Press release: New women’s museum finds home in Barking and Dagenham

A new museum of women’s history is set to open in a permanent home as part of the new Barking Wharf development at the end of 2019.

The East End Women’s Museum was established in 2015 in response to the Ripper Museum which opened on Cable Street, but has since operated without a building, organising events, workshops, and pop up exhibitions with local partners.

As well as highlighting pioneering women with links to east London such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Sylvia Pankhurst, Mala Sen, Annie Brewster, Mary Driscoll, and Hannah Billig, the new museum will explore everyday local history from women’s perspectives. The museum aims to challenge gender stereotypes and offer new local role models for girls and young women, creating a resource for schools, community groups, and historians.

The venue for the museum has been made available through the support of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and housing developer Be Living. The East End Women’s Museum will work with experienced local partner Eastside Community Heritage to open the museum in the new space and local women and girls will be invited to help shape the museum’s collection.

Sara Huws, co-founder of the East End Women’s Museum said:

“Women make history too. But without their voices and experiences the history books are only telling half the story. We want to put women back in the picture, and share new perspectives on east London’s rich history.
“We believe Barking and Dagenham is the right base for the museum and we’re excited to start working in the borough this year. Everyone we've spoken to has had a story to share: about a woman from their family, their street, or their community, and we know there are many more still to be told.”

Judith Garfield, Executive Director of Eastside Community Heritage said:

“For far too long female voices have been overlooked. Women’s stories may be very different to men’s, and it’s not just about what is told but how. A history of local women, their struggles, their rights and their victories is a history of Barking and Dagenham.
“At Eastside Community Heritage the social and cultural ties between the past and the present are at the heart of our work and we’re delighted to be a part of the East End Women’s Museum development.”

Councillor Sade Bright, Barking and Dagenham Council’s Cabinet Member for Equalities and Cohesion said:

“Here in Barking and Dagenham we are proud of our history while celebrating our present and future aspirations.
“From Mary Wollstonecraft to the women of the suffragette movement who used to meet at the Three Lamps to the Ford machinists in “Made in Dagenham” who fought for equal pay, our borough has always been at the forefront in the struggle for equal rights. Today is another landmark for our borough.”

Vinny Bhanderi, managing director at Be Living, said:

“We are delighted to support the creation of the East End Women’s Museum at our development. It’s a brilliant idea and will become another landmark at Barking and Dagenham that recognises its role in making our society a better place.
“We’re also looking forward to our part in marking the borough a better place through the homes we’ll be creating that attract a new generation to live in Barking and Dagenham.”

Throughout 2018 the East End Women’s Museum will be in residence in Barking and Dagenham, delivering a Heritage Lottery-funded project, ‘Working for Equality’, in partnership with Eastside Community Heritage. A mobile exhibition, series of events, and volunteering programme will explore women’s fight for equal rights in the workplace, from suffragette equal pay campaigns to the strike at Ford Dagenham which took place 50 years ago this year and inspired the Equal Pay Act.

The East End Women’s Museum’s 2018 programme will also include an exhibition at Hackney Museum celebrating 100 years of women’s activism in the borough, and a programme of exhibitions and events exploring the women’s suffrage movement and the First World War in Tower Hamlets.

Notes to editors

About the East End Women’s Museum 

The East End Women’s Museum is a public history project aiming to record, share, and celebrate women’s stories and voices from east London’s history. The project was established in 2015 in response to the 'Jack the Ripper Museum', as a positive, sustainable protest, and delivers events and exhibitions about women's history across east London. https://eastendwomensmuseum.org/

About Eastside Community Heritage

Eastside Community Heritage was established in 1993 as part of the Stratford City Challenge community history project and became an independent charity in 1997. Over the years, Eastside have worked with over 900 community groups, produced over 100 exhibitions, and created the East London Peoples Archive which contains over 3500 oral histories. http://www.hidden-histories.org.uk/wordpress/

About Working For Equality

Working For Equality is a joint project developed by the East End Women’s Museum and Eastside Community Heritage and funded by National Lottery Players through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Taking place in multiple venues around Barking and Dagenham between April and November 2018 it explores 50 critical years in the struggle for working women’s rights, from suffragette equal pay campaigns in 1918 to the Ford Dagenham strike in 1968. Women factory workers in Barking and Dagenham are at the heart of the story.

Local volunteers will be trained to collect oral histories and carry out archive research which will be used to create a mobile exhibition touring summer festivals in the borough and several events making up the Working For Equality programme, including (dates and venues TBC):

  • July: Votes for Women Garden Party. Marking 90 years since women won the vote at the age of 21, this free event will celebrate the ‘munitionettes’ who missed out on the vote in 1918 and the ‘flappers’ who voted for the first time in 1929. Visitors will be able to enjoy some refreshments, try dancing the Charleston, make a suffragette sash, and visit the Working For Equality exhibition.

  • September: Strong Women Family Day. In 1926 boxer Annie Newton challenged people who said women shouldn’t box by asking if it was “half as hard work as scrubbing floors? Is it any more risky than in a munitions factory?” An event celebrating strong women and girls past and present with exhibitions, games, activities, and sports demonstrations.

  • October: Girls Do Science Family Day. Inspired by women engineers and scientists during the First World War this family event celebrates women’s contribution to science, technology, and engineering, highlighting role models and exciting innovations along the way. Visitors can enjoy inspiring talks, games, activities and demonstrations, find out about studying and working in STEM, and visit the Working for Equality exhibition.

  • October: Women of colour in labour history. Screening of a documentary about the Grunwick Strike in 1976/77 and panel discussion about the often overlooked contribution of black and Asian women in labour history.

  • Throughout the project: A series of free film screenings about women who challenged discrimination and exploitation in the workplace, including Made In Dagenham, Hidden Figures, and Norma Rae.