Celebrate Women's History Month by filling the gaps in our collection and placing women back in the narrative. Alice Wroe from Herstory tells us more.
For me practicing women’s history is a political act. It is a way I ‘do’ my feminism and build the present world into one I want to live in. When thinking about women’s history recognising absence is as important as focusing on presence. This is vital to remember when visiting the Maritime Museum, just because women aren’t particularly present in the collection, doesn’t mean they aren’t an interesting and important part of the story.
Celebrating women’s history is vital for people of all ages and genders. If we can’t see it, how can we be it? I run a project called Herstory, which uses feminist art to engage people of all genders with women’s history. I started the project after realising the profound impact engaging with a history that has been systematically left out can have on a person. As a child I regularly donned beards for world book day, consistently played male roles in drama, yet the only time I ever saw a male peer take on the role of a woman, it was for a joke, a prank on red nose day, or a gag at the end of a play. Looking back, I wonder what impact this had on all of us, what this says to young people about what it means to be a woman.
I’ve spent some time looking at the Maritime Museum collection and thinking about maritime history in general, looking carefully into the gaps, and carving spaces between the medals and model ships, thinking about the unspoken contributions that slip invisibly between the items on display, the women who were, but aren’t there.
I am delighted to share some of these stories with you on the 11th March, as part of the Women Making Waves festival. I will be giving out Herstory packs that celebrate the women maritime history has overlooked. My hope is that the zines you are gifted will cause rupture in the collection. That as you stroll through the space you will get to know about about Phyllis Wheatley, the Cocklers of Swansea and The Women of the Windrush Generation. In this way the narrative will get bigger and better, more interesting and inclusive. It is my hope that each person I meet on the 11th March who takes a Herstory zine will hold the story of that woman, or group of women in their minds and share it with others, so that their stories permeate the building and beyond.
Women Making Waves, 11 March
Discover the stories of incredible women who made waves, some of whom you’ve probably never heard of!