Cambridge celebrates history of Women At Work

REPRODUCTION, an exhibition on pre-conception, pregnancy, birth and childcare, has opened in the Guildhall, Cambridge.

The exhibition by artist Emma Smith and supported by UNISON Cambridge City and South Cambs branch and Cambridge City Council.

The exhibition is inspired by Maternity, a collection of letters by working women, brought together by the Women’s Co-operative Guild in 1915 and published with the help of Virginia Woolf. These historic letters revealed the hitherto taboo hardships of maternity for working women as part of an on-going campaign to improve the almost non-existent maternal and infant care available to poorer women at the time.

In her exhibition for the Guildhall, Smith brings together stories of pre-conception, birth and childcare by Cambridge residents today with the ambition of raising awareness about issues that still need addressing and offering a point of solidarity to people who often face them in isolation.

This new artwork was commissioned by UNISON to build on this extraordinary history of Cambridge women and to recognise the hidden histories of those less privileged on whom the city relies.

An events programme will accompany the exhibition. For more information please visit the website.

UNISON branch secretary Liz Brennan said: “UNISON is the largest union in the UK, with women making up about three-quarters of its membership. So women are at the forefront of our campaigns, whether that be on workers’ rights or to improve our wider community.

“Ever since women won their rights to take part in public life they have made a major and significant difference to our local services and environment.

“We are delighted that through Emma’s project we can share women’s hidden stories which we hope can inspire the people of Cambridge further.

“We are grateful to Cambridge City Council in acknowledging the importance of this subject and in granting public art funding for it.

Artist Emma Smith said: “It has been an honour and an inspiration to work with the many residents who have already contributed to this project.

“I was humbled to learn of the extraordinary histories of women in Cambridge and I am really grateful to everyone who has shared their stories today – they are important and vital to be heard!”

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Images: Emma Smith, W.A.W. Reproduction, Guildhall Cambridge, 2020. Photograph courtesy of Ioan Davies. Not for commercial use.

Video above from That’s TV Cambridge.