Wightwick Manor: Art and Activism

Painting depicting Romeo leaning over Juliet, who is lying on a table.

To celebrate the many women (and a few men) who worked for gender equality through their artistic and activist endeavours and found a haven at Wightwick Manor, in 2018 we hosted a year-long programme for you to discover more about their lives.

Art and Activism - Part of the Women and Power programme 

From the 1870s the Mander family were vocal supporters of women’s suffrage; held Suffragist meetings at Wightwick Manor; fought in parliament for women’s rights, especially for female domestic servants; and collected the work of 11 professional female artists (more than any other National Trust property), after they gave the manor to the Trust, to publicly exhibit the talents of these women. 

In 2018, we told the stories of Florence Mander, Wolverhampton Women’s Suffragist Society supporter; Rosalie Mander, a writer, art collector and liberal candidate in 1930; Princess Sudhira Mander, who agitated for better Anglo-Indian relations and was associated (both pre-war and through Red Cross activism) with the Indian suffragette Princess Sophia Duleep Singh; Emma Smith, Wightwick’s housekeeper, who attended a lecture by activist Sarah Grand; and the professional Pre-Raphaelite artist, Lizzie Siddal. 

Our events in 2018 included:

'Beyond Ophelia' Exhibition: 1 March - 24 December 2018

Only the second solo exhibition of her artwork, this exhibition reinstates Lizzie Siddal as an important and influential artist and poet. 'Beyond Ophelia' examines Siddal's style; subject matter; depiction of women; her influence on other artists; and the prejudice she faced as a professional female artist in the patriarchal Victorian art world. Exhibition curated by Hannah Squire.

Suffragist Drawing Room Meeting & Art and Activism Leaflet Guide: 1 March - 24 December 2018

Discover how the Mander family supported Women's Suffrage and use our leaflet guide to find out about the powerful stories of some of Wightwick's women and men in this object based trail.

Specialist Talk: The Pre-Raphaelites, Sex, Drugs & Poetry: Friday 15 June 2018

A tongue-in-cheek evening tour with a definite adult slant led by the House and Collections Manager. The stories we've always wanted to tell about The Pre-Raphaelite Circle and their associates but didn't dare! Over 18's only. Booking Essential, £15 pp. See link for details.

Specialist Talk: Suffrage & Wolverhampton's Fight for Women's Equality in the early 20th Century: Friday 20 & Saturday 21 July 2018. 

A talk by art historian and Conservation Assistant, Hannah Squire, learn about the variety of deeds and words used by women in Wolverhampton to help further the cause of women's rights. Sit in the Drawing Room in the Manor, a location used historically by the Mander family to hold Suffragist meetings, as Hannah tells you about members of the local branch of the Women's Freedom League who campaigned as part of a national movement for women's suffrage. This will be followed by a short tour of the Manor, learning about the powerful women represented here at Wightwick. Booking Essential, £15 pp. See link for details.

Suffragette Reenactment - The trial of Emmeline Pankhurst: Various dates in August and September 2018.

Based on the words of Emmeline Pankhurst in her autobiography ‘Suffragette My Own Story’, this live, outdoor performance is written by Sam Kick and stars our wonderful volunteers. Performances at 11:30am and 2pm each day. No booking needed, free event (admission applies). Please note: In the event of rain, performance will take place in Manor at 12:30pm and 2pm. 

Suffragist Drawing Room Meeting & Art and Activism Leaflet Guide: 1 March - 24 December 2018

Specialist Talk: The Life & Works of Lizzie Siddal: Saturday 29 September 2018

 Join Helen, the House and Collections Manager for a relaxed talk followed by a walking tour of the collection. Booking Essential, £15 pp. See link for details.

'A Room of One's Own' - Artist in Residence exhibition: Launches Monday 1 October 2018 until early 2019.

Kate Charlesworth, illustrator, cartoonist and graphic novelist, will take up residence at Wightwick in May and will draw on Virginia Woolf’s essay, 'A Room of One's Own'. Inspired by Wightwick’s past, and continuing in the Mander family’s tradition of celebrating women and their artistic achievements, Charlesworth will create art in rooms where Suffragist debates were happening and surrounded by the work of women artists from over a century ago.

Kate describes herself as an “accidental social commentator and says, “I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to represent women - and other ‘minorities’ - in strong and positive lights and where appropriate, with humour.  For over forty years, I’ve drawn for feminist, LGBT and alternative publications, but the bulk of my commissioned work has appeared in mainstream media - which is where I've had the particular satisfaction of seeing hard-wired 'everyday feminism' in print.”​

You can find out more about Kate Charlesworth on her website: www.katecharlesworth.com