Women and Power at Hatchlands Park

Suffragettes dressed in whitte marching.

The long struggle for women’s suffrage and the debates it inspired across the homes, workplaces and communities in our country will be explored in 2018 as part of the National Trust’s commemoration to mark 100 years since the passing of the Representation of the People Act.

The 1918 Act granted some women the right to vote in British parliamentary elections for the first time. A century on, we’re launching Women and Power, a year-long national programme celebrating this historic milestone.

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

John Orna-Ornstein, Director of Curation and Experience for National Trust, said:
‘We are proud this year to be marking the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which first gave some women the vote. This puts us alongside Parliament, the BBC and many other cultural and heritage organisations who are marking this milestone for women’s suffrage. Our new research for this year revealed over 100 connections to the suffrage movement – and its opponents. We wanted to share these stories together for the first time.’

Elizabeth Montagu, by John Raphael Smith, after Sir Joshua Reynolds, published 10 April 1776
Elizabeth Montagu, by and published by John Raphael Smith, after Sir Joshua Reynolds mezzotint, published 10 April 1776
Elizabeth Montagu, by John Raphael Smith, after Sir Joshua Reynolds, published 10 April 1776

Events, exhibitions, on-site tours and creative commissions will take place at properties with links to both sides of the suffrage movement. The Trust has also invited a number of contemporary thinkers and artists to reflect on the significance of the centenary of women’s suffrage at places around the country. Our places will respond to the anniversary by giving greater prominence and depth to the stories and experiences of women from different periods of history.

Rachael Lennon, curator of the Women and Power programme, said:
‘Our programme will reveal some of the debates heard in the drawing rooms, kitchens and bedrooms of National Trust places as the country fought openly over whether a woman might have a voice in public life.

Women and Power will explore the complexity of the histories of power and gender and will give voice to the, sometimes hidden, lives and legacies of women who lived and worked across the special places now in the care of the National Trust.’

Frances Boscawen, by Allan Ramsay, 1747
Fanny Boscawen
Frances Boscawen, by Allan Ramsay, 1747

At Hatchlands Park, we're celebrating the life and achievements of Fanny Boscawen, the first ‘Lady of the House’. Fanny was a founding member of the Bluestocking Society, notable for giving women a public voice and cultural standing in a time where to be an educated woman was frowned upon. Throughout 2018 we’re embarking on a series of events, from cinema screenings to salon discussions, at the home of this pioneering woman.

Rachel Devine, House Steward at Hatchlands Park, has led this new research into Fanny Boscawen’s life and influence. She says: ‘Fanny Boscawen was a champion for the rights of women to have a cultural life, full of literature, art and dialogue – something which is close to our hearts. 

In the past, many of the contributions of women have been pushed to the edges of history or their stories overlooked altogether. We want to use this anniversary to redress the balance and to make sure the stories of women who contributed to the empowerment of others are given the prominence they deserve.’