In 2012 Nicola Gauld began work on a project called Fight for the Right: the Birmingham Suffragettes. Along with colleagues from Birmingham Archives & Heritage, she worked with girls from two local schools to explore the suffrage campaign in the city during the early 20th century. The aim of the project was to encourage the girls to think about the importance of voting but also about how women from the past had campaigned for their rights. 

One of the major incidents of the militant suffrage campaign was the slashing of a painting in the city’s art gallery by a local woman named Bertha Ryland that occurred in 1914.  Since the project ended Nicola has continued to research the Birmingham suffrage campaign leading to an inevitable feeling of having bonded with these women activists from the past, through exploring their words and actions. What was it that provoked Bertha on 9 June 1914 to carry out such a dramatic act of vandalism? What were the consequences of her actions? And could we carry out a similar act if we were denied our rights?

In this session Nicola will explore the Women Protest Power exhibition from a historical perspective, seeking links with the past in the contemporary works on display, finding commonalities between women through the ages, and considering how far we might go to protest for things that we care about.