Over the weekend, we shared news on our Facebook page of how former Google diversity head, Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe, planned to build a “world class” museum dedicated to women’s history in London’s East End, only to suddenly refocus his plans, post-approval, on a museum dedicated, instead, to the “less boring” and notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper. The outrage posted by commenters on our page was echoed all over social media, but two women, Sara Huws and Sarah Jackson, thought actions would speak louder than words.
Both die-hard women’s history lovers, Sara is a public historian who has worked as a researcher and museum curator, and Sarah wrote a book about the East London Federation of the Suffragettes and organized the East London Suffragette Festival in 2014. After witnessing the Palmer-Edgecumbe / Jack The Ripper Museum debacle unfold, they set out on a mission to do something positive in response: to create a true women’s history museum that would offer a much-needed celebration of the contributions and achievements of women from London’s East End.
So they put out a call for volunteers to help with their effort, and launched a website – East End Women’s Museum – to reach even more people who might want to be a part of the important endeavor. Immediately, offers of support started rolling in from individuals and organizations, and they have been truly overwhelmed by the continued response. According to what the women told The Telegraph yesterday, more than 300 people signed up to help in just the first few days.
Next steps are for Sara and Sarah to consult with the volunteers on how best to execute the museum. “We don’t have a fixed vision for what the East End Women’s Museum will be, that’s something we need to work out with all the people who have signed up to help,” they said. “It may be a pop-up exhibition, a heritage trail, a smartphone app or all of these things.”
What they do know is that they want to tell the untold stories that “illuminate the lives of East East End women – not only their deaths,” and amplify the voices of women “who have been pushed to the margins of society, and of history.” In fact, just today Sarah Tweeted, “Part of challenge we’ve set ourselves is not just to represent, record and amplify the experiences of leaders, but of ‘ordinary’ women too.” Be still our WYSKy hearts (if she doesn’t know our primary mission, she should because she’s gonna love it).
In the end, we should all really thank Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe. Had he not so very shamefully (and stupidly) ditched his plans for a women’s history museum, then Sara and Sarah would not have been moved to action. And, knowing what we now know, would anyone really want the responsibility of preserving history and honoring the women who made it in this guy’s hands? We think not.