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More great women : re-imagining a pageant of great women for the present day

Neylon, Clare 2015, More great women : re-imagining a pageant of great women for the present day , in: Sibeal, November 20-21 2015, Limerick, Ireland. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Due to the historical, and continued, invisibility of women in ‘typically’ male positions and careers, today’s girls and young women are offered few visible female role models to aspire to and this may have a strong impact on their choice of careers and their confidence and strength in these careers when they do embark upon them. This is particularly true in the field of STEM, but is also clear in the areas of film, media and theatre. Professor Dame Carol Black, speaking recently about the low number of women taking careers in STEM roles, posited that women are held back by a lack of confidence. I would argue that a greater availability of visible role models, by which is meant women who have already built a strong career in a particular field, would undoubtedly add to the confidence of young women entering that profession. Building on the work of researchers such as Dr. Susan Croft, Professor Vivien Gardner and more recently Dr. Naomi Paxton, I aim to build a body of work exploring the archive of writing and performance of the suffrage movement and relating it to current issues and discussions within feminism. In this paper, I discuss my particular focus of providing visibility for women in all areas of society who could be seen as role models for future generations. This takes the form of a new multi-media screening, which draws on suffrage theatre and film for inspiration and was particularly developed from the suffrage play ‘A Pageant of Great Women’ by Cicely Hamilton. The play was originally written and performed a century ago in response to the anti-suffrage claim that women had never contributed anything useful to society or history and, therefore, did not deserve the vote. The writer presents a long list of women from history who were influential and inspirational in order to refute this argument. My piece, coninuing in a similar vein, aimed to shine a light on women of the last hundred years (since the play was written) who have contributed and led in their fields, but are rarely acknowledged or celebrated. The women’s faces are projected in categories that roughly correspond to those in ‘A Pageant of Great Women’ as suffrage writers and contemporary women are heard speaking about the position of women and the potential for our future. Since women from the black and ethnic minority communities have been particularly excluded from public view and celebration, a key aim of the project was to re-write these women back into history, drawing on ‘great women’ from around the world and using public suggestions for inclusion in the project to build a wide range of women of different backgrounds to be acknowledged. As well as discussing the work itself, the paper looks at the historical and contemporary context of the position of women in society and the workplace. It also discusses the research and creative process that accompanied the performance and ideas about the direction of future research such as collaborations with colleagues in science and sociology.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media > Arts, Media and Communication Research Centre
Funders: Funder not known
Depositing User: Clare Neylon
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2015 13:39
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2015 13:39
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/37510

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