Visible Women

How you could star in this amazing public artwork celebrating women’s suffrage

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Moya Crockett
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Pay tribute to an amazing woman in your life – or yourself – by submitting your photos to The Face of Suffrage project. 

Here at Stylist, we’ve long been champions of women’s achievements and contributions to society. In February, as the UK marked the centenary of the first women in Britain getting the vote, we launched our Visible Women campaign to celebrate inspiring women from the past and present day.

Over the course of 2018, we’ve been heartened to see that we’re not the only ones interested in spotlighting women’s accomplishments. Since January, initiatives and projects designed to raise awareness of women’s stories have sprung up all over the place – from an exhibition honouring female MPs to this summer’s Processions marches, which brought together representatives of hundreds of women’s groups from across the UK.

Now, an artist is making a huge public artwork to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage – and she wants women from across the country to get involved. Helen Marshall specialises in huge mosaic portraits that commemorate important people, occasions or places, created through her design studio The People’s Picture.

Her latest project is an enormous portrait of an as-yet-unknown suffragette, made up of individual photos of women from around the UK, titled The Face of Suffrage. Marshall is asking people to send in photos of women that they think should be included in the mosaic, which will go on display at Birmingham New Street Station from 15 November.  

A photo submitted to The Face of Suffrage project by Sarah. “Two sisters who were among the first women to vote,” she says. “One became my grandmother, she wrote stories and poems, knew names of birds and flowers and sang to me.”

Marshall tells she is looking for photos ranging from contemporary selfies to old family photos. She has previously created public mosaic portraits that pay tribute to royalty, World War I soldiers and football icons, among others, and says she wanted “to represent the female story more than anything”.

“To me the missing link [in my work] was a suffragette: a woman like me who fought for her ideals against all odds,” Marshall explains.

The women in the photos making up the mosaic don’t have to be famous or influential, Marshall says, because the artwork isn’t just intended to honour women who led “daring and brave” lives.

In fact, she’s keen to include photos of ‘ordinary’ women: photos that tell “any kind of story, or no story at all”. The mosaic will celebrate “the everyday” experience of being a woman in Britain throughout the ages, she says, including the “love [and] challenges” that all women go through.

A photo submitted to the project by Carol. “This is a photo of my best friend who succumbed to cancer nine years ago,” she says. “She was an avid voter because of what the suffragettes went through.”

Marshall has already received a huge number of entries, including a picture of a woman who died from cancer (submitted by her best friend), and an old photo of two girls who grew up to become some of the first women to vote in 1918, which was sent in by one of the women’s granddaughters.

But the artist wants as many people as possible to contribute their photos to the project. More than 3,000 images are expected to be used in the final work, which will be 20 metres (66ft) tall, and anyone can submit photos for the mosaic via the project’s website before 31 October.

Explaining why she loves mosaic, Marshall says that the art form allows her to pull together individual stories to create a “universal message”.

“Images are placed together in ways you may not expect. That expands the story and narrative, [creating] twists and turns … The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Stylist’s Visible Women campaign is dedicated to raising awareness of women who’ve made a difference, celebrating their success, and empowering future generations to follow their lead. See more from Visible Women here.  

Images: The People’s Picture