Written by Volunteer, Carrie Long
C21st Suffragists: Time Travelling Feminists
“Well done Sister Suffragette! … We’re clearly soldiers in petticoats” was the uplifting tune that rang out as I entered London Transport Museum for its Late Debate: Women of the Future, celebrating the centenary of (some) British women gaining suffrage.
The Museum after dark offered a unique experience, with historic London buses and trains, once driven by a predominantly masculine workforce, now providing a striking backdrop to an empowering exchange of innovative women.
London Transport Museum’s focus on ‘Women of the Future’ made it stand apart from other centenary events. Historically embedded in the impact that the emergence of public transport had on women’s emancipation, the museum turned our attention to the present and the future, with informative topical discussions, combined with fun creative workshops and the chance to network with modern day feminists. The event transported me on a journey through time, bridging the history of women’s suffrage with today’s continued campaign for equality.
First Stop: 1890
My journey of discovery started with Victorian women inventors and their extraordinary cyclewear. As well as giving guests the chance to try on outfits, Kat Jungnickel’s research project – Bikes and Bloomers – insightfully and playfully highlighted the important role women played, not only as feminist campaigners, but as Victorian engineers, designers and radical feminist inventors.
Next Stop: 1918
More untold stories from feminist history were revealed in a series of PechaKucha talks, celebrating the achievements of women from Millicent Fawcett to the all-female builders of Waterloo Bridge. I was reminded how important it is to look beneath the surface, especially as I found out that statues memorialising women make up only 2% of monuments in London.
Next Stop: 1968
Inspired by a legendary protest by nearly four hundred second-wave feminists in 1968, some allegedly burning their bras, London Transport Museum invited visitors to write their feminist fury on paper pants and bloomers, in a workshop run by feminist campaigner and underwear designer Rachel Kenyon.
To the Future:
Modern day feminist, founder of the Women’s Equality Party and author Catherine Mayer, dressed in a space outfit to present her vision of future called ‘Equalia’ – an alternative world in which men and women have achieved full equality. Meanwhile, an expert-packed panel discussed how to achieve this future. With a definite focus on the transport industry, they still touched on a lot of the same themes, such as the need for equal parental care. Less pressure on men to ‘wear the trousers’!
A commitment for the future…
Having travelled and considered many costume changes through time, I know that the mission for equality is far from over. But having been surrounded by a community of inspiring women and men fighting for equality at this event, I am committed to keeping the conversation going, challenging gender stereotypes and facing obstacles with innovative ideas. I hope you’ll join me sister (and brother) suffragette?