Tag Archive: suffragette

  1. International Women’s Day: Exploring the Life and Work of Patti Mayor

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    2022 will see the 150th anniversary of Patti Mayor’s birth. To commemorate this, we will be working with Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston and Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool to showcase Mayor’s work throughout 2022. Gallery Oldham will show an exhibition of her work in the autumn of next year. In the second of our blogs about Patti Mayor, MA student Alexandra Cosmé shares more of the story of Mayor’s life. Alexandra is currently studying Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the University of Manchester after her undergraduate degree in History. She is currently on placement at Gallery Oldham as a collections researcher where she is exploring her interests in history and art.

    Mill Girl with a Shawl is one of Gallery Oldham’s most intriguing pieces of art, and yet, we know shockingly little about its artist, Patti Mayor, or its sitter. Here, we will attempt to uncover more details about the work and life of one of the North West’s most important, yet under-appreciated artists of the 19th and 20th Century.

    Mill Girl with a Shawl by Patti Mayor, Gallery Oldham

    Who Was Patti Mayor?

    There aren’t many details available about Patti’s birth, however, we do know that her real name was actually Martha Ann Mayor and she was born in Preston in 1872. She attended Slade School of Fine Art at University College London, one of the UK’s most prestigious art schools at the time. Other alumni include other female painters such as Dora Carrington, sculptor Mary Spencer Watson and even pop singer Charli XCX. After her time there, Patti returned to Preston where she perfected her craft whilst living a very cultured and vibrant lifestyle.

    Patti’s Art

    Patti’s real interest was portraiture and her work rarely strayed away from this. Most of her portraits are of women and young girls, however the sitters are rarely named, adding to the mystery around her work. We are left to wonder: Did she know these women? How intimately? What was the purpose of painting them? Still, we can discern an important pattern in her portraits as most of these women appear to be from a working-class background. Many women in Preston had no choice but to work. The 1901 census returns for Lancashire reveal that girls often went straight from schools to the mills, and many stayed in their positions once they were married.

    The Half-Timer by Patti Mayor, Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston

    Some young girls split their time between school and work. Patti’s The Half Timer (1906-8) depicts Annie Hill, a twelve-year-old girl who did exactly that. You’ll notice a similarity between this and the piece in Gallery Oldham’s collection: the shawl. Shawls were worn by working women and were an easy way to spot their occupation. Annie Kenney famously wore shawls on occasion, and this became somewhat of a marketing tactic by the WSPU to show the “inclusivity” of their movement.

    Patti’s Politics

    It’s impossible to talk about Patti Mayor’s art without talking about her politics. Preston was a very politically active area from its trade unions, the Independent Labour Party, to the Suffragettes. One famous Suffragette from Preston is Edith Rigby who established the St. Peter’s School for young working girls and was imprisoned alongside the Pankhursts. However, there were other women who fought for the vote in the North West who rarely get as much historiographical attention. Jill Liddington calls these women the “Radical Suffragists”. They differed from the Suffragettes in that they weren’t militant and they sought a broader programme of reform, extending beyond the vote to issues such as working conditions, maternity pay and childcare facilities for working mothers. Though the contribution by these women to the Suffrage movement has been largely overlooked, living within this hub of political activity must have had some impact on Patti’s work and certainly her view of the world. In 1908, Patti took The Half Timer out of its frame and to the 1908 Women’s Sunday march and rally with the slogan “Preston Lasses Mun Hev the Vote”. Clearly, then, Patti saw her work as a political statement about the lives and capabilities of women and young girls, and notably, their contribution to the UK’s economy.

    We may also discern details about Patti’s politics through her close friendship with Joseph Garstang. Garstang was a committed socialist, atheist and was completely opposed to World War 1, becoming imprisoned for at least two years for his absolutist stance. Patti painted Joseph on several occasions, as well as his family members, before his imprisonment. You can read more about Garstang’s life in this fascinating piece by his great niece, Ann Berry.

    Self Portrait by Patti Mayor, Grundy Art Gallery

    Patti’s Legacy

    Patti died in 1962 whilst living in her sister’s home. She had not married or had children, proving her to be an unconventional twentieth century woman until the very end. She bequeathed a lot of her art to northern museums and galleries, one of which was Gallery Oldham. This International Women’s Day 2021, we remember the countless women like Patti Mayor and her named and unnamed sitters who strove to make the world a better place for us today.

    You can see more of Patti Mayor’s work on Art UK.

    Alexandra Cosmé is on twitter.

  2. Remembering Patti Mayor, the artist activist

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    This is one of two blogs marking International Women’s Day, exploring the artist Patti Mayor and her legacy. This blog has been written by Francine McMahon, a post-graduate student currently studying MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies at The University of Manchester. Prior to this, Francine did an undergraduate degree in Philosophy. She is currently on placement at Gallery Oldham working as a collections researcher. Francine’s interest in the relationships between art, design and social history are explored in this post, looking at them through the theme of women’s rights protests.

    International Women’s Day, celebrated annually on the 8th of March, celebrates the achievements and movement of women’s rights. This makes it a great time to reflect on historic women’s movements, and figures that represent them. One example can be found in the work of Preston-born artist Patti Mayor, who often used working women as a focus for her work.

    The Half-Timer by Patti Mayor, Harris Museum & Art Gallery

    This painting, ‘The Half-Timer’, by Patti Mayor, was carried at the Women’s Sunday march which took place in London in 1908. This painting was chosen because working women, who contributed their labour and taxes to the country, demonstrated a strong reason why they should also have a say in the country’s politics. The subject of the portrait is a young girl from Preston, whose name was Annie Hill. We can tell she is a working girl because she is wearing a shawl, and the name of the painting refers to children working as ‘halftimers’, splitting their days between work and education.

    Women’s Sunday, 1908

    On Sunday the 21st of June, 1908, the Manchester-founded Women’s Social Political Union (WSPU) – better known as the suffragettes – and their supporters gathered in London for a protest march. The march took place in three groups, who all met in Hyde Park, where speakers spoke about women’s suffrage. Nearly 500,000 people gathered for the event, which was organised in response to Prime Minister Herbert Asquith’s challenge for suffrage campaigners to show how strongly votes for women were wanted.
    Supporters travelled from all over the country, and as the march was organised to take place on a Sunday, working women, like ‘The Half-Timer’, could attend too.

    Women’s Day Off, 1975

    Another example of women protesting for fair recognition is the Women’s Day Off. In 1975, In Reykavik, Iceland, on the 24th of October, women took part in a mass strike to protest the gender pay gap in the country. 90% of Icelandic women went on strike from their paid jobs, household jobs, and childcare for the day, to show how much they contributed and deserved equal recognition. As a result, some banks, shops, schools and nurseries had to close for the day. The protest was successful in changing how women
    were seen in Iceland, as 5 years later Iceland elected their first female president. Vigdis Finnbogadottir was not only Iceland’s first female president, she was also the first female president in Europe.

    Women’s March, 2017

    Photo courtesy of Liz Lemon

    A more recent example of women protesting for equal rights was seen on the 21st of January, 2017. The Women’s March was organised in response to Donald Trump’s election as US President, and happened in Washington D.C. the day after his inauguration. Sister marches also took place in other cities. In Washington D.C. alone around 500,000 people attended, carrying banners, placards, and wearing specially knitted hats. Much like Women’s Sunday over 100 years earlier, portraits were carried to represent the cause. However, unlike the young mill girl Annie in Patti Mayor’s ‘The Half Timer’, protestors in Washington chose the late American Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg.

    Reflecting on these protests brings to light the fact that women of all jobs, roles and classes represent an important part of society, and are all included in the continuing plight of equal rights worldwide. So, it is important to continue documenting and collecting images and objects from these events to make sure these women are remembered, and the messages from these protests are preserved.

    2022 will see the 150th anniversary of Patti Mayor’s birth. To commemorate this, we will be working with The Harris, Preston and Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool to showcase Mayor’s work throughout 2022. Gallery Oldham will show an exhibition of her work in the autumn of next year.

    See more of Patti Mayor’s work here.