We went to a very interesting talk at Queen Mary on the role of women in the Arts and Crafts movement by Zoë Thomas of Birmingham University, who is publishing a book on Women Art Workers and the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Her argument is that all histories of the Arts and Crafts Movement have been dominated by members of the Art Workers’ Guild, which did not admit women till 1964 (it makes the RA seem relatively liberal), is still run by a Master, and calls its members Brothers.
She has based her research on the recently discovered archives of the Women’s Guild of Arts (they were found in an attic in Hammersmith), which was founded in 1907 by May Morris (William Morris’s daughter who remained its President until 1935) and Mary Elizabeth Turner, who died in February 1907. Its members included Christiana Herringham, the founder of the National Art-Collections Fund, worked in egg tempera, and was a student of Indian art (and a suffragette), the artist Annie Swynnerton and Evelyn de Morgan.
The other key (and neglected) institution supporting women artists was the Lyceum Club, which opened at 128, Piccadilly in 1903.
It’s a classic case of a hidden history, even in spite of fifty years of active research.