East End Women: The Real Story

A new, free, pop-up exhibition has opened in St George’s-in-the-East, Shadwell. It’s part of the on-going project; East End Women’s Museum who are campaigning for a permanent museum to celebrate the rich history of women in the East End because, funnily enough, it’s not just all sex workers and Jack the Ripper victims. So what’s East End Women: The Real Story all about then?



East End Women: The Real Story


Set in the atmospheric  St George’s-in-the-East Church, Shadwell, you may think that a church is a weird location for a history of women. However, it’s based around the corner from the recently opened Jack the Ripper Museum on Cable Street.


The provocative poster for the East End Women pop-up, opposite the Jack the Ripper Museum. Only a few days after being put up it had been vandalised, with the address and map spray-painted black.

A bit of background on this history…

The Jack the Ripper Museum opened after planning permission was granted to host “the only dedicated resource in the East End to women’s history.” So when the new gothic black building, with a blood spattered logo, unveiled itself there was understandably a fair bit of outrage.


The Exhibition

The pop-up itself consists of a three mount boards. Sure, it’s not the glamorous East End Women Museum we’re after, but at least it’s truly about the real history of East End women.




The Women


A look at some of the incredible women and their stories…

East End Women: The Real Story

Minnie Lansbury

Prominent member of the East London Federation of Suffragettes, in 1919 she was elected alderman on Poplar’s first Labour council. In 1921 she was one of five women on poplar council along with her male colleagues who were jailed for six weeks after refusing to levy full poll tax rates in their poverty-stricken area. (Can you imagine your MP doing that now?!) After her release she developed pneumonia and died in 1922, aged only 33.


East End Women: The Real Story

Matchwomen in their beloved hats! Annie Fairman, second left back row, seen here in a group of women who helped establish matchworks on Wellington, New Zealand in 1894.

Regarded as the start of Trade Unionism in Britain, the matchwomen’s strike in Bow in 1888 was the first time workers successfully campaigned for better conditions and wages.


East End Women: The Real Story

Mary Hughes, 1860-1941

Hughes gave up her comfortable, wealthy, background to serve the impoverished East End as an equal. In 1926 Mary bought a rundown pub in Whitechapel names the Dew Drop Inn, providing a safe bed for homeless women in need for almost 20 years and throughout the Blitz. In 1931, to thank her for her selfless work, Ghandi specifically requested to visit her when in Britain.



Present day

They also celebrate the women making a difference in the East End for women today; Diane Abbott, first black women elected to UK Parliament and current shadow secretary of State for International Development; Rushanara Ali, first person of Bangladeshi origin to be elected to the House of Commons in 2010; Marina Yannakoudakis  former MEP and led the EU campaign against female genital mutilation; Baroness Pola Uddin, the first Muslim and Bagladeshi woman to enter the House of Lords who has actively campaigned for social reforms and equal rights since the 1970s; Oona King, elected as an MP for Bethnal Green ad Bow in 1997 who eventually lost her seat to George Galloway after one of the most hotly contested seats in British history. She now sits in the House of Lords on the labour benches.



East End Women: The Real Story is free and on until 9 July.

Opening times:
Mon – Thurs: 9:30 – 20:30
Fri: 9:30 – 17:00
Sat: 10:00 – 17:00
Sun: 12:30 – 17:00

Find out more about East End Women’s Museum here.

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