WOMEN ON THE MOVE: 20th century gamechangers

Walk through the city of Leuven and discover the evolution of women’s work in postwar Europe with the exhibition Women on the Move (Vrouwen in Beweging)!

Women’s position in society changed at an unprecedented rate after 1945, ushering in new perspectives on domestic labour and women in the workforce. This small exhibition will discuss the reflection of economic position of women in the cultural landscape, the glorification or downplaying of certain family earning models and the rising awareness around intersectionality during the postwar period.

The name of the project is a play on the term “women’s movement” (both in English and in Dutch), but also expresses the shift from the idealised 1950s housewife to the working woman outside the home. Five television screens, each containing one section of the exhibit, are scattered across the city. Through the power of the MuPop tool (and the internet), the screens can connect to the visitor’s smartphone using a web browser. The phone can then be used as a control remote to flick through the exhibition pictures at your heart’s desire while accompanying audio plays. Earphones or headphones are therefore recommended! The exhibition will run from 23 April to 21 May, usually from 9 AM to 5 PM on weekdays (some of the locations’ opening hours differ) and around the clock on weekends, at the following locations:

  1. Europahuis, Blijde-Inkomststraat 5
  2. KADOC, Vlamingenstraat 39
  3. Lokaal Dienstencentrum Edouard Remy, Andreas Vesaliusstraat 10
  4. Buurtcentrum Sint-Maartensdal, Rijdende Artillerielaan 6
  5. Familiehulp Leuven, Martelarenlaan 6a

A suggested route on google maps can be seen here. We decided to let the walk take the visitor through the city’s historic centre, so they can take in the cultural sights (or grab ice cream if the weather is nice) on the way over to the Buurtcentrum and Familiehulp. The exhibition will be presented in both English and Dutch; the preferred language can be selected once your smartphone has connected to the MuPop tool.

This exhibition is the result of a partnership between KADOC and Europeana within the framework of Europeana XX: Century of Change, a project focussing on the documentation of the transformations that took place in twentieth-century Europe. KADOC is the Interfaculty Documentation and Research Centre on Religion, Culture and Society at KU Leuven, an institution dedicated to cultural heritage. It houses an impressive collection of archived material. Europeana is an initiative of the European Union which aims to empower the cultural heritage sector by allowing the public to access a vast archive of digital material. We also partnered up with Femma Wereldvrouwen, an organisation created from a women’s movement that strives for a better quality of life for working-class women.

Of course, such a project, although small, brings about its own challenges. The utilisation of the MuPop tool added a physical dimension to an otherwise digital experience. This meant finding television screens that could be rented for a month, roping in people to fetch and transport those to each location and asking individual organisations to house each part of the exhibition, all the while adhering to the corona measures. Keeping the costs down and finding adequate funding also proved to be a difficult task. Another challenge we faced was combining women’s history from Femma’s perspective with a more pan-European overview. We attempted to do this by linking specific facets of Flemish working-class women’s struggles to the overarching evolution of European female emancipation in the workplace.

We hope that you will enjoy this upcoming exhibition!

Special thanks to our sponsors, the Culture Commission of the KU Leuven, TopFoto UK and the Province of Vlaams-Brabant, for their help and support.

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