20th Century Woman

The 20th Century Woman gallery examines the changing experiences of women during the last century. It is divided into four main themes.

Breaking Free looks at the increasing social and political awareness of women who fought for the vote, volunteered for national service in the armed forces, nursing, land army and munitions factories, stood for political office and campaigned against injustice.

The fight for equal rights continued in the workplace and Women at Work deals with the limited employment opportunities available to women, especially in Middlesbrough. Objects from the collections reflect the office work, domestic service, shop work and nursing, in particular midwifery, carried out by local women.

The third section is a Woman’s Work, which deals with the physical hardship of household chores and developments in domestic technology that helped to lighten the load. A health case looks at the important role played by women in caring for sick members of the family, rearing children and general improvements in women’s health over the century. There is also a collection of outfits belonging to a young woman who in 1967 was seeking a more independent lifestyle and enjoyed the benefits of having enough money at the end of the week to buy the latest off-the-peg fashions.

The last section deals with the greater independence offered by increased sport and leisure opportunities. Dancing has long been a popular social activity amongst the women of Middlesbrough and some of their best frocks are on display here. A small case looks at the beauty products that have been so important in boosting female confidence throughout the century.

20th Century Woman