The Pankhurst Centre and Manchester City Council are set to create a living legacy for the women of Manchester that gathers their words, memories and experiences for all to share.
The Women's Words project will be inviting women with any link to the city - whether through birth, work or home - to submit their written stories about living and working in Manchester, of up to 1,000 words.
The project launched on Thursday 24 August, and submissions can be sent until Friday 24 November. Stories, poems, memories, thoughts will then be archived at Manchester Central Library.
All contributions from women aged 16 years and over from all backgrounds – whether stories, poems, memories, lists, or reflections – are welcome, as long as they are in the author’s own words.
Women’s Words will be artist-led, with participants given the chance to explore traditional ‘making’ practices such as textiles, letterpress and cyanotype.
There will also be oral and collaborative storytelling sessions and an opportunity for those who feel they cannot write well in English to have their stories retold and written down by someone else.
A selection of the pieces submitted will feature in a reimagination of the original The Suffragette magazine, produced by the Women’s Social and Political Union to support their campaign. This will be a beautiful, handcrafted limited edition art piece that will be edited and curated by artist Lucy May Schofield. Copies will be available to buy from Central Library and local Manchester Libraries and the Pankhurst Centre Museum, with an e-book version made available through Manchester Libraries’ BorrowBox service.
Supported by Arts Council England, the project will commemorate the 2018 Centenary of the Vote for Women by asking Manchester’s women to make their voices heard and for their stories to become a 21st century narrative of those connected to the city.
Women’s Words 2018 will embrace the powerful force that saw Manchester’s most radical daughters turn their home into suffragette city and use this to inspire and encourage women of today.
Although they marched to the call of Deeds not Words, the legacy of the suffragettes' campaign is one full of inspiring and emotive words that drew people to their vision for equality then and now.
Gail Heath, Chief Executive of The Pankhurst Trust (Incorporating Manchester Women’s Aid), says, “The women of Manchester have always had a compelling and thought-provoking story to tell. Through this project we are bridging the worlds of the those who fought to be heard over 100 years ago and the lives of women today who we want to use their voices to tell and share their stories.
"In doing so we’ll be reaching out to all women in all situations; actively encouraging those experiencing domestic violence, abuse, homelessness and asylum, arguably the voiceless in 21st century Britain. This an ongoing story, and we hope to capture a contemporary reflection of women’s lives in current times.”
Councillor Sarah Judge, Lead Member for Women at Manchester City Council, said: “The Women's Words project will support and encourage Manchester women to develop essential skills and the confidence to share their experiences of life in our city.
"Historically, women's writing has not always had the attention it deserved. This new archive will help us to preserve, celebrate and learn from the fascinating stories that Manchester's amazing women have to tell.”
The project will culminate with two public events, an exhibition and a gala event on 5 February at Manchester’s Central Library.
For further details, go to www.womenswordsmcr.com.