Radicals in writing

One of our archive volunteers tells us a little more about what has been discovered in the collection over the last few months for the new Rooms Of Our Own project.

‘I have been archiving feminist magazines within the museum’s collection from 1980s and 1990s. It has been fascinating to dive into them and see the variety of content they cover.

There are hard-hitting political articles calling for an end to gender based violence, exploring queer liberation, critiquing exclusionary ideologies and expressing solidarity with Palestine. I recognise struggles still ongoing within the words on these pages. It’s frustrating that these fights have been happening for so long and still remain, but I also feel connected to their political struggles and inspired by their work. I was surprised and elated to see how deeply engrained queerness is throughout. Instead of stigma towards lesbians and queer women at the a time of intense societal homophobia of Section 28 and fearmongering surrounding the AIDS epidemic, these voices were at the forefront and celebrated. These magazines are examples of truly radical feminism centred around the liberation of all.   

Pet's corner, joke pamphlet, feministThese magazines contain far more than political articles. There is also art, poetry, jokes, and my personal favourite: pet’s corner. Light hearted anecdotes and serious discussions, high brow art reviews to comical sketches; they encapsulate the multifaceted nature of feminism and the women behind it. They were also an opportunity for women to have a voice on important issues by writing letters to be published raising the issues that mattered to them.

What's on Manchester listings

Another element of the magazines that interests me is the listings of events happening in Manchester. There are support groups, art classes, social events, political meetings and so much more. A double page spread showcasing a strong network of support and care across Manchester, with many events taking place at The Pankhurst Centre itself, and catered towards marginalised women. This is the kind of work that still takes place here at the centre through Manchester Women’s Aid. Much of the events advertised are outwardly lesbian or queer and it is incredible to see the type of things I would go to today happening 20 and 30 years ago, reminding me of Manchester’s rich queer history. 

Zine, pamphlet, feminist, lesbian, rights

For me, these works from grassroot organisations of radical feminists perfectly embody the spirit of The Pankhurst Centre. From the very first meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union that took place within these walls, to the women who relentlessly campaigned to save the building from demolition in the 1970s, the important work carried out by the centre today supporting vulnerable women across Manchester and telling the story of a key historical period for women’s rights, and hopefully beyond into the future.’ 

Finds from the archive

A hand holds up a slide of a photograph featuring a group of women in hard hats.

We are so excited to be able to update on our new project Rooms Of Our Own, a hidden ‘herstory’ of the Pankhurst Centre. Discover the restoration of the historic site, now grade 2 listed with a history of activism, dereliction and a space for Women’s rights, it’s a space to share ideas, stories and memories of a place once almost lost and forgotten.   

Our Volunteers have been working hard behind the scenes to catalogue and digitise all of the wonderful archival material surrounding the Pankhurst building renovations in the 1970s and 80s. Finding unique, interesting and political mementos from the past’s history and how these can be used and developed for exciting future projects. 

Heritage Archivist for Rooms of Our Own, Heather Robert says:

 “Every box has been initially assessed and volunteers are chomping through magazines, zines, newsletters, photographs, books and other resources, getting them in order and catalogued. The Project Archivist is scouring through The Pankhurst Centre’s own archive of minutes, projects and restoration papers, untangling the valuable evidence of the centre’s journey.”

Original photographic slides, images, pamphlets and much more are currently being sorted and catalogued as part of the project, developing a timeline of activity from the Pankhursts’ house regeneration. 

One of the most interesting pieces from the archive appears to be the visual story of the beginning of the campaign to the building work and all of those involved from in and around Manchester. Like this photographic slide seen in the image below: 

A hand holds up a slide of a photograph featuring a group of women in hard hats.

Image Description: A slide from the archive featuring the Restoration Team at the Pankhurst Trust.

Also look at this original draft for a ‘Friends of the Pankhurst centre’ newsletter. It even has sellotape on it from the days before photoshop where a newsletter would be constructed and then photocopied and mailed out. 

A photograph of the friends of Pankhurst trust newsletter on a table.

Image Description: The Friends of the Pankhurst Centre newsletter from the Pankhurst Trust archive.

The newsletter says: 

Building work on No 60 and 62 Nelson Street is now entering its final stages. Wallpaper and paint will soon begin to give the two houses a finished ‘feel’ and the Pankhurst centre will be OPENED in October! 

A series of events are planned over the weekend of the 10th – 11th October 1987 (Which is the 84th anniversary of the founding of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the house).

We are really excited to continue sharing this journey of the Pankhurst centre and Trust in a time where change and campaign needs to be at the forefront. 

Rooms of Our Own

Redevelopment of the Pankhurst Centre during the 1980s

Revealing the hidden ‘herstory’ of the Pankhurst Centre
Our work to conserve, restore and transform the Pankhurst Centre is one of the key visions of the Pankhurst Trust. This much-loved building has a special place in the hearts of so many, so you might be surprised to discover than in the 1970s and 1980s it faced a battle for survival.

On the brink of demolition it was thanks to the spirit and determination of campaigners that the birthplace of the suffragette movement was saved and the quest to transform it into a museum and feminist hub began.

This chapter of history has largely gone unexplored until now, but thanks to the support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund we are revealing ‘herstory’ in a project called Rooms of Our Own.

We’re connecting young people with the activism of the past, capturing the memories of those involved in saving the Pankhurst Centre, and ensuring that the Pankhurst Centre archive reflects the fullness of this chapter of history. And we’ll use the results to inspire the new and original creative responses.

To find out more and how you can be involved email charlie@manchesterhistories.co.uk

Redevelopment of the Pankhurst Centre during the 1980s

We’re finally back!

We have really been missing all our visitors and are thoughts have been with you all during what has been, and continues to be, a very difficult year.  Our doors have been closed since the first lockdown in March, but now that our tiny team is back at work we wanted share an update on our situation and some news to look forward to in 2021!

Although the Pankhurst Centre is closed to visitors at the moment,  we are busy working on a project that will transform your future visit.  This means that, following Covid lockdowns and the work that we need to carry out, it will be summer 2021 when we reopen.

A new permanent exhibition At Home with the Pankhurst Family will explore the lives of the radical family that once lived at 62 Nelson Street, and transform the experience of visiting the Pankhurst Centre.  Funded by AIM Biffa Award, as part of the Landfill Communities Fund, we hope that the stories shared will be inspiring and empowering to a new generation of activists and change makers.

We are also delighted to have been awarded funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to support the development of the Pankhurst Centre archive.  Rooms of Our Own: A Herstory of the Pankhurst Centre will seek to make our important archive of feminist material accessible and focuses on the period from 1974, when the campaign to save Emmeline Pankhurst’s former home from destruction began, to 2014.

As a small team we are incredibly grateful that during this vulnerable time for cultural organisations that The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Emergency Fund has contributed towards our immediate costs over the next four months.  This will help us to keep on with development work necessary to make these new projects happen and for our small team to continue to work remotely.

We hope that this is the beginning of the future that we know the Pankhurst Centre deserves, one in which the birthplace of the suffragette movement is properly conserved and restored, and is able to welcome visitors from across the world.  Thanks to our funding partners we are taking an important step forward in achieving this long-term future vision and thanks to emergency funding our survival over the next few months has also been assured.

It’s great to have positive news to share, but our fundraising quest continues.  You can help by becoming a Friend of the Pankhurst Centre or making a donation to the Pankhurst Centre.  

We will be sharing updates on all our activities on our social media channels and through our email newsletter, which you can subscribe to by scrolling to the bottom of our webpage.