2011 Moving Lives

More Women's Projects

How do women archive, knowingly and unknowingly, their lives?

Inspired by the contents of Suffragette Emily Davison’s pocket, a group of women between 14 and 80 years excavated their diaries, photograph albums and keep-sake boxes. They rummaged around to find life-stories attached to gifts, souvenirs, travel tickets and items of clothing.

The group explored the library’s archive and also thought about how personal collections and archives can help us understand who we are.

Emily Wilding Davison died in 1913, when she fell under the King’s Horse at the Derby. While it is often commonly held that she threw herself under the horse, her pocket contents reveal a purse containing a return ticket for the same day. The group were able to see her purse and her ticket, to read the documentation surrounding her death and her arrest. They became vividly aware of the power of our belongings to hold a narrative, a scrap of our lives, but also to remain intriguingly mysterious.

I’ve changed my mind about modern art after this. It doesn’t have to be symmetrical. I look at it in a different light. Wonky wavy words looked nicer. I kept trying to put things in order.

Older participant

For the final showing of the project, the group created an installation of image and sound. Their own life stories were told through photographs, a baby blanket, a key ring, a shoe. A doll from one participant’s experience of evacuation met a toy from the tellytubbies. They created an interactive audio visual installation, and also invited the audienceto bring their own objects from home to share the story behind it. The showing ended with a tea party hosted by the group.

Students from Mulberry School for Girls
Local older women

Sue Mayo (creative writing)
Ellie Rees (visual artist/film)

The Women’s Library