The newest exhibition in the Weston Library is Sappho to Suffrage: Women who Dared, and these women certainly did just that. The exhibition features a plethora of work by absolute heavyweights of history, from all walks of life and all occupations, all striving above and beyond what society deemed appropriate for women.
The trademark dim rooms in the Weston when I attended were filled with school children on a school trip; I was disheartened to see many of them bored. This is unfortunate, as so many of the women whose work is on display have shaped their lives in ways they may never realise.
As I enter I am greeted by a wall of women from the modern day, all of whom have succeeded greatly in all fields from politics to athletics. Then we jump right back in time to the 2nd century AD, and work our way forward from there, witnessing works by women through the ages. This work comes mostly in the form of books in glass cases, illuminated by bright lights. Much like in the Weston's Designing English exhibition, I found myself wishing I could reach in and touch these incredible artefacts of history, but even just seeing them behind the glass is an absolute privilege.
As an English enthusiast the highlights for me were some early works of Jane Austen, and a working draft of one of my favourite novels, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. Of course in any exhibition about influential women there has to be a mention of Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, with an early version of her bestselling feminist book, A Vindication of the Rights of Women.
While the exhibition features mostly books, the women in question weren't exclusively authors. There were works by mathematicians, translators, scholars, book makers, composers, photographers, calligraphers, sailors and criminals. This will surely inspire younger visitors to pursue their dreams, and not be bound by society's rules (although perhaps not to become a criminal).
Other famous names on show include Mary Read and Anne Bonny, the infamous female pirates (and their sections in Daniel Defoe's A General History of the Pyrates), Florence Nightingale (and her letters), and none other than Queen Elizabeth I. The then-princess translated and gifted a book of French poetry to Katherine Parr, hand bound and delicately stitched with the initials K-P by the eleven year old.
Another highlight for me was discovering
This exhibition promises women who dare and it delivers. Not to be missed.