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

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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


Today, 6 February 2018, marks 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 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.

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

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, a 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. On 3 -4 February, from 12:40 – 4pm, Votes for Women Weekend has wall to wall activities planned for an immersive experience of this thrilling history. Especially for children ages 10 and up, this weekend’s festivities are a family-friendly opportunity to see if you have what it takes to be a suffragette and include:

Suffragette rally
12.40pm & 3.40pm
Fancy yourself as a Suffragette? This participatory performance invites you to come to a recreated Suffragette rally before going on a journey through time, right up to the present day.

Suffragette surveillance
11am – 4pm
Become a member of the early 20th century police, learn about how surveillance photography was used to spy on the Suffragettes and set off to capture your own images of illegal Suffragette activities in the galleries.

Suffragette games
11am – 12.30pm & 1.30-4pm
Step back in time to an Edwardian living room and take part in a large, interactive version of Pank-a-squith, a special board game invented by the Suffragettes.

Find out more at

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.

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.
1 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.

A full list of all venues participating will be announced at the launch of the 100 YEARS ON at the House of Lords on 1st March.

Making Her Mark: 110 Years of Activism.
Until 19 March

From a 1900s Humble Petition for women’s right to vote in parliamentary elections, to the story of an undercover journalist who disguised herself as a flower seller in order to discover the working conditions of women and children, the exhibition offers a look at the sparks that ignited an ongoing movement. Those who attend will have the chance to more fully understand how political campaigns, industrial action, peaceful protest, direct action and the arts were means by which the suffragettes affected change.

In partnership with the East End Women’s Museum, the Hackney Museum exhibition tells the stories of women in the area who, throughout the last century, have made a difference in education, workers’ rights, healthcare, domestic violence, the peace movement, police relations and more.

Visit for details.

TALK: Night at The Monument with Suffragette Descendent

The Monument

Museum of London

Suffragette descendant and leading women’s rights campaigner Dr Helen Pankhurst will engage in conversation with London historian Dr Matthew Green on 8 February at The Monument. The event will begin in the piazza and culminate on top of The Monument, designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1671-1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London. The 202ft high, 202ft tall edifice stands where the fire started in Pudding Lane. Not to mention, its the same location where, in 1913, two suffragettes affixed the Women’s Social and Political Union flag, a banner reading ‘Death or Victory’, and of course, released hundreds of pamphlets to the crowds in the piazza below.

Tickets? £20 per person bookable at
Where? The Monument, Fish St Hill, London EC3R 8AH
When? 8 February, Begins 7pm for 7.15pm start. The event lasts approximately 1 hour.

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

Getty Images Exhibits Photos of Women, By Women

the female gaze

Subject, Object, Creator: The Female Gaze presents a selection of seventy photographs of women (and two gender-bending men) this February.

To honour the female voice and its refusal to allow restrictive terms of representation, Getty Images has both sought out new talent and partnered with organisations such as, Refinery 29, and Muslim Girl to open up the scope of stories told through pictures.

The exhibition runs from 5 February – 14 March and consists of a range of styles including composites, self-portraiture, documentary, studio-based portraiture and conceptual. The point of the photographs is not to present a direct opposite to the dominant, male gaze. The collection, rather, reveals an honest visual about modern womanhood.

Free admission, Getty Images Gallery, 46 Eastcastle St, London, W1W 8DX

ENTERTAINMENT: Women & the Hall at the Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall celebrates the centenary with a season of events this January to April, focused on the women who formed the iconic venue’s history and were instrumental in the fight for suffrage. It will also provide a platform for the women shaping the future of the hall and the nation, through talks, screenings and performances. From Late Night Jazz to The Guilty Feminist. 25 Jan – 26 April, find out more

Vote 100

DEBATE: Women of the future

London Transport Museum | Thursday 8 February 2018 | 18:45 to 22:00


As part of the Vote 100 programme, head to the London Transport Museum on 8 February to get involved in the festival event celebrating and championing women’s contribution to society over the last 100 years. The debate will centre on the progress being made toward equality in the 21st century. The Late Debate is part of London’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, marking 100 years since the first women in Britain were given the right to vote.

“One hundred years ago women campaigned and fought bravely against a system that denied them their fundamental democratic rights. A century later, women are leading at every level of society in London – in public service, the arts, politics, science and in business – and are inspiring Londoners across our city to fulfil their potential. So much has been achieved over the past 100 years but there is still a long way to go. I’m looking forward to joining the Late Debate to celebrate the successes of women from all walks of life, and to debate the progress we are making towards equality in the 21st century. Together with organisations and industries across the capital, we need to spread the message that Behind Every Great City are women of all backgrounds, contributing hugely to the success of our capital.” Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, Justine Simons

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: On The March

Tue 20 – Wed 21 Mar, Promenade, Oxford Town Hall

To mark the 100 years of suffrage centenary, Oxford Playhouse is hosting a year-long festival of events. They will be celebrating women’s voices and stories from the part, the present and future, with On The March, a presentation by the 17|25 company headlining the roster.

Of course, you could skip all this and tune into Channel 5’s Celebrity Big Brother, which to mark the centenary, launched with an all-female line-up. Ah, how far we’ve come. 

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


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