17.06.2015 - 17.06.2015
Aarhus' Women's Museum is one of the world's few women's history museums with the focus firmly on women's lives. I do not know of any other women's museum. I have certainly not visited any other. This is a very unique and interesting museum. The exhibitions are displayed over three floors of the lovely historic old city hall (1857).
This year, 2015, the museum celebrates the 100 year anniversary of two very important events in Danish women's history.
Young Women's Voices ... In 1915 only 14% of the population had the vote ... and only men ... in accordance with the then constitution. There was widespread distrust of common people in general, and women's ability to deal with, and take responsibility for, the larger issues of society. Five groups were excluded from democratic citizenship ... women, servants, paupers, criminals and fools.
After many battles, and by forming alliances with men already in parliament, a majority vote brought changes to the Constitution, which finally made it possible for all men and women who were Danish citizens over 25 years, and with a fixed address, to vote and be elected to the Danish Parliament. This change was significant as it allowed a large number of 'untrained' voters all at once into the power which had previously belonged to a minority.
There was an excellent video on display showing a procession of a large number of women walking through the streets. I'm not sure if it was a protest, or a celebration of their achievement in 1915. However, it was powerful to see and to reflect on the courage they showed in daring to challenge the status quo.
With a focus on three young women of the time, the exhibition invites women to consider their own position in relation to the value of democracy, equality and career.
The poster displaying the year in which women obtained the vote across the globe is especially poignant. New Zealand first in 1883, then Australia (Commonwealth) 1902 (white women only), but South Australia was first in 1895, then Western Australia 1899. Kuwait 2005. Saudi Arabia and the Vatican City are two countries that still lag behind in equal voting rights.
Fighting for Peace ... this exhibition reflects on the founding of the International League for Peace and Freedom, during WW1, when 1200 women from 11 countries (including women from Denmark) gathered in The Hague from 27-29 April 1915 to protest the ongoing war, and to discuss what they could do to stop the havoc of war. Their message: "We, the mothers and wives of Europe, will no longer tolerate this insane killing. We demand peace .. demand it with the holy right of mothers."
The League still continues, and has this year been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. This exhibition honors the fact that Danish women have continued to participate in peace work since that first Congress in 1915.
The close link between feminism and the fight for peace is also addressed. As the culture of war reinforces the privileges of the powerful and enhances exploitation, the exhibition illustrates that war and conflicts often involving sexual abuse and the trafficking of women, stating that, on a global scale prostitution is the second largest business only surpassed by military expenses.
Unfortunately the world remains as war-ridden as ever.
The history of Childhood ... this exhibition is a trip down memory lane of a Danish childhood, surprisingly similar to one in Australia with similar toys, educational resources and clothing. The exhibition allows children to actively participate by climbing on the displays, writing on the walls, and trying on the old clothing. It also allows the visitor to choose a card showing information relating to a specific individual. You can follow in their footsteps by hunting for their items identified on the reverse of the card. I thought this another example of the Danes ability to showcase the exhibits very effectively.
City Council Hall ... While women obtained the right to vote in national elections in 1915, they gained the right for municipal elections in 1908. This exhibit displays artefacts and memorabilia from 1909 when Dagmar Pedersen became a member of the city council as the first woman in Aarhus. The green table in the central room is the original furniture where members came together. However, photos show that even though women had won the right to vote and be elected, for many years men were far more represented .
It is ironic that while the building was Initially erected as the City Hall in 1857 as a place for powerful men, it is now a women's museum.
Final display ... the last exhibition displayed a range of personal items of a women in early 20thC. Again very well displayed and interesting.
We always enjoy lunch at the cafe when visiting the museum. It has an olde worlde charm, and the food is lovely.