To mark 100 years since some women achieved the right to vote, an all-female photography initiative is crowdfunding for a project in which new portraits will be created of all 209 women MPs. The photographs will be shot exclusively by women photographers, and the aim is for these to be displayed in a free public exhibition in Parliament.

‘209 Women’ is a national artist-led project to champion the visibility of women in environments that are still largely male-dominated, such as politics and the arts. This project supports 209 women photographers across the UK to make portraits of all 209 women MPs. The exhibition is curated by Hilary Wood (Founder/Director of ‘209 Women’ and photographer), Tracy Marshall (Director of Development and Partnerships at Open Eye Gallery and Co- Director of Northern Narratives arts initiative) and Cheryl Newman (Artist, curator and former Director of Photography of the Telegraph magazine).

Alison-McGovern MP (Image Credit: Hilary-Wood)

On 14th December 1918 women voted for the first time, and in the same year the first female MP was elected. ‘209 Women’ marks that significant moment in history whilst also highlighting the ongoing need for further gender equality across society.  It is hoped that the ‘209 Women’ exhibition will launch in Westminster on 14th December 2018, 100 years on. The exhibition is supported by Liverpool City Council. In February, it will travel to Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool, to be exhibited in partnership with Culture Liverpool.

The organisers are currently crowdfunding to raise support for all 209 artists involved. The total amount raised will be distributed evenly between all 209 artists.

Hilary Wood, founder and curator, said:

“We set up the crowdfunder to ensure that all 209 of our artists receive support, with all money raised going directly to them. There’s Tote bags, a limited edition art book, and the opportunity to become one of 209 exhibition champions. As a champion, you will be named on the wall of the exhibition, meet the curator and some of the artists, and take part in a group photo ‘Champions of Women’, shot by one of the project’s photographers. Every champion will receive an exhibition quality print of this to hang in their office or home. The exhibition would be quite the statement to mark 100 years since the suffrage movement: 209 pairs of female eyes gazing down over the central courtyard on everybody that works and visits Portcullis House, the very place where people make changes that affect all women.”

Melanie Onn, MP for Great Grimbsy (Image Credit: Joanne Coates)

Although the suffrage movement achieved the first votes for women, there is still a long way to go to cement a culture of true gender equality across all spheres of society in the UK, particularly in positions of power. Women MPs only form 32% of the House of Commons, and there are more CEOs named ‘Dave’ in the FTSE 100 than there are women.

Alison McGovern MP, chair of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art said:

“The women’s movement has never been about one person’s achievement: it is about all of us. This project carries out that vision, including all kinds of women from all kinds of backgrounds. It is a subtle but very true statement of equality. The focus in politics has rightly been on getting a critical mass of women involved. But it is the same issue in many sectors, including art itself. The works will show that women can and ought to be portrayed in all their diversity. There is no one way to be a woman artist, to be a woman politician, to be a woman.”

‘209 Women’ will be displayed at Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament, from 14th December to February 2019 (TBC). After that, it will travel North to Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool. It is supported by Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool City Council and The Royal Photographic Society.

Support the Crowdfunder here: