ᵃᵈ My International Women’s Day 2020 was next level! I was invited to a curator’s talk to launch a brand new exhibition about strong women called ‘Man Up: Women who stepped into a man’s world’ at Chawton House!
Not only was the historic house, in the heart of Hampshire, a fantastic travel discovery but, the insight into the exhibition from its creator added another dimension.
Learning about all those strong women who stepped up and thrived in a predominantly male environment was so interesting and gave me a real education to what life was like during the eighteenth century.
I felt very lucky I could take my Mum and experience this unique exhibition with her on International Women’s Day – what a fantastic memory to have!
Take a look at Chawton House and the new Man Up! exhibition…
Chawton Village is the home of literary giant Jane Austen and Chawton House, just five minutes down the road, belonged to Jane’s brother.
There’s a a long driveway through a row of trees which passes stables, outhouses and a chapel before you reach the main house. It’s so British it hurts and I love how very few changes have been made so Jane Austen would have had a very similar view when walking up the drive to visit her brother and family.
Inside you can tour parts of the house, the different exhibitions and the library as well as visiting the gorgeous little tea room serving lunch and cake.
I must say I’m so surprised I’ve not heard of Chawton House before, it’s not far from where I live and it’s such a wonderful place to visit that I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of it before. I’m so glad I’ve found it because it has an excellent workshop programme and I definitely want to head back and take part in some that are scheduled across the year.
The public part is not huge but this didn’t bother me because it’s really manageable and you can spend the time you want to reading and taking in the information that’s on display, like a first edition Emma by Jane Austen book!
The house is gorgeous and full of thoughtful little ways to engage with its history. From a chair in a window nook with a pile of books encouraging you to sit and read to a table full of classic childhood games challenging you to see how many times you can get the ball in the cup – it’s full of quirky little details like this!
For 2020 there are two exhibitions, Man Up! and one based on the many different iterations of Emma by Jane Austen.
Man Up: Women who stepped into a man’s world
After being treated to a cup of tea and chocolate biscuit the group attending the curator’s talk were seated in what was once the men’s smoking room! A perfect setting for a talk on an exhibition focusing on women who rose above the patriarchy and conditions of the time to defy convention.
Clio, the curator of Man Up! bounded into the room in full historic costume, and it’s certainly not what I expected from a museum curator and I loved it. It instantly made something as serious as a curator talk accessible to me as it made me realise this wasn’t going to be like other talks that I’ve been to before.
The exhibition was inspired by one quote ‘Every Woman is at Heart a Rake’ – in this instance rake means rogue. And, the items and information in display was built out with this as the common theme – it’s made for a very interesting selection of stories and an insight into a period of time that I’m not that familiar with.
My biggest take home was that the feminist movement isn’t a new thing, there’s been women throughout history breaking barriers, becoming pirates, joining the navy and being successful landowners.
There’s also a section on ‘Balloon Mania’ when being the first person to fly in a balloon in the UK became a highly competitive endeavour with a woman at the forefront of it. Make sure to find the very funny story about the first flight, who was on it and allegedly what happened – one for you to check out when you visit.
Curator Clio divided the talk into two, the first half focused on a large cork mood board and she told us what inspired her to create the exhibition and what she’d included to put in the displays.
Breaking convention by pen, pistol or sword and breaking free from societies expectation – these are the women that pioneered at a time when it was thought impossible.
One of my favourite parts was the fact it was so well thought through. Not only do the stories span different kinds of women but Clio’s perfectly found some ‘ways in’ to digesting and getting your head round some more complicated stories and people through interactive activities.
You can find out your nom de plume which helps you discover why literary greats like Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters used fake names when they published their stories.
There’s also a game to find out how you might have died if you’d have joined the navy, magnetic pirate poetry and a healthy amount of fancy period hats and coats to try on.
Clio’s found a great way to add value through a well balanced exhibition and the talk and tour totally surpassed my expectations.
This exhibition runs from Monday 2nd March to Wednesday 30th December 2020m it’s worth looking round one afternoon and if you can get on a talk or a tour I would thoroughly recommend it!
Chawton House has just won Visit England’s ‘hidden gem’ accolade for the second year and I can totally see why!
I can’t wait to go back for more talks, tours and to try some of the art classes being held this year – what an incredible setting for creativity and art!
A HUGE thank you for Clio for inviting me to experience the house and exhibition. It really was a special International Women’s Day as I spent my day here, learning about incredible women from an extremely awesome intelligent woman while hanging out with my Mum, my number one woman!
P.S. Don’t miss the gorgeous Jane Austen trail around the beautiful grounds!
*Ad – this was a gifted experience which I absolutely loved. As ALWAYS my opinions are my own because what’s the point of blogging otherwise?