The 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 is to be marked on 6 February. It was legislation that enabled all men and some women over the age of 30 to vote for the first time and paved the way for universal suffrage 10 years later.This was the first in a series of milestones in the fight for democratic equality. Other anniversaries in 2018 include the 60th anniversary of the Life Peerages Act 1958, which allowed women to sit in the House of Lords for the first time (April), and the centenary of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918, which permitted women over the age of 21 – the same age as for men – to stand for election as an MP (November).
Throughout 2018, events and exhibitions will be held to honour these anniversaries. Here’s our pick of the best.
Votes For Women
Museum of London
2 February 2018-6 January 2019
Museum Of London. Photograph: Alamy
Emmeline Pankhurst’s hunger strike medal and a banner embroidered with the names of 80 hunger strikers at Holloway prison are just a couple of the objects that will go on display at the Museum of London as part of the year-long Votes for Women exhibition. Special events will include a family-friendly Votes for Women Weekend where visitors can try banner-making and take part in games, workshops and performances (3-4 February, free); a jewellery-making masterclass with designers Tatty Devine, which is inspired by the museum’s suffragette collection (17 March, booking required, adults £45); and a guided tour of London on a vintage Routemaster bus exploring key places and stories from the suffrage movement (5 May, booking essential, £28pp, minimum age 15).
• Admission free, museumoflondon.org.uk
Voice and Vote: Women’s Place in Parliament
Houses of Parliament
27 June-6 October
Illustration from the Women’s Place in Parliament exhibition at the Houses of Parliament. Photograph: Parliamentary Art Collection
Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament, will host a major summer exhibition this year. Voice and Vote will explore the impact of women on parliament over the last 200 years. As well as displaying rarely-seen archive material and photography, the exhibition will recreate some of the “lost historical places” of Westminster, such as “the Ventilator”, a loft space above the House of Commons chamber where women (who were banned from public galleries) listened to parliamentary debates. It will also tell the stories of individuals such as Nancy Astor and Baroness Wootton of Abinger, the first women to sit in the Commons and the Lords respectively.
• Admission free, parliament.uk/vote100
The Pankhurst Centre
The Pankhurst Centre in Manchester, the family home of Emmeline Pankhurst and birthplace of the Suffragette movement. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian
The UK suffragette movement was born in Manchester in October 1903, when Emmeline Pankhurst held the first meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union in her home at 62 Nelson Street. Today, the house is the Pankhurst Centre, a modest museum that keeps the history of the Pankhurst family alive. It’s a low-key affair, given that Pankhurst was voted the greatest northerner in history in a recent poll, but supporters have been petitioning for a more fitting tribute to the equality campaigner. In 2019, they will get their wish when a statue of Pankhurst is unveiled in Manchester city centre.
The centre will be putting on creative workshops and events to mark the centenary of the Representation of the People Act. In addition, there will be a show garden for this year’s RHS Tatton Park Flower Show (18-22 July), with flowers in the purple, white and green colours of the suffragette movement. In September, as part of the annual Heritage Open Days festival (6-9 and 13-16 September), the centre will put on a series of events that celebrate inspirational women. Details have yet to be confirmed but previous years have seen a theatrical re-enactment of one of Emily Wilding Davison’s speeches and clay sculpture workshops for children to design their own statues.
• Open Thursdays from 10am-4pm and on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month, 1pm-4pm. Admission is free, thepankhurstcentre.org.uk
Wonder Women 2018
A scene from the movie Suffragette, which is being screened at the Whitworth Art Gallery in March. Photograph: Steffan Hill
The fifth edition of Manchester’s feminist festival will be the biggest and boldest yet, with a programme of exhibitions, tours, debates, performances and screenings at museums and galleries across the city. Events start on 1 March at the Manchester Art Gallery with a “feminist takeover” featuring “artist interventions, performances and activities” inspired by the radical Manchester-born artist and feminist campaigner Annie Swynnerton, whose vivid canvasses of women of all ages and social backgrounds will be on display as part of a retrospective of her work (23 February-6 January 2019, admission free).
Other highlights include She Bangs The Drums at the Museum of Science and Industry (8-11 March, tickets £7-£13), a theatre performance that captures the voices and stories of the women who helped to shape British democracy. There will also be a charity screening of the film Suffragette at the Whitworth Art Gallery (8 March, tickets from £21.55).
• Details and bookings for all events, creativetourist.com
Represent! Voices 100 Years On
People’s History Museum
2 June 2018-3 February 2019
The People’s History Museum in front of Manchester Civil Justice Centre on Bridge Street in Manchester. Photograph: Alamy
This museum is dedicated to the history of British democracy, so where better to head for an insight into the fight for equality? As well as organising the Wonder Women festival, the museum will be putting on its own programme of events exploring the theme of representation. The Represent! exhibition will display historic artefacts, such as a 1908 Manchester suffragette banner, sashes, brooches and cartoons, alongside contemporary campaign material, including placards from the 2017 Manchester Women’s March and creative responses from local community groups such as Safety4Sisters and the Proud Trust.
• Admission is free, phm.org.uk
A Woman’s Place
Abbey House Museum
Runs until 31 December
The struggle for equality and the progress made between 1860 and the present day will be explored through the stories and objects of pioneering women, including Leeds-based suffragette Leonora Cohen and Olympic boxing gold medallist Nicola Adams. The exhibition also looks at how daily life has changed for women.
Deeds Not Words Lantern Parade
Berkeley Square to City Hall
Lanterns to be used in the Bristol parade. Photograph: Evoke Pictures
In the early 20th century, Bristol had one of the highest levels of suffrage activity outside of London. The city will celebrate this history of activism by hosting a number of events around the theme of equality: the most high profile of which will be a lantern parade on 6 February, organised by Bristol Women’s Voice. Starting at Berkeley Square at 6pm, the evening procession will pass the Wills Memorial Building tower – which will be lit up in purple, white and green – and move along Park Street, finishing at City Hall, where marchers will be greeted by the mayor and entertained by a girls’ choir singing March of the Women. Visitors can help make suffragette puppets and lanterns for the parade (while learning about the suffrage movement from a historian) at a free workshop being held at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery (4 February, admission free).
Votes for Women
Votes for Women will be the theme of a full day of talks, walks, tours and workshops being put on by M Shed, an innovative museum housed in a former transit shed on Bristol’s dockside. Highlights of the programme will include a women’s suffrage walk led by Lucienne Boyce, author of The Bristol Suffragettes; a screening of the film Make More Noise! Suffragettes in Silent Film; a performance of the play How the Vote was Won, which was written by Cicely Hamilton in 1909; a replica voting booth where you can hear the stories of local pioneering women; and craft workshops for children.
• Admission is free, bristolmuseums.org.uk
A Vote of Her Own – 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage
Performers from the 17|25 Young Company rehearsing the promenade production On The March. Photograph: Geraint Lewis
A year-long festival of events celebrating women’s voices and stories is being planned by Oxford Playhouse. Headlining the programme is On The March, a promenade performance in Oxford Town Hall by the 17|25 Young Company, which looks at the fights for women’s rights (20-21 March, tickets from £10). Other highlights include a talk from the broadcaster Jenni Murray on A History of Britain in 21 Women (5 March, tickets £17) and An Audience with Shirley Williams, discussing her life in politics (8 March, tickets £17).
Women and Power
Selected National Trust properties
Portrait of Emily Massingberd at Gunby Hall, Lincolnshire. Photograph: John McLean/National Trust Images
The National Trust will be putting on talks, tours and exhibitions at properties that have connections to women who influenced the suffrage movement. Among the properties being showcased are Cliveden in Berkshire, where the first female MP to take her seat, Nancy Astor, lived, and Bodnant House in Conwy, former home of Laura McLaren, founder of the Liberal Women’s Suffrage Union. At Gunby Hall in Lincolnshire families can meet costumed actors dressed as suffragettes and watch re-enactments on two Vote for Emily! days, which celebrate the former lady of the house, women’s rights campaigner Emily Massingberd (6-7 May, admission £8.10 adults, £4.05 children), and at Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton, children can create their own rosettes during half-term craft workshops (21-23 February, workshop free, admission £11.35 adults, £5.60 children).
Knole House, Sevenoaks, Kent. Photograph: Tony Watson/Alamy
And at Knole House in Sevenoaks, Kent, A Woman’s Place (17 May-4 November) will see Turner Prize-winner Lubaina Himid and five other artists – CJ Mahony, Emily Speed, Lindsay Seers, Melanie Wilson and Alice May Williams – bring to life (using mixed-media) stories of the women of Knole House from Vita Sackville-West to a little-documented laundress called Grace Robinson, exploring themes of love, betrayal, class, gender and inheritance.
Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London
The Manchester suffragette banner that was recently acquired as part of the People’s History Museum collection. The 14-18 NOW organisation are encouraging women to make their own new banners for processions on 10 June
Women across the country are being invited to take part in a mass participation artwork to celebrate 100 years of votes for women. Processions is a new project from heritage organisation 14-18 NOW and public art specialists Artichoke, and will encourage women to march in four coordinated parades dressed in green, white or purple on 10 June in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London. In the lead up to the processions, 100 female artists are being commissioned to work with organisations and communities across the UK to create 100 centenary banners. This will be as part of a public programme of creative text and textile workshops that echo the artistic practices of the suffrage campaign. Dates and details of banner-making workshops will be released soon on the Processions website.