Archive | March, 2012

Introducing the team: Anna Martin

27 Mar

Working by gender graph 2011At University I studied Media and Society, which led to an interest in museums, particularly exhibitions and interpretation.  Since graduating, I have worked as a Gallery Assistant at various museums and arts venues, and contributed to a number of exciting projects – in archiving, marketing, event coordination, artist and production assistance and installation.  I have sought opportunities relating to what excites me, and this led me to The Women’s Library, where I volunteered with the Audience Development team for about a year.  In May last year I was asked to assist Clare Rose, the All Work and Low Pay Exhibition Researcher, and it has been a fascinating journey.

The core of my work was to research statistics relating to the themes of the exhibition to compliment the timeline in the form of graphs and charts. Spanning over a century, the timeline documents the many significant political and social changes which frame the exhibition and provides an enlightening context to the incredible stories represented through the objects.

Rummaging through the collections at The Women’s Library and The TUC Library, Clare and I collected a huge amount of information on wage rates, hours of work, types of work, discrimination, childcare and career progression – relating to women of all ages, from many backgrounds and experiencing life from many different perspectives , from the 1800s to the present day.

Sifting through the figures, I pulled out the most interesting bits, converted a lot of shillings into the decimal system, and pieced the puzzles together in the best possible way to translate the information in the graphs that I was to create.  It was very important to us that through the graphics we could highlight the “wow” moments that we encountered during our research.Women as a proportion of executives- 1974- 2001

As a 25year old woman it was fascinating for me to delve into the way things have been historically but even more important to see, and show, how things have progressed.  I see the timeline and the statistics it carries as an extension of the exhibition that reaches into the future, representing the continuing and living importance of the themes of the exhibition.

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Introducing the team: Clare Rose

27 Mar
Clare Rose

Clare Rose, exhibition curator

Clare Rose was the Exhibition researcher for ‘All Work and Low Pay’, selecting key documents from The Women’s Library and the TUC Archive Collections to create the backbone of the exhibition. She also sourced artefacts and images to bring the narrative alive, finding them in museum collections and even in the local pub, and she wrote the exhibition texts. She has been working as a curator and researcher for over twenty years, specialising in textiles and in women’s history. In 2009 she was the Vera Douie Fellow at The Women’s Library, collecting interviews, photographs and surviving garments from 1970s feminists on ‘The Politics of Appearance’. This research formed part of the exhibition ‘MsUnderstood: Feminism Since 1970’ and  was featured in radio interviews and the national press,  including this article on the liberation look.

Clare Rose has also written several books and numerous articles on the history of fashion, including a set of volumes on ‘Clothing, Society and Culture’ (with Vivienne Richmond, 2005 Douie Fellow at TWL).

These highlight past issues surrounding clothing for women, both as producers and consumers. Many of these issues are highly relevant today; in 2010 she presented a text from 1910 at a meeting about garment workers organised by Fashioning an Ethical Industry. Her other specialism is the history of childhood, and she has written and lectured on this, including appearing in programs for Radio 4.

Clare Rose currently teaches for the Open University and the Victoria & Albert Museum; details of her activities are on her website,

Guest Post- Phoebe (aged 15)

21 Mar

I’m Phoebe, I work as a volunteer at the Women’s Library and I am writing about women across generations in my family.

Surprisingly, the things I want to do in my life are not very different to those that my grandmothers and great grandmother did. Although neither my paternal grandmother nor great grandmother have held down any real job, my great grandmother did go to university to study languages (French and Italian, at the Sorbonne and in Perugia) and I am also planning to do either French and Russian or History at university. My maternal grandmother worked as a nurse in an Australian boarding school, which, whilst it is something which I would definitely not consider as a career option, I do admire as she was a single mother.

I would love to have a career, perhaps as a journalist or a writer but I would also like to have children and raise a family, something all the women in my family have successfully done. My great grandmother brought her daughter up through the Second World War, and they had to flee from the Nazis in the south of France. My paternal grandmother managed to bring up five children in a single parent family and my maternal grandmother both held down a job as a nurse at the local boarding school and cared for four children. I would like to be as successful a mother as them, although I hope my parenting style will be much different. My great grandmother can remember leaving her daughter outside in the snow whilst she did her shopping, whilst my paternal grandmother swept the youngest children off to India, where they received minimal education.

Although the world of work has opened up considerably, for women of my grandparent’s generation the only careers available were nursing or teaching, there are still glass ceilings to be broken. There are very few female executives and jobs requiring strenuous activity, such as janitors, the army and sports teachers, are still mainly male dominated. There are also female dominated areas, such as receptionists, nursing and hair dressing. To create a truly equal society, these gender barriers and stereotypes must be overcome.

Visitor Views March

14 Mar

Some women have written, in response to the exhibition, about encountering sexism in the workplace. Particularly shockingly, one visitor remembers that, when she was working as a designer, a client had told her ‘He didn’t talk to me. He preferred to speak with my mate because… “women should be at home just taking care of their children”‘. Another recalls her worst job as being a waitress, ‘men felt it was OK to constantly comment on my height and appearance as I was on “display”. I had to be polite back at all times. I was often spoken to like I was incredibly stupid; I was only doing the job to save up for my masters in economic growth at Cambridge University.’

There are also those remembering struggling to move up the career ladder. A social worker commented that ‘It was always men who moved up to senior management jobs… It is also still seen as “women’s work” and the increase in workload is very stressful- I can’t wait to retire!’. Due to the problems of maternity leave, women still find it difficult to get a successful career. Some describe the ideal work situation as ‘Not having to question when would be a good time in my career to have kids’. Some women have even had breakdowns due to the stress of working in male dominated career areas, although some have successfully moved on from this, such as one visitor who ‘was able to return to college- I graduated with an MA- in women’s studies!’

Many visitors remember the efforts of previous generations of women to go to work, ‘she was a machinist in a dressmaking factory… Physically tiring and then she had to come home and do housework with no domestic appliances’. Another remembers her great grandmother ‘had twelve children… and worked at a Candy Company, NECCO ‘. Jobs that were done by women then are still done today, as one woman wrote, ‘I am about to begin working in the same profession as my mother and grandmother. I am training to be a nurse!’