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A Woman’s Place: celebrating the lives of Leeds women in the centenary year of women’s suffrage

by Abbey Maclure

Local exhibitions are continuing to celebrate the lives of Leeds women as the centenary year of women’s suffrage comes to an end.

A Woman’s Place, at Abbey House Museum, Kirkstall, has been at the centre of the celebrations throughout the year.

The exhibition showcases stories and objects from pioneering women in different areas of life, from sport and politics to fashion and art.

Kitty Ross, curator of Leeds Social History for the city’s museums, hopes the exhibition has inspired women and girls and raised important issues.

She said: “We’re half the population so in a sense we should always be representing women’s lives, but this year in particular has been a year for celebrating.

“The exhibition looks at the very personal and domestic – up to women in power and in top professions.”

Items range from Nicola Adam’s boxing gloves to a 1920s photo of the Bramley Ladies’ Choir and are organised thematically – visitors can walk through changes to women’s health, women’s campaigns and women’s clothing.

Amanda Robinson, visitor assistant at the museum, said: “The exhibition has been very powerful for a lot of people.

“People can spend an awful long time here and the children are blown away by the clothing, the visual aspect makes it so exciting.”

Women in sport: items included Nicola Adam’s boxing vest and gloves.

Although the exhibition focuses on the lives of women, staff at Abbey House have also seen many positive engagements from men.

Kitty said: “At a community talk on the exhibition, I asked visitors where they thought a woman’s place was.

“A little old man put up his hand and said, ‘Where she wants to be!’. That’s exactly the message that this exhibition is about.”

Simeon Toll, 24, a caregiver, was visiting the exhibition with his elderly companion.

He said: “I loved the section on women in politics, although I expected the suffragette section to be a bit longer as it’s such an important issue.”

Kitty said the museum wanted to broaden the exhibition to tell a “wider story of women’s struggles for equality”, rather than narrowly focus on women’s suffrage.

On 25 October a study day on women’s lives will offer visitors the chance to look at items from the collection in more detail.

Nicola Pullan, assistant curator of Leeds Social History, is organising the event.

She said: “We will be using the day to look at how lives have changed for women in different areas such as work, education and domestic life.”

Although the study day has sold out, it will run again at Abbey House Museum on 14 March next year.

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