International Women's Day
at Manchester Museum
Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated...
International Women's Day is on 8 March and the theme for 2022 is #BreakTheBias
You can find out more about this year's theme on the International Women's Day website.
Today we are celebrating some of the brilliant women, past and present who continue to shape our communities, work, research and the world in which we live.
Writer in Residence at Manchester Museum
Today, on International Women’s Day, we are delighted to announce the appointment of Anita Sethi as the first ever Writer-in-Residence at Manchester Museum in our 129 year history.
Anita is an award-winning writer and broadcaster whose acclaimed book ‘I Belong Here: A Journey along the Backbone of Britain’ blends memoir, nature writing and current affairs, the paperback edition for which is published this spring. As part of the year-long residency, Anita will draw of the museum’s collections for inspiration, write, collaborate and teach.
A series of free workshops will offer attendees opportunities to develop their creative writing skills. One of the first workshops will focus on the links between writing and wellbeing and Anita says this is particularly important to her following a serious accident in Iceland earlier this year.
News of Anita’s appointment comes on International Women’s Day, which is fitting for a woman who grew up on the same street as feminist campaigners Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst in Old Trafford, Manchester, and often explores feminist history and themes of belonging in her writing.
The museum is currently undergoing a £15 million transformation to become more inclusive, caring and imaginative. One of our new spaces will be the Belonging Gallery, which will explore how we come to know belonging through relationships, everyday objects, places, human movement, and actions – and this is a theme Anita explores in her work.
Anita Sethi said: “I’m overjoyed to be appointed Writer-in-Residence for Manchester Museum – it feels like a match made in heaven. The museum is rich in history and I’m eager to delve into the fascinating objects here, all of which tell a story. As well as making the most of the setting, I’m looking forward to working alongside inspiring women."
Esme Ward, Director of Manchester Museum said: “We’re honoured to welcome Anita Sethi to Manchester Museum. She is a true storyteller whose work explores important themes of womanhood, resilience, nature, place and belonging, as well as the more toxic elements of society like racism, hate and inequality. Being based in the museum means Anita can take inspiration from the extraordinary collections and displays, and also engage with our communities, staff and co-workers. We’re excited to see the work she produces here.”
For more on Anita’s work, visit www.anitasethi.com
Anita has a foundation that aims to get books to those who don’t have easy access to them. For more, visit https://i-belong-here.com/foundation/
#FromTheArchives at Manchester Museum
The brilliant work and research that is happening now at Manchester Museum and The University of Manchester builds on the legacy of our predecessors. This is a celebration of some of the outstanding women who have lived, studied or worked in Manchester, who have shaped not only the museum and university, but also the world in which we live.
A focus on our South Asia and Chinese Culture Galleries
Manchester Museum is currently closed to the public while we complete our £15 million hello future transformation. When we reopen, we look forward to welcoming you to a bigger, more inclusive and more wondrous museum.
On International Women's Day and throughout Women's History Month, we are highlighting the stories of some of the women that will be included in our new South Asia Gallery and Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery.
Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor
Wu Zetian was the only woman to rule China in her own name. Empress Wu reigned during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). In this blogpost, Professor Yichao Shi, Bryan Sitch, Deputy Head of Collections and Dr Fang Zong, Research Assistant for the Chinese Culture Gallery, draw from a collection of Chinese illustrations at Manchester Museum, to describe how Wu Zetian rose to power, her reign and her controversial legacy.
Read on the hello future blog
Lin Qiaozhi, Chinese physician, and 'Mother to Ten Thousand Babies'
Lin Qiaozhi was a Chinese physician. She was the first Chinese female physician hired as an assistant resident in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, PUMC hospital. Later she was appointed as the director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Peking Union Medical College Hospital.
Lin took advanced medical training in Manchester in 1932. Over her career, she delivered over 50,000 babies and became known as 'Mother to Ten Thousand Babies'. She was very well respected and well loved during her time as a physician, and was also often referred to as 'Guanyin for Sending Children', 'Angel of Life', 'Mother of Chinese Medicine', Living Guanyin'. These addresses of endearment show the impact that her caring attitude towards her work had on the Chinese women she treated. Guanyin is the goddess of mercy and considered to be the physical embodiment of compassion.
The Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery, opening in 2023, will include statues of the goddess Guanyin, relating to the theme 'Caring and Healing'.
Figures of the goddess Guanyin from Manchester Museum's collection.
Nur Jahan, Empress of Mughal India
One of the anthologies in the South Asia Gallery, a partnership gallery with the British Museum, opening in 2023, will be 'Past and Present'. It will pull together a rich selection of rare and relatively unknown narratives on South Asia, ranging from the stories of the subcontinent’s fabulous wealth and its rich cosmopolitan networks to its more recent fortunes in the days of Empire. It highlights the role of women in South Asian politics, religion and culture and challenges stereotypes.
One of the key stories within this anthology focusses on Nur Jahan (1577–1645), who was a powerful woman and Empress of Mughal India. She was a brilliant political and military strategist, architect, and diplomat, who had absolute control in the Mughal court.
Objects to tell this story include contemporary gold and silver coins minted in her name and these objects explore the story about the power that some women held.
Coins issued in the name of Nur Jahan. (British Museum)
In 18th and especially the 19th century, there were numerous depictions of Nur Jahan in Delhi paintings. Some women were powerful but not depicted through contemporary paintings because artists were not permitted to have access to them.
Portrait of a Mughal woman with servants. This painting is thought to be of Nur Jahan. (British Museum)
Anna Mani, the Weather Woman of India
Another of the South Asia Gallery anthologies will be 'Innovation and Language'. This will highlight the South Asian contribution to a series of everyday objects, for example computers, mathematical or scientific instruments, astrolabes, and zodiac coins. This is a way of showing the ingenuity and creative thinking embedded in South Asian culture that have generated many inventions that we maybe take for granted.
One of the stories in this anthology is that of Anna Mani. She was a pioneer woman scientist and the only woman scientist to work with C.V. Raman. She is well known for her great scientific achievements and work in atmospheric physics and instrumentation. She contributed to the study of radiation, ozone and atmospheric electricity, both on the surface and in the upper air using special sounding techniques.
Anna Mani was awarded with K.R.Ramanathan Medal in the year 1987 for her great achievements in her field of research on instrumentation.
Photograph taken during Anna Mani’s time at Imperial College in the 1940s.
(Imperial College London)
Photograph of Anna Mani with one of her weather instruments in 1960s in India.
(World Meteorological Organisation)
Women in History
Highlighting extraordinary women from history
Enheduanna is the earliest writer and poet known to history, and it is very likely that she was one of the most powerful women in the world during her lifetime. She lived over 4,200 years ago in what is now modern day Iraq. Histories of this time and place are very often centred on male political leaders, with women being relegated to the role supporting characters, adornments, wives, or curiosities – not so with Enheduanna.
When we think of these sieges and battles of the English Civil Wars, we often imagine them as being entirely dominated by men, however the nature of them meant that many of those caught up in defending their homes and towns were women. At the time, women were seen as naturally inferior to men, with an ideal woman being submissive and obedient, devoting her time to her husband and family. Women that took part in the conflict were often viewed in a bad light as it was definitely not something a ‘good’ woman would do.