Reading Sylvia Pankhurst

Olivia Plender

April 30, 2022, 12–2pm
Géza, 306 Maujer

Prior to opening the exhibition to the public, Olivia Plender organizes a small-sized group meeting with local feminist organizers to revisit some of Sylvia Pankhurst’s writings about the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS).

Olivia Plender’s research into Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960), a socialist feminist and anti-fascist from the UK began when she found Pankhurst’s unpublished and unperformed play Liberty or Death from 1913 in the archives of the Women’s Library in London. The work became the starting point for a video installation, Hold, Hold, Fire (2019), and a series of meetings with grassroot activists that Olivia Plender continues to organize.

Sylvia Pankhurst is mostly known for her role in women’s voting rights, but she also campaigned against racism and imperialism and was part of the Communist Party founding in the UK. Pankhurst was trained as an artist at the Manchester School of Art and then the Royal College of Art in London. Liberty or Death departs from Pankhurst’s work with the East London Federation of the Suffragettes (ELFS).

In Reading Sylvia Pankhurst Olivia Plender explores how the history of the Suffragettes has been written. Since 2019, she has convened groups with local organizers. By applying their knowledge of political organizing today, these groups focus on aspects of the drama that relate directly to their own experiences in campaigning against gender-based violence, a punitive welfare system, the immigration and asylum system, and inadequate social housing. In staging these meetings, Olivia Plender tries to establish an atmosphere of mutual education that enables a collective form of re-writing feminist history. By bringing Reading Sylvia Pankhurst to New York, Olivia Plender aims to discuss similarities and differences between the UK and the US: how does feminist history differ between the two countries and what can they learn from each other? In the learnshop at Amant, participants will mainly discuss and read, with the possibility to perform and do basic performance/body work.

This learnshop is open to anyone who is interested; however, it is conceived for people who have experience in community organizing, feminist activism, or who have an interest in feminist history and in exploring this history with others. The gathering has a maximum capacity of 15 people.