Seven exhibitions on radical women’s history to explore during lockdown
Museums might be shut, but there are some fascinating online exhibitions exploring radical women’s history for you to delve into. Here are seven of my favourite.
The story of the Gay Liberation Front in Britain
It’s 50 years since the formation of the Gay Liberation Front in London. Our plan was to delivery a series of talks, tours and exhibitions this spring/summer to celebrate the role of East London women in the organisation. While we restructure our content to bring it online, check out this digital exhibition about the GLF from the LSE Library.
Sexual Revolutionaries of the Suffragette Movement
This fascinating exhibition explores sex and gender politics in the early part of the 20th century. It covers everyone from Josephine Butler, who campaigned around prostitution; to Vera “Jack” Holmes, the cross dressing chauffeur of Emmeline Pankhurst. Holmes had a long term relationship with Evelina Haverfield, who was a member of the East London Federation of Suffragettes.
Emily Wilding Davison
The story of Emily Wilding Davison and her Derby Day protest is well known, her death turning her into a martyr for the suffragette cause. What’s interesting about this online exhibition are the artefacts it contains, courtesy of the Women’s Library at LSE. This includes the return train ticket she bought that fateful day, which led historians to believe her death was accidental.
The Suffragette banners of Mary Lowndes
This is a lovely online exhibition for fans of protest art. Many of the designs were found in the albums of Mary Lowndes, who formed the Artists Suffrage League in 1907. The albums contained watercolours and swatches of fabrics to be used, and the exhibition features many of the beautiful banners in situ.
Rosa May Billinghurst
Our new exhibition features disability activists in East London. While we bring that online, why not explore this digital exhibition about Rosa May Billinghurst. It contains some wonderful pictures of the defiant Ms Billinghurst, who was involved in a number of militant suffragette actions, including window smashing and chaining herself and her wheelchair to the railings outside Buckingham Palace.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
This online exhibition looks at the history of one of the foremost peace movements in modern times. The WILFPF were a group of women who formed in 1915 to campaign for “permanent peace”. They foresaw the shortcomings of the Treaty of Versailles, predicting it would lead to another war. In the 20s and 30s they campaigned for worldwide disarmament, collecting a petition of three million signatures, which in pre-digital days is an extraordinary number. The WILPF still exists today, with 12000 members, describing their work as addressing “the root causes of violence through a feminist lens.”
25 women who defined UK youth culture
Although this online exhibition primarily focuses on music and fashion, some of the artists have close links to radical movements. From Siouxsie Sioux, who challenges perceptions of women in music; to Pauline Black who incorporated struggles against racism in her work. The exhibition also features Rosie Boycott and Marsha Rowe, who founded Spare Rib magazine, and the women of Greenham Common.