Struggle for Suffrage: Workhouse Women and the Vote

Table display showing anti suffrage caricature images

In 2018 the National Trust is celebrating Women and Power to mark 100 years since women were granted the right to vote. We’ll be shining a light on local women’s histories connected to The Workhouse; those who were involved in the suffragist movement, the women who could vote in 1918 and those who were still excluded. We have a range of activities scheduled to commemorate this time in history.

The Workhouse women’s research group has investigated the social, political and cultural experience of women in the local area of Southwell and Newark during the suffrage years. They have uncovered fascinating evidence about the range of women who were included on the local electoral roll. This includes working women such as laundresses, nurses, matrons and owners of businesses, who worked at or supplied The Workhouse.

Evocative textile work from Second Turning exhibition
Textile bonnet with Struggle for Suffrage comments
Evocative textile work from Second Turning exhibition

See below for a full programme of events running from 8 March to 30 October 2018.

8 March – 30 October 2018: Second Turning textile exhibition 

Community textile group Second Turning and Workhouse Volunteers have created a stunning textile response to the stories of women who lived and worked at The Workhouse and to the Suffragettes 1918 Votes for Women.

The exhibition will be in all areas of the house and will begin our conversation with visitors about the struggle for suffrage and workhouse women and the vote.

29 April – 22 July 2018: Faces of Change: Votes for Women  

The Workhouse is working in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery to present an exhibition of photographs and paintings. This exhibition celebrates key figures in the national campaign for women’s suffrage.  Over 35 photographs, prints, drawings and paintings from the Gallery’s collection will be displayed along with items from The Workhouse’s own collections and archives to bring portraiture and place together.

16 May – 30 September 2018: Working Workhouse Women 1918

South Essex College of Further and Higher Education are producing an exhibition of traditional historical costumes. Based on research from The Workhouse, it will feature costumes from Lady Laura Ridding (the first female guardian of The Workhouse Southwell and a Founder member of the National Union of Women Workers) to nurses and teachers to paupers.

28 July – 11 August 2018: Poetry Festival

The Workhouse poetry festival this year will focus on war poetry from WW1 including poetry from men and women. There will be contemporary poetry from recent conflicts, to reflect upon. The work will be distributed around the house with the opportunity to write your own masterpiece. 

25-27 August 2018: The County Show 

The County Show re-enacts a typical rural show of 1918 in Southwell. The event is based on research from the Southwell Community Archaeology Group. Essentially Brass will be performing their WW1 piece ‘Letters From the Front’ which is a journey in music, letters and poems of the experience of an ordinary soldier.

Entertainment will include, clog dancers, music, food, traditional games, costumed characters, storytelling, craft stalls, an evening film event. 

" Struggle for Suffrage: Workhouse Women and the Vote, will offer opportunities for visitors to contribute in words, workshops, talks and staged debates through the range of events being hosted at The Workhouse. We will also ask other questions around contemporary issues such as; Who should be allowed to vote? Should voting be compulsory?"
- Jan Overfield-Shaw, Creative and Community Officer at The Workhouse