Another month, another (very) belated work update! Back in May I wrote about the first phase of my work on Road to Equality, a suffrage centenary project I’d been working on in partnership with Google Arts & Culture and The Mayor of London.
On 11 June, the second, much broader, part of that project launched, along with a Google Doodle celebrating Millicent Fawcett’s birthday. For me, it was the culmination of four months work as a freelance project manager and content editor – working with 22 cultural partners, and commissioning expert writers and curators, to create 80 brilliant pieces of content that explore the huge depth and breadth of women’s feminist activism and achievements over the last 100 years and beyond.
It’s now, somehow, August and I’m finally catching up with myself enough to share my favourite bits here! There’s so much I love about this project that it’s been really difficult to pick out particular highlights, but I’ve narrowed it down to my top five – or, alternatively, you can browse the project in full at g.co/RoadtoEquality.
1. Mary Lowndes’ suffrage banners
I worked closely with the team at LSE Women’s Library throughout the project, and their digital collection really is something very special to behold.
They produced 8 stories for Road to Equality, but by far my favourite looks at their collection of stunning suffrage banners, designed and created by artist Mary Lowndes.
You can read all about these banners – from the early design sketches through to their use in suffrage demonstrations – in LSE Library’s digital exhibit The suffrage banners of Mary Lowndes.
2. The Women’s Liberation Movement
I felt very strongly that this project should not begin and end with the suffrage movement, but should use the Votes for Women centenary as a jumping off point to explore the last 100 years of progress on women’s rights.
It was therefore a great privilege to work with the Feminist Library on digitising and creating narratives from both their Women’s Liberation Movement and contemporary feminist archives.
My favourite of these explores the various core campaigns of second wave feminism – from rape and violence against women, to the women’s peace movement against nuclear weapons.
It’s a truly inspiring piece of content, and recognises a lot of the ways in which feminist campaigners of the 60s-90s continued the legacy of their suffrage sisters. But it’s also more than a little dispiriting to realise how many of the issues – like equal pay and abortion rights – we’re still fighting for so many decades later.
3. Keeping alive the suffragette spirit
The Museum of London was another core partner on the project, and their collection of suffragette (Women’s Social and Political Union/WSPU) artefacts and photographs is really amazing.
As well as producing 10 digital exhibits – exploring everything from behind the scenes at WSPU headquarters to life as a hunger striking prisoner – Museum of London curator Beverley Cook also wrote an editorial feature, exploring the importance of their archive for keeping the suffragette spirit alive.
I was particularly moved by the story of the 1910 Holloway prisoners’ banner, and how it inspired a similar craft project with prisoners at Holloway women’s prison in 2012.
4. Queer women of England
Historic England put together some really fascinating content for Road to Equality – exploring women’s influence on science, architecture, and horticulture, as well as celebrating the key sites of suffragette protests.
As part of their Pride of Place campaign, they also produced a digital exhibit on significant queer women from England’s history, and the places they occupied.
This exhibit, like all those created by Historic England, combines striking archive photography with modern day Google Street View imagery.
5. Intersectional suffrage
My fifth project highlight was an editorial feature I commissioned from Fahmida Rahman of WebRoots Democracy.
Although 2018 has been celebrated as the centenary of the first women in the UK winning the right to vote, only 40% of women actually achieved this in 1918. It was another ten years by the time women were granted suffrage on the same terms as men, in 1928.
Fahmida wrote for us about the 60% of women who didn’t win the vote in 1918, why it matters, and how similar inequalities continue to be reflected in voting patterns today.
Her feature gives an intersectional feminist perspective on the suffrage story, and on modern day democracy, which felt like such an important part of the centenary story. There’s still work to be done!