This June, The Silk Museum will be welcoming guerrilla art project Rosie’s Plaques to take residency for a project that shines a light on some of the leading women of the town.
Rosie’s Plaques create alternative blue plaques for women past and present, whose achievements may have been overlooked or forgotten. They are coming to Macclesfield ready to create six alternative blue plaques dedicated to women of Macclesfield, which will be temporarily hung in key locations in the town.
The team, who dress as Rosie the Riveter, (an allegorical character representing the women who worked in factories during World War II) create the plaques from an adapted caravan. They will be making plaques for the following women who are all from Macclesfield:
- Marianne Brocklehurst and Mary Booth: collectively known as the MBs. They were partners in life and travel, leading excavations in Egypt bringing the ancient world to Macclesfield.
- Edith Buxton: a silk designer and working-class woman who went from silk worker to Head Designer at Barracks Print Mill, aged just 25.
- Ellen Beech and Ann Osboston who were hanged after the 1656 Michaelmas Assizes at Chester accused of witchcraft from “’which wicked and devilish acts certain people of Rainow fell ill and died’.
- Beryl Footman, former headmistress of Macclesfield High School for Girls as well as a leading force in setting up Silk Heritage Trust and the museums.
- Hester Ann Roe, Methodist writer and preacher, part of Macclesfield’s history of non-conformism. Hester was the niece of Charles Roe and was in regular correspondence with John Wesley.
- Margaret Moborn, the Huguenot weaver from Spitalfields in London who came to Macclesfield around 1790 to teach silk weaving. Macclesfield would not be famous for silk weaving without her. She resided on Sunderland Street for many years.
Nicola Turner from Rosie’s Plaques explains: “Just 12% of heritage plaques are dedicated to non-mythical or non-royal women. This project aims to redress this balance. We create the plaques and then we try and find suitable locations for them. It is a way of raising awareness of the contributions that women have made to society or to maybe highlight social injustices.”
Ailsa Holland, a writer and artist from Macclesfield who is working with Rosie’s Plaques to bring the tour here, says: “We want to start a conversation about the way we remember women in Macclesfield and who is acknowledged for their achievements. Maybe this could be the start of more permanent memorials for these incredible people.
“Macclesfield was known as women’s town in the 20th century because of the high number of women employed in the silk industry. It feels fitting that we shine a light on some of the achievements of women.”
Visitors are welcome to call in to The Silk Museum on Saturday June 18 to see the plaques being made and then on Sunday June 19 there will be a workshop where you can come and make your own alternative blue plaque to a Maxonian of your choice. You might want to acknowledge a famous musician like Ian Curtis. A plaque could celebrate the first meeting in Macclesfield for women’s suffrage, in 1877, or local suffrage campaigners, mother and daughter Susan and Margaret Greg. Or you could make a plaque for a man whose contribution to the town has been overlooked, maybe a family member.
Ailsa Holland and Jo Bell of Macclesfield Museums will lead the workshop and all materials and equipment will be provided. The plaques will be displayed temporarily in the museum on the Great Wall of Macclesfield, and once your plaque has been on display you will be able to keep it.
The following week on Friday June 24 Ailsa Holland will present the plaques at a gathering at the Silk Museum revealing more about the women’s stories. There will be an opportunity to see Macclesfield’s Suffragist Banner. Following this talk, violinist Ian Haigh will perform. Then on Sunday June 26 Ailsa will lead a guided walk around Macclesfield talking about the women and their stories, revealing details about their lives in key locations where the plaques will feature.