Women in Print: Print as an Agent of Change



Hosted by MMU Special Collections

Speakers were Harriet Cory-Smith, Carolyn Trant and Desdemona McCannon

Women in Print: Print as an Agent of Change 1920- 1965

This was an event that we worked on with Louise Clennell and Jeremy Parrett from MMU Special Collections, and which was part of the People’s History Museum’s ‘Wonder Women 2014’ programme. It was held in the lecture theatre in MMU Special Collections on Friday 7th March 2014. There were three speakers and a discussion, chaired by Rosemary Shirley at the end.

Carolyn Trant, an artist who was a student of Peggy Angus, and wrote the official biography of her for Incline Press, gave a talk about Angus’s life and work. A committed socialist, Angus believed in ‘Art for All’ and promoted everyday creativity through her teaching, and the Camden Studios she set up to enable artists to run workshops within a housing estate. She was also a talented pattern maker and designed bold graphic ceramic wall tiles that complimented the modernist aesthetic of her times. She travelled widely and kept copious sketchbooks of folk customs cultures. Her house ‘Furlongs’ in Sussex has become well known as a place where artists such as Eric Ravilious and Helen Binyon would visit. Her conviviality and creative energy was immediete in Carolyn’s account of her work.



Harriet Cory-Wright gave a very interesting presentation that focused on women illustrators and the use of lithography at Puffin Picture Books between 1940 and 1965. It was especially interesting to realise that Noel Carrington’s inspiration for the books, the bold picture books being produced in post revolution Soviet Russia, were brought back and shown to him by Pearl Binder, a friend of Peggy Angus.

I gave a talk called ‘The Jobbing Artist as Ethnographer: Documenting ‘Lore’ which looked at the ways that books by Barbara Jones, Enid Marx, Pearl Binder and Dorothy Hartley contributed to ruralist discourses enabled by mass market publishing during this period. I was interested in the way the women were designers and ‘jobbing artists’ as well as authorities on the subjects, and how this was reflected in their own illustrations for the books. In the case of Dorothy Hartley, her book ‘Made in England’ is written with constant reference to her illustrations throughout the text, an interesting hybrid form of writing.

As part of the event I collaborated with several writers and artists to produce tribute chapbooks about women designers who deserve to be better known. They were simply produced on the RISO machine using two colours, and were available as a limited edition available on the day. Alice Patullo, Lotte Beatrix, Carolyn Trant, myself and Rosemary Shirley produced chapbooks for the day. The project is ongoing.

The event was very well attended (tickets sold out two weeks beforehand) and proved to be a lively and inspiring morning. Thanks to MMU Special Collections for funding the speakers and commissioning the chapbooks.


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