I run a project called Herstory, which uses feminist art to engage people of all genders with women’s history. About three years ago I was listening to an episode of Woman’s Hour that shared significant women from history. Whilst listening, I realised I had never felt the weight of the women who had come before me and who had made radical actions that enable me to live the life I do.
I started researching historical women in all areas of my life. The impact was profound, I felt bigger, taller, fuller just for knowing they were there, knowing they had had lived. I also felt utterly let down by my education, became acutely aware of the gaps, the spaces between the figures who’d dates I’d memorised and whose work I studied. I realised I had donned a beard multiple times for various curricular role play activities, yet I had never seen a boy embody a woman and it not be a joke. I realised history is basically what one person witnesses, writes down which then slips into our history books and becomes fact. The person doing this seeing and writing has usually been a white, straight, cisgender man.
I started running Herstory workshops, in schools, galleries, universities, churches and bars across the UK. In each workshop, participants are invited to take their seats at my recreation of Judy Chicago’s canonical feminist artwork ‘The Dinner Party’. Each guest is given all they need to become one of the Herstory Sheros and spend the session journeying through herstory, celebrating women and achievements that have been systemically left out. The sessions aim to disrupt the way that history is conventionally shared, and who does that sharing. We populate the ‘Dinner Party’ together, inflecting our own lives into the lives of the women whose stories have been overlooked.
It has been a privilege, on the invitation of the Welsh Women’s Equality Network to focus my attention on women of welsh history, to read the letters and diaries of those women who have safe guarded welsh culture, changed the way the world works, been brave, courageous and ultimately challenged the way that women were perceived. My research has led me to the first woman tattoo artist in Britain, Jessie Knight, who was born in Cardiff, to Kathleen Thomas who was the first person to swim the Bristol Channel, and the Cocklers of Swansea, the group of women who walked for miles barefoot to undertake backbreaking work collecting cockles to sell at the market and provide for their families.
Please join the Herstory workshop on the 12th March to uncover these stories, celebrate these lives and champion women’s history! People of all genders are welcome. Find out more on Instagram and Twitter @herstory_uk