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Heritage Open Days 2018

It's that time of year again! Join us on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September from 10am to 4pm for our free drop-in event celebrating women's lives through history. See items from our world-class collection as we explore the varied lives of women as leaders, artists, mothers, entrepreneurs and much more. Here is a sneak preview!

Madeleine Cox
Mother and child
Mother and Child, 1627 (SBT 1993-31/231)

In this pop-up exhibition we will consider the "Seven Faces of Woman", looking at different aspects of women's lives and how these have changed through history. In our Women as Mothers section we look at how Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway was immortalised in Holy Trinity Church for being a loving mother. See a document signed and sealed by Shakespeare’s own mother and then have a go at writing with a quill and sealing a document of your own. Find out more about midwifery and how forceps were kept a ‘trade secret’ by one family for decades before coming into general use. Find out what an educational writer of the seventeenth century had to say about educating girls and see Miss Melville’s scrapbook about the Girl Guides in Stratford from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Mary Shakespeare's seal and signature
Mary Shakespeare's signature and seal (in the shape of a horse), 1579 (ER30/2)

Learn about Henrietta Maria Bowdler, the female editor who took the naughty bits out of Shakespeare in our “Virtuous Women” section. She reworked many of the plays and her role as an editor was only discovered in 1960. Find out about “Sinful and unruly women” through our police charge and descriptions books and a witch pamphlet from 1616 and read about how wives were expected to behave according to a book on marriage from 1619.

A page from the police charge book
An extract from the police charge book

In our "Women as Good Housewives" section we look at early modern women as healers and estate managers and consider the enduring image of the housewife into the twentieth century with nostalgic adverts and articles in copies of the Stratford Herald from the 50s and 60s and beyond. As Fred Winter sadly closes this autumn, we look at adverts from yesteryear from this key part of the town’s retail history. 

Fred Winter, c. 1910
Fred Winter, No. 18 High Street, c. 1910
An advert from the Stratford Herald, 1966
An advert from the Stratford Herald, 1966

We will have a Tudor medicine chest on display and children (and anyone else who is interested!) can look at Tudor herbal remedies and make lavender and rosemary sachets to take away. Try to read the inventory of a Tudor woman and work out what she owned to get a sense of women’s lives in the past with our replica items. Read Gervase Markham's book to find out what skills a Tudor housewife needed - from perfuming gloves to keeping wines and to find out what qualities Markham felt she should have:

To conclude, our English Housewife must be of chast thoughts, stout courage, patient, untired, watchful, diligent, witty, pleasant, constant in friendship, full of good Neighbour-hood, wise in discourse, but not frequent therein, sharp and quick of speech, but not bitter or talkative, secret in her affairs, comfortable in her Counsels, and generally skilful in the worthy knowledges which do belong to her vocation; of all or most whereof, I now in the ensuing discourse intend to speak more largely.

— Gervase Markham, The Tudor House-Wife

As we look at “Working Women” we share the stories of two key figures in the history of the Shakespeare properties, Mary Hornby and Mary Baker. Mary Baker famously spent her life showing visitors around her ancestral home, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, encouraging them to sit in the courting settle, see the family Bible, take a cup of tea and leave with a sprig of rosemary from the garden. We will have the Hathaway family Bible on display. Find out about Elizabeth Scott who designed the theatre and see her designs. 

Anne Hathaway's Cottage and Mary Baker, c. 1888
Anne Hathaway's Cottage and Mary Baker, c. 1888 SC8/7872a

As we move into our “Creative Women “section you can see an early sketch of the Birthplace by Hannah Tighe, purchased thanks to fundraising by our Friends in 2015. See textile items created by women and beautiful sketches from our Ferrers of Baddesley Clinton collection.

Our final category is “Powerful Women” and the first example is Queen Elizabeth I. How did she overcome prejudice against her sex? – to what extent did she become more masculine, and to what extent did she make use of her femininity? And what do 'masculine' and 'feminine' mean? See an illuminated document with Queen Elizabeth’s seal and read about the fantastic entertainments laid on at Kenilworth Castle. Moving forward in time we share items relating to Queen Victoria, including a stunning album of Christmas cards she sent to her friend, the actress Helena Faucit (Lady Martin), as well as items relating to the celebration of her Golden Jubilee in Stratford-upon-Avon.

We will have real items from our collection on display, as well as an exciting range of activities for children and visitors of all ages. How would you classify Cleopatra, Juliet and Portia? Can you think of other aspects of women's lives we should have considered? Take our quiz and find out which kind of early modern woman you are! Dress up as a Tudor and try your hand at quill writing! Learn about women’s fashion through the ages!

In the Wolfson Hall there will be a second exhibition on Marie Corelli.

Join us at the Shakespeare Centre and follow the pink bunting!

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