAAny_cHTTh4F-pGanVVdnZra?dl=0
Taking part in the #BlackFriday1910 opening for Represent! Voices 100 Years On were:
Dr Jenna Ashton
Dr Erinma Bell MBE
Emily Capstick – Hannah Mitchell actor
Every Month – Rosy Candlin
Girl Gang Manchester – Megan Griffiths & Kirsty Morrisey
The Lord Mayor, Councillor June Hitchen
Greater Manchester Coalition for Disabled People – Heather Davidson
Greater Manchester Mayor’s Office – Cllr Beth Knowles
Rebecca Long-Bailey MP for Salford & Eccles
Manchester Pupil Referral Unit – Jay Lanyon
Pankhurst Trust – Gail Heath
People’s History Museum – Helen Antrobus, Katy Ashton & Jenny Mabbott
The Proud Trust – Amelia Lee & Hebe Phillips
Hazel Reeves – sculptor currently working on Our Emmeline
Safety4Sisters – Sandhya Sharma
Sisters Uncut – Niku Archer & Sandy Ogundele
Women’s Equality Party – Sarah Galligan
Women’s March – Jen Langton-Sneyd
Notes to editors:
The People’s History Museum’s (PHM) resources, collections and spokespeople are available to support the telling of the story of the centenary of the Representation of the People Act (1918) and to reflect its themes and issues from a contemporary perspective.
Jenny Mabbott, Head of Collections:
As Head of Collections, Jenny is responsible for overseeing the way that PHM marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act (1918). In addition to talking about this approach, she can share her insight into the museum’s rich collections and archives.
Helen Antrobus, Programme Officer:
Along with curating the exhibition and planning the events programme for 2018, as a historian, Helen’s specialist area is 20th century radical women. She can bring to life the stories of some of the individuals involved in the quest for suffrage and the different campaigns involved.
About the People’s History Museum (PHM)
The People’s History Museum (PHM) in Manchester is the national museum of democracy, telling the story of its development in Britain: past, present, and future. The museum provides opportunities for people of all ages to learn about, be inspired by and get involved in ideas worth fighting for; ideas such as equality, social justice, co-operation, and a fair world for all. PHM offers a powerful programme with annual themes; 2018 looks at representation and commemorates 100 years since the first women and all men got the vote, and 2019 will see a year of activities around protest movements to mark the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, 1819.
The People’s History Museum is open seven days a week from 10.00am to 5.00pm, Radical Lates are on the second Thursday each month, open until 8.00pm. The museum is free to enter with a suggested donation of £5.
Winner of Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award 2017.
About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)
Thanks to National Lottery players, Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. hlf.org.uk. Follow HLF on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.
About Arts Council England (ACE)
Arts Council England (ACE) is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. ACE support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, ACE will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. artscouncil.org.uk