Women of Walsall

This body of work aims to raise the visibility of women in the market town of Walsall. By this, I mean I am interested in bringing together and celebrating the collective community of women of Walsall. When I speak of community I am thinking about what Benedict AndersonAnderson1 refers to as an ‘imagined community’. He describes an ‘imagined community’, as a social construct of people who perceive themselves as part of a group with similar interests, or those who collectively identify with each other, despite the fact they may never meet face to face. Anderson uses this term as a way of defining ‘nation’, however it seems to apply equally to members of a localised community, who have self-defined notions of belonging.

The Women of Walsall project (WoW) includes women who live in Walsall, women who work in Walsall, women who study in Walsall, women who play in Walsall, women born and bred in Walsall and women who have migrated to Walsall, for any number of reasons. What these women have in common is a sense of belonging to Walsall.

This project aims to share the diversity of women in Walsall. To do this, over 120 portraits have been made of local women during the bursary residency in Walsall. This was facilitated in partnership with Walsall for All, a subsidiary of Walsall Council to access community groups across the city.

A pop-up photography studio was set up in several community spaces and in exchange for a family portrait, project participants agreed that their portrait could be used in the WoW project. Alongside, I took a deep dive into Walsall Archives to investigate how women are visualised within the Archive. This process has revealed photographs of women and labour, including machine girls (to use the archival reference), women stitching leather in the leather factory, glove makers, the local swimming team and historical figures such as Sister Dora, Ada Newman, the first female councillor and Olympic swimmer Edna Hughes, and Gertrude Creswell, the first female Mayor.

The project is conceived as a moving image presentation to be shown back in the community in an accessible public space. The portraits, alongside a selection of archival photographs, was presented at the Raising Her Voice International Women’s Day event 2020 at the Crossing, St Pauls, Walsall.

1) Anderson, B. (2006) Imagined Communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. 3rd edn. London. New York: Verso

The invite for the event Raising Her Voice to mark International Women's Day at The Crossing St Paul's, Walsall, 13th March 2020
The International Women's Day event Raising Her Voice was featured in Walsall Chronicle (26th March edition). The photo features Positive Action Officer Zara and artist Caroline Molloy.
Caroline presenting her project and the film Women of Walsall at the International Women's Day event at the Crossing, Walsall, 13th March 2020
Caroline presenting her project and the film Women of Walsall at the International Women's Day event at the Crossing, Walsall, 13th March 2020
Swimmers at Reedswood Park open air pool, Walsall, early 20th century. Photo used courtesy of Walsall Archives
A group of prize-winning collectors at Walsall Hospital’s carnival, 30th August 1930. Photo used courtesy of Walsall Archives

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