Wonder Women 2016: Thoroughly Feminist Manchester

Manchester has historically been and currently is a base for campaigning, creative and ground-breaking women.
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In the lead up to Wonder Women 2016 (3-13 March), a festival celebrating the strides women have made in the past and are currently making, Beth Dawson explores Manchester’s feminist history and how you can find out more about it and current trailblazers over the festival period.

The Birthplace of the Suffragettes

Many consider the birthplace of the Suffragette movement to be right here in Manchester. The relatively unassuming 62 Nelson Street, which was home to the most famous of all Suffragettes, Emmeline Pankhurst, and her family for eight years hosted the very first meeting of the suffrage movement in 1903. After a lengthy restoration process in the 1980’s, Mrs Pankhurst’s house – and number 60 next to it – is now a museum dedicated to the Suffragette movement and the Pankhurst family. If you want to explore the history of the Suffragettes’ fight for women’s rights to vote, the Pankhurst Centre is open every Thursday from 10am-4pm. 

A Hub for Women in the Arts

In the Victorian era, when the artistic world was dominated by men, artists such as Louise Joplin, Annie Swynnerton and Susan Isabel Dacre emerged from Manchester. Many of their artworks can be found in galleries around the city today. Manchester Art Gallery was the site of protest in 1913 when a group of increasingly militant Suffragettes vandalised artworks.  The Wonder Women Festival protest will be returning to Manchester Art Gallery in a different form at events such as ‘What IS she wearing?’ (3 March, 5-8pm) a night exploring the fashion of protest and gender politics. 

And you won’t just find great art by women in Manchester’s galleries. On 4 March you’ll have the chance to get your hands on great artwork. Throughout the day, 16 Days of Street Art Action will be hiding pieces of art by female artists across the city and leaving clues to their whereabouts on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re the first to find the art, you get to keep it! 

The Home of Scientific Trailblazers

Did you know that family-planning pioneer Marie Stopes was the University of Manchester’s first female academic? Or that fellow University of Manchester alumnus and biologist Kathleen Mary-Drew Barker is celebrated as the ‘Mother of the Sea’ in Japan due to her work revolutionising the country’s seaweed industry? The Study at Manchester Museum will be shining a light on the achievements of women in science with their ‘Lightning Talks’ (4 March, 12-2pm). At Manchester Town Hall, artists Warp and Weft will be highlighting female scientific achievements by yarn-bombing male statues with masks representing Mancunian women who have taken strides in science, such as Egyptologist Margaret Murray and mathematician Mary Ollerenshaw (‘Big-Up Female Boffins’, 1-31 March). 

Deeds not words?

Birthplace Of The Suffragettes

‘Deeds not words’ was adopted as a slogan by the Suffragette movement to express their frustration with politicians expressing their support for women gaining the vote but not taking legislative action. Ironically, therefore, a variety of events at the Wonder Women 2016 festival will highlight the written and spoken word as a medium for women expressing their perspectives and pushing the agenda of equality. From discussions of female friendship in young adult fiction with authors Holly Bourne and Eve Ainsworth (HOME, 6 March, 2pm), to writing letters to inspiring women in workshops at the People’s History Museum (8 March, 2.15-4.25pm, free admission), and hands-on zine workshops (Manchester Jewish Museum, 10 March, 6pm), the festival is packed full of opportunities to learn about literary women and get involved producing pieces yourself. 

This is just a taste of what is happening over this year’s Wonder Women 2016 festival. A full listing of events from 3-13 March can be found here www.creativetourist.com/festivals-and-events/wonderwomen

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