you’re reading

100 Years of Suffrage: What It Means to be a Woman in 2018

Culture /

100 Years of Suffrage: What It Means to be a Woman in 2018

What’s On? We preview what’s happening this year to mark 100 years since women were given the right to vote in Britain


The 6 February 2018 marked 100 years since the Representation of the People Act was passed in Britain, giving (some) women the right to vote. To mark the 100 Years of Suffrage centenary, a host of exhibitions and activities are happening across the country. Here, we round up the best, as well as introduce our editorial series to mark the occasion.

100 years of Suffrage: Suffragettes

100 Years of Suffrage; What It Means to Be a Woman in 2018

The Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed on 6 February 1918. This gave women over the age of 30 who met the specified property requirements the right to vote for the first time. (Women under 30, and who didn’t meet the criteria, had to wait another 10 years for the privilege.)

To mark the anniversary, we’ll be interviewing a series of women of note to find out ‘what it means to be a woman in 2018’ and explore how far women have come in the last 100 years, and how far we still have to go. If you would like to nominate a ‘woman of note’ to take part in this, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of this article.

Listen to our episode of the What’s On Podcast dedicated to 100 Years of Suffrage, below. (And subscribe to the What’s On podcast, here.)

What’s On by C&TH’s What It Means to Be a Woman in 2018 Interviews

The best current art exhibitions in London

What’s On? Vote 100

On Saturday 20 October, Hidden Voices: PROCESSIONS in the City will champion the voices of overlooked women from the Aldgate area over the past one hundred years, weaving together their diverse stories, ambitions and achievements into one immersive artwork. Aldgate has a rich legacy of impassioned, female-led social campaigning and reform, which Hidden Voices will uncover. Using both archival and contemporary audio recordings, Hidden Voices will chart how women have experienced, and contributed to, the transformation of the area, which was at various stages considered a hub of Jewish life, hotbed of suffragette activity and centre for street prostitution. The stories of past voices include Henrietta Barnett (1851 – 1936), a social reformer who sought to improve the area by establishing the Whitechapel Gallery and Toynbee Hall, built to provide educational & social spaces for East Londoners; Grace Roe (1885 – 1979), Christabel Pankhurst’s chief campaign organiser who evaded the authorities by adopting a chorus girl disguise; and Julie Begum, a British-Bengali activist Julie Begum who established Women Unite Against Racism to campaign against the British National Party.

‘City of Women’ Beibei

Historian, Victoria Horwell, and acclaimed audio composer, Iain Chambers, launch ‘City of Women’, a new composition celebrating the achievements of women across the centuries. Performances of the work will take place at Leadenhall Market during Open House Weekend on 22 and 23 September. The free performances form part of the City of London Corporation’s ‘Women: Work and Power’, a season of 70 events across the City to celebrate ground-breaking achievements of women. Using songs, sounds and the words of women from history to modern times, the new composition pays tribute to those involved in the ongoing struggle for freedom and equality.

Black History Month Lecture

The courage and daring of the late black political activist Jessica Huntley is to be celebrated in a new London Metropolitan Archives lecture during Black History Month on 17 October. Entitled ‘Women of Courage and Daring’, the lecture takes place just a few days after the 5th anniversary of her death (13 October 2013) and explores extraordinary women from the archives. The lecture is part of the City of London Corporation’s ‘Women: Work and Power’ season of events celebrating women through history. 17, October 2018 14:00-15:00,

Yorkshire Sculpture Park: The Coffin Jump

Katrina Palmer, The Coffin Jump

Danny Lawson

Yorkshire Sculpture Park unveiled a new work on 18 June, by contemporary artist Katrina Palmer, which celebrates the role of women in the First World War as part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary. The work references the all-female First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY). Founded in 1907, Captain Edward Baker’s conception of the FANY was of women on horseback riding to the rescue of fallen men in the battlefield. In spite of the nurses’ courage, the British Army initially refused to be associated with the liberated women of the FANY. Palmer makes reference to their battle against prejudice through words on the artwork drawn from sources including the 1918 diaries of FANY member Muriel Thompson. The Coffin Jump will occasionally be activated by a horse and local rider who will gallop across the Park and make the jump: A symbol of independent mobility and action, capturing the emergence of female emancipation. For more information on the history of FANY, the organisation’s work today and the sculpture, visit

Short Course: Suffragettes and the V&AV&A Suffragette Short Course

Following the slashing of Velazquez’s ‘The Rokeby Venus’ at the National Gallery, in their bid to secure women the vote, the WSPU supposedly vowed ‘to continue outrages on galleries and museums until not a picture remained undamaged in London’. Book to join this course to uncover the suffragette plot to raid the V&A. The course will include behind the scenes visits to the archive to view newly rediscovered material such as scrapbooks, personal correspondence and photographs. Visiting the Print Room and National Art Library, you will also explore imagery of the campaign in the form of posters, propaganda and satirical cartoons. Additional consideration will be given to the significant and continued legacy on visual and material culture today. Tuesday 25 September 2018 – Tuesday 4 December 2018. 14.00 – 16.30. £472.00 for adults, bookable at

ART: The Foundling Museum 2018: marking 100 years of female suffrage

The Foundling Museum is hosting a year-long programme of exhibitions, displays and events to mark 100 Years of Suffrage. The programme will include a showcase of hidden items from the archive chosen by leading female figures in British society, a site-responsive commission by artist Jodie Carey that celebration of the women who played a vital role in the establishment and running of the Foundling Hospital and an exploration of female artists and makers represented in the Museum Collection.

Thomas Rowlandson, Vauxhall, 1785 © Gerald Coke Handel Collection

Thomas Rowlandson, Vauxhall, 1785 © Gerald Coke Handel Collection

First Amongst Equals
16 January onwards

‘Remarkable women who have shaped contemporary British society choose objects that speak to them from the Museum’s Collection. Spanning 300 years of social history, culture and philanthropy, selections will enable visitors to see the Collection from different perspectives, to make connections between the past and the present, and to reflect on women’s ongoing struggle for equality. Contributors, who have all achieved firsts within their respective fields, include Maria Balshaw (first female Director of Tate), Moira Cameron (first female ‘Beefeater’, Yeoman Warder of the Tower of London), Baroness Hale of Richmond (first female President of the Supreme Court), Francesca Hayward (first black female principal dancer at the Royal Ballet), Carris Jones (first female chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral), Joanne Moore (first female tailor to have a men’s tailoring business on Saville Row), and Frances O’Grady (first female General Secretary of the TUC).’ Find out more at

Votes for Women at the Museum of London
2 February 2018 – 6 January 2019

This new display features iconic objects that offer a chance to better understand the perseverance of well known, and lesser known suffragettes. As well as a film showing some of the figures who campaigned tirelessly to achieve votes for women, Emmeline Pankhurst’s hunger strike medal and Louise Mary Eates pendent, presented to her on her release from prison, will be on display.

Women and Power: The National Trust

Women and Power is the theme for the second year of the Trust’s ‘Challenging Histories’ programme to tie in with the anniversary. Their national public programme aims to share, celebrate and unpick some of the more complex or hidden histories relevant to National Trust places, in line with the theme.

Listen to our interview with Rachael Lennon, curator of the programme, below (part of our 100 years of suffrage podcast special.

A Woman’s Place
Until 4 November

A Woman’s Place is a new exhibition that looks at the life of a woman at Knole through creative intervention at the estate. You know those inheritance-gone-wrong stories? Here’s one for you. In 1928, the rules of inheritance and the familiar tradition of passing the house to a male heir prevented Vita Sackville-West, the only child off the 3rd Baron Sackville, from inheriting the royal residence. It had been home to the Sackville family for four centuries. Hers and other women’s stories at Knole are now being uncovered and examined by A Woman’s Place through the work of six contemporary artists, including the 2017 Turner Prize winner, Lubaina Himid. Read about A Woman’s Place in further detail.

Faces of Change: Votes for Women – National Trust/National Portrait Gallery partnership exhibition

The Workhouse, Nottinghamshire, April – July 2018
Killerton, Devon, August – November 2018
Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland, November 2018 – February 2019

As part of the National Trust’s partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, Montacute and Beningbrough will both open new displays as part of the Women and Power season this year. This year also sees the development of this partnership with a touring exhibition to three further properties as part of the women’s suffrage anniversary.

Expect to see photographs, prints, drawings and paintings from the Gallery’s collection alongside some of each of the properties’ own collection items which bring portraiture and places together. The touring display presents an overview of the campaign for Votes for Women from the late 19th century until 1918.  Alongside portraits of key figures there will be special objects including surveillance photographs of militant suffragettes, issued to the National Portrait Gallery by Scotland Yard during the height of militant violence.

See more of the Trust’s plans for the year at  

100 Years On: An Art Trial by Women in Prison
From 8 March

The Koestler Trust are producing an art trial of 100 framed painting, drawings, sculptures and poems by women in prison which will be filling several important London venues and public buildings throughout the UK this year. The events will be supported by Barrow Cadbury Trust in celebration of the life and work of Helen Cadbury, a champion of women prisoners, who passed away in June 2017.

ART: Art on the Underground

London Underground

There is to be a year-long exhibition on the London Underground to mark 100 Years of Suffrage, with an all-female artist line-up for the Transport for London public art programme for 2018.

Artists involved include British artist Heather Phillipson, who will fill the 80 metre disused platform at Gloucester Road with a ‘sculptural intervention’. Nigerian-born artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Romanian artist Geta Brătescu and French artist Marie Jacotey are also involved. British artist, musician and punk icon Linder is creating a piece for Southwark station.

“The spaces of our cities are not neutral, and neither is space afforded to public art. Wider social inequalities are played out in the structures of urban life. Through 2018, Art on the Underground will use its series of commissions to reframe public space, to allow artists’ voices of diverse backgrounds and generations to underline the message that there is no single women’s voice in art – there are however many urgent voices that can challenge the city’s structures of male power.” – Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground

What’s on this week in the town? And in the country? Check out our culture diaries before you fill in yours. 

EXHIBITION: Voice & Vote: Women’s Place in Parliament

27 June – 6 October 2018, Westminster Hall

Free of charge

Featuring a host of interactive features, this exhibition will cover the campaign for votes for women and the history of representation of women in the House of Commons and the House of Lords over the last 200 years. The show will include rare and previously unseen objects, pictures and archives, and will include immersive and interactive technologies.

THEATRE: Rhondda Rips It Up!

7 June – 20 November, British cities

Featuring an all-female cast and creative team, Welsh National Opera presents a new production Rhondda Rips It Up! The show follows the story of suffragette Margaret Haig Thomas. Performed in a classic music hall style, original songs featuring suffragette slogans and tongue-in-cheek lyrics comprise the narrative of Thomas’ campaign for equal rights. The show is composed by Elena Langer with a libretto by Emma Jenkins. Director Caroline Clegg will lead the production with Music Director Nicola Rose. Find out more at

Looking for more things to do in London and beyond? Check out our culture section here


Sign up to our Newsletter