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Represent! Voices 100 Years On

Represent! Voices 100 Years On

People’s History Museum marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act (1918)

29 November 2017

Voters section, Main Gallery One @ People's History Museum

Throughout 2018 the People’s History Museum (PHM) will be marking the centenary of all men and some women gaining the right to vote in Britain, thanks to a grant of £82,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  As the national museum of democracy, the museum will be encouraging people to discuss, discover and reflect upon one of the great milestones for equality, and what representation means to them 100 years on.  We will do this through an ambitious programme of exhibitions, festivals, events, learning programmes and community engagement that has been made possible by money raised by National Lottery players.

The Manchester suffragette banner in The Conservation Studio @ People's History MuseumBanner Changeover – from January to December 2018
The museum holds the world’s largest collection of political and trade union banners, so the annual changeover of those that we put on public display is very special.  In 2018 it will take on added significance as the selection chosen reflects the themes of the centenary, featuring banners that have played a part in the campaigns and protests that led to the Representation of the People Act (1918).

Each banner recalls the story of the people who it embodies and the ideas they are fighting for.  Brighton Women’s Social and Political Union’s (WSPU) Votes for Women banner (1903), for example, belonged to a group of women who, like others across the country, used tactics to disrupt political meetings and make their voices heard in their campaign for female suffrage.  And 100 years later, banners continue to feature as part of campaigns, such as one that will go on display carrying the words ‘Hands Off Our Midwives’ (2010).

Viewing the banners takes you on a powerful march through history, thanks to the poignancy of their accounts and the impact of their messages, colour and creativity.

Wonder Women – throughout March 2018Napkin - July 1915 Women’s March & Fabric Violets - John Groom's Crippleage And Flower Girl's Mission, about 1910 @ People's History Museum
Bringing together the radical spirit of Manchester, as the birth city of the suffragette movement, Wonder Women is a month long festival that celebrates those who campaigned for votes for women and looks at ongoing equality issues.  This is the fifth year of the festival, which was conceived as the cultural community’s creative response to the city’s feminist past, present and future.

Organised by PHM, the festival will bring together cultural and heritage partners across the city, including Manchester Art Gallery, National Football Museum, Pankhurst Centre and Working Class Movement Library to create a programme that will combine performances, discussions and art.

Placard from the 2017 Manchester Women's March @ People's History MuseumRepresent! Voices 100 Years On – 2 June 2018 to 3 February 2019
Our headline exhibition, Represent! Voices 100 Years On will be guided and informed by the notion of representation itself.  The exhibition will be made up entirely of submissions from groups, either of their own materials or responses to pieces from PHM’s collection.  Safety4Sisters, Manchester Women’s March, 42nd Street and the Proud Trust are some of those that are working to create an emotional experience which will reflect, interpret, challenge and engage audiences in an exhibition that will present itself in the form of a feminist zine.

The recently acquired Manchester suffragette banner (1908) and a significant collection of suffrage material such as sashes, brooches, photographs and cartoons from the early 20th century are elements of the museum’s collection that will help to paint a picture of what representation meant in 1918.  Working as an editorial team, community groups will be drawing inspiration and parallels from these historical pieces in their responses to issues of representation and equality that prevail in today’s society.  Campaigning material from the present day groups including Manchester Women’s March, Repeal the 8th, and Votes at 16 are some of the voices that will be featured in the exhibition.

Pank-a-Squith Board Game, 1909 @ People's History MuseumThe story of democracy told at the People’s History Museum
The powerful struggle for universal suffrage didn’t conclude until 1928, when all women were granted the vote on equal terms, and began over one hundred years before with the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in 1819, which is where the journey though Britain’s democratic history begins at the museum.

Defining moments in the nation’s quest for democracy are carried through the main galleries taking the visitor up to the post World War II period, giving an insight into the impact felt by people on both living and working life.

The museum invites visitors to experience this story in a way that is engaging for all ages, with the interactive elements that it offers being one of the reasons it was chosen as the winner of the Family Friendly Museum Award 2017.  Throughout 2018 PHM will be working with schools and communities, both at the museum and through outreach work, to help them consider what representation and equality means to them.

The museum is open seven days a week from 10.00am to 5.00pm, and is free to enter with a suggested donation of £5.

Heritage Lottery Funded

PHM’s 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:

  • PHM’s collection: key pieces that are available for filming and photography by prior arrangement include:
    - Votes for Women journal (1910)
    - Votes for Women ribbon sash (1906)
    - Women’s Freedom League fabric patch (1907)
    - Manchester suffragette banner (1908)
    - Set of six Manchester Women’s March placards (2017)
  • PHM’s galleries: within the main galleries PHM has a permanent suffragette display, this includes a recreation of suffragette Hannah Mitchell’s kitchen; filming, photography and interviews can take place in this space.
  • PHM’s archive: the museum’s archive holds both the papers of political parties and individuals, which by prior arrangement, can be made available to the media.  These include:
    - Scrapbooks of Ellen Wilkinson which narrate her political career
    - Papers that report on key moments of campaigning, such as the arrest of Annie Kenney and Teresa Billington-Greig
    - A telegram from Emmeline Pankhurst (1905), in which she talks of moving “Heaven and Earth” saying “When I think of the handful of people who are trying to defeat our 50 years of work for women just as victory is in sight I understand how sometimes only physical violence meets the case”
    - Letters from the East End Federation of Suffragettes and National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies material
  • PHM’s Conservation Studio: arrangements can be made to visit PHM’s Conservation Studio which specialises in the treatment of textiles; maintaining the museum’s own banner collection and undertaking external commissions.  It is here that the recently acquired Manchester suffragette banner will receive specialist treatment before it goes on public display.  A viewing area from Main Gallery Two enables visitors to see the Conservation Team at work.  This state of the art facility has an internationally regarded reputation.
  • Spokespeople:
    Jenny Mabbott, Head of Collections & Engagement:
    As Head of Collections & Engagement, 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 & Events Officer:
    Along with planning the events and exhibitions 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.

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