I had a pretty busy week last week celebrating all things women’s history, and I wanna tell you about it!
I’ve been volunteering at Manchester Central Library with Archives + for a while now, and my first blog about women’s suffrage, which was co-written and slaved over for weeks, was finally published on Tuesday! Please give it a read, searching through the archives and researching for it was so interesting and I’m pretty proud of it 🙂
And then of course on Thursday it was International Women’s Day, so I decided to go on a little field trip. I’ve been meaning to visit the Pankhurst Museum in Manchester for years now, but as it is only open one day a week I hadn’t been able to make it. So what a perfect coincidence that I was free on IWD, which happened to be a Thursday, which happens to be the day the museum is open?!
The Pankhurst Museum is three rooms inside the Pankhurst Centre, which is on 62 Nelson Street, the house in which Emmeline Pankhurst lived, conceived the idea, and held the first meeting of the WSPU. The suffragette movement was born in this small house in the centre of Manchester, hidden away amongst all of the new hospital buildings which make up Manchester Royal Infirmary. I’ve actually walked past it on more than one occassion and not even realised, which I find absolutely mental.
The museum is small, but packed with information about the Pankhurst family, the suffragette movement, and Manchester’s involvement in the fight for women’s suffrage. There was even a short DVD which went through the history of the suffragettes and told the stories of a few of the women involved in the movement.
For me, being in this room where so many amazing women sat and discussed how they were going to make their voices heard, was the best way to spend International Women’s Day. I left feeling so inspired, as the fight for equality can seem so long and so difficult, but these women and many others risked so much and achieved something many didn’t think would ever be possible, from a tiny living room in Manchester.
On Thursday evening the film Suffragette was on Film 4 so I thought I would continue the theme and watch it. I enjoyed the film, and I really liked that they chose to tell the story of a group of working class women. I thought it was slightly odd, however, that the main character (played by Carey Mulligan) and most of the other characters were fictional, but they decided to put the very real story of Emily Wilding Davison throwing herself in front of the King’s horse almost as the climax of the film, as she wasn’t properly introduced until near the end of the film. It was a very poignant and emotional scene, but one that I felt kind of came out of nowhere. The use of actual footage of her funeral was a nice touch, though, which brought home the fact that the film was based on real life events. Overall it was a very moving film with great performances from all of the actors, especially the little boy playing Mulligan’s son, he was precious.
Finally, I finished off my week by going to a performance called She Bangs the Drums by Contact Theatre Manchester at the Museum of Science and Industry. The performance was part of Manchester’s Wonder Women festival, and covered everything from force-feeding of suffragette prisoners, to slut-shaming, to ‘female-friendly’ doritos. There was a live band called Powerful Women who helped in making the experience feel more authentic, and their final song even moved members of the cast to tears. There was so much crammed into a relatively short performance, and using so many different mediums, that it could easily have felt muddled and all over the place, but it is a testament to the whole team that they could go from comedy to tragedy so seamlessly, and left me thinking about all of the intricacies of the performance for hours afterwards. I also very much enjoyed the mixture of celebrating the achievements of the past 100 years with the reminders that the war is not yet won and that, internationally, we have a lot still left to fight for.
So that was my week of learning, history and female empowerment. Lots to celebrate but also a reminder that there is lots still to be done. Let’s get out there and change the world!