2018 centenary of the vote for women
The Pankhurst Centre and Manchester City Council are set to create a living legacy for the women of Manchester that gathers their words, memories and experiences for all to share.
The Women’s Words project will be inviting women with any link to the city – whether through birth, work or home – to submit their written stories about living and working in Manchester, of up to 1,000 words.
The project launches on Thursday 24 August, and submissions can be sent until Friday 24 November. Stories, poems, memories, thoughts will then be archived at Manchester Central Library.
All contributions from women of all ages and backgrounds – whether stories, poems, memories, lists, or reflections – are welcome, as long as they are in the author’s own words.
Women’s Words will be artist-led, with participants given the chance to explore traditional ‘making’ practices such as textiles, letterpress and cyanotype. There will also be oral and collaborative storytelling sessions and an opportunity for those who feel they cannot write well in English to have their stories retold and written down by someone else.
A selection of the pieces submitted will feature in a reimagination of the original The Suffragette magazine, produced by the Women’s Social and Political Union to support their campaign. This will be a beautiful, handcrafted limited edition art piece that will be edited and curated by artist Lucy May Schofield. Copies will be available to buy from Central Library and local Manchester Libraries and the Pankhurst Centre Museum, with an e-book version made available through Manchester Libraries’ BorrowBox service.
Supported by Arts Council England, the project will commemorate the 2018 Centenary of the Vote for Women by asking Manchester’s women to make their voices heard and for their stories to become a 21st century narrative of those connected to the city.
Women’s Words 2018 will embrace the powerful force that saw Manchester’s most radical daughters turn their home into suffragette city and use this to inspire and encourage women of today.
Although they marched to the call of Deeds not Words, the legacy of the suffragettes’ campaign is one full of inspiring and emotive words that drew people to their vision for equality then and now.
Gail Heath, Chief Executive of The Pankhurst Trust (Incorporating Manchester Women’s Aid), says, “The women of Manchester have always had a compelling and thought-provoking story to tell. Through this project we are bridging the worlds of the those who fought to be heard over 100 years ago and the lives of women today who we want to use their voices to tell and share their stories.
“In doing so we’ll be reaching out to all women in all situations; actively encouraging those experiencing domestic violence, abuse, homelessness and asylum, arguably the voiceless in 21st century Britain. This an ongoing story, and we hope to capture a contemporary reflection of women’s lives in current times.”
Councillor Sarah Judge, Lead Member for Women at Manchester City Council, says, “The Women’s Words project will support and encourage Manchester women to develop essential skills and the confidence to share their experiences of life in our city.
“Historically, women’s writing has not always had the attention it deserved. This new archive will help us to preserve, celebrate and learn from the fascinating stories that Manchester’s amazing women have to tell.”
The project will culminate with two public events, an exhibition and a gala event on 5 February at Manchester’s Central Library.
Women’s Words will be shared online at www.womenswordsmcr.com and through social media via Facebook – www.facebook.com/Womens-Words-Mcr Twitter – @WomensWordsMcr Instrgram – www.instagram.com/womenswordsmcr/?hl=en
For further information, images or to arrange interviews please contact Laura Sullivan or Clare Short at Fido PR on 0161 832 3588 or email firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Notes to editors
The Pankhurst Centre
In 1974, the significance of the Pankhursts’ former home was recognised when the building received listed status. The house had faced the prospect of demolition, when a campaign to save it successfully halted this and led to its grade II listing, and recognition of its significance to the nation. In 1987 62 Nelson Street was opened as a small museum dedicated to the Pankhurst family and the women’s suffrage movement, with the parlour restored to how it would have been when Emmeline held her first meeting about suffrage in 1903. The adjoining property 60 Nelson Street is a women’s centre.
Emmeline Pankhurst (1858 – 1928)
Emmeline Pankhurst was born on 15 July 1858 in Moss Side, Manchester.
Her barrister husband, Richard Pankhurst, was a strong supporter of women’s suffrage and a member himself of Manchester’s Independent Labour Party (ILP), and encouraged Emmeline’s early interest in politics.
In 1898 Richard died, leaving Emmeline on a much-reduced income, which led her to move with her children to 62 Nelson Street. Emmeline, involved in ILP campaigns, was elected as a candidate to Manchester School Board.
On 10 October 1903 she invited a small group of women to meet in her parlour at 62 Nelson Street. From this meeting the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was founded, with the motto Deeds not Words.
Like many other suffragettes, her fight for equality would see Emmeline arrested many times and go on hunger strike in pursuit of equality for women.
In 1918 the Representation of the People Act granted the vote to women with a property qualification.
Emmeline died on 14 June 1928 only weeks before the Representation of the People Act was brought in on 2 July 1928, extending the vote to all women.
Sylvia (1882-1960) and Christabel Pankhurst (1880-1958)
Emmeline’s daughters, Sylvia and Christabel, were central to the work of the WSPU.
Christabel had a law degree (from the University of Manchester) and used her legal background to defend the suffragettes. She was also behind the strategies adopted by the movement, including its militancy.
As an artist, Sylvia was responsible for some of the strong visual materials that were used by the WSPU; one of the first campaigning bodies ever to use design and colour to create a corporate identity. Sylvia was expelled from the WSPU because she was interested in promoting broader suffrage (for working class women and men), disagreed with the increasingly autocratic leadership of her mother and sister and their increasing militancy. The outbreak of the First World War further divided the Pankhurst family, with Emmeline and Christabel supporting the war effort and Sylvia being a pacifist.
Helen Pankhurst is Sylvia’s grand-daughter, she works for CARE International on women’s rights issues and lives part of the time in Ethiopia, where Sylvia went to live and where she is buried.
The term suffragettes emerged in 1905, when the campaign was really brought to the attention of the nation. Sir Edward Grey, a leading member of the Liberal Party was speaking at a rally at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester (now the Radisson Hotel) ahead of the general election. Having raised a ‘Votes for Women’ banner, Christabel Pankhurst pushed Annie Kenney forward to say, “Will the Liberal government give women the vote?” They were subsequently arrested for addressing the crowd, and it was upon reporting about the incident that the Daily Mail used the term suffragettes.
The infamy of the suffragettes grew from this point, with members smashing windows, assaulting police officers that led to imprisonment, with some staging hunger strikes.
Manchester Women’s Aid
In June 2014 the Pankhurst Trust merged with Manchester Women’s Aid, an independent charity providing a range of services for women and children affected by domestic violence and abuse.