Detail of Thomas Rowlandson's Vauxhall, 1785 ,© Gerald-Coke-Handel-Collection
First Amongst Equals

First Amongst Equals

40 Brunswick Square London WC1N 1AZ
16 Jan 2018 — 13 Jan 2019
  • Exhibitions & Displays
Remarkable women who have shaped contemporary British society choose objects that speak to them from the Museum’s displays.

Spanning 300 years of social history, culture and philanthropy, selections will enable visitors to see the Collection from different perspectives, to make connections between the past and the present, and to reflect on women’s ongoing struggle for equality. Contributors, who have all achieved firsts within their respective fields, include: Maria Balshaw (first female Director of Tate); Moira Cameron (first female ‘Beefeater’, Yeoman Warder of the Tower of London); Baroness Hale of Richmond (first female President of the Supreme Court); Francesca Hayward (first black female Principal Dancer of the Royal Ballet); Carris Jones (first female chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral); Joanne Moore (first female tailor to have a men’s tailoring business on Saville Row); and Frances O’Grady (first female General Secretary of the TUC).

Starting in January, items will gradually go on display throughout the year. Look out for the purple labels throughout the Museum to discover the chosen objects.


Currently displayed First Amongst Equals selections

Dr Maria Balshaw CBE is the first female Director of the Tate. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is a poster for the first Manchester Musical Festival.

Moira Cameron is the first female Yeoman Warder of the Guards. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is a suitcase belonging to George Merrett.

Her Honour Judge Anuja Dhir QC is the first woman of colour to be circuit court judge at the Old Bailey. Her selections from the Museum’s displays are Foundling Hospital ID tags.

Dame Liz Forgan is the first female Chair of the British Arts Council. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is Handel’s pitch pipe.

Baroness Brenda Hale DBE, PC, FBA is the first female Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and first female President of the Supreme Court. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is the portrait of Henry Fielding.

Lady Barbara Judge was the first female Chair of the Institute of Directors. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is a Famille rose punch bowl, decorated with scenes of London in the 1750’s.

Ann Kenrick OBE is the first female Master of the Charterhouse. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is the Foundling Hospital Mallet.

Linda Kitson is the first female artist to be commissioned to accompany troops into battle (Falklands conflict). Her selection from the Museum’s displays are the Foundling Hospital uniforms.

Rebecca Lenkiewicz is the first female playwright to have an original play performed on the Olivier Stage at the National in her lifetime. Her selection from the Museum’s displays are the girls’ Foundling Hospital uniforms.

Clare Marx is the first female President of the Royal College of Surgeons. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is Sir John Everett Millais’s portrait of Luther Holden.

Heather Maizels is the first female Director of a private bank. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is the The March of the Guards to Finchley by Hogarth lottery receipt.

Right Honourable Nicky Morgan is the first female Treasury Select Committee chair. Her selections from the Museum’s displays are a letter from Margaret Larney [reproduction] and notched coin token.

Baroness Rabbi Julia Neuberger DB is the first female Rabbi in Britain to have her own synagogue. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is Thomas Coram’s pocketbook showing the list of Ladies of Quality and Distinction.

Frances O’Grady is the first female General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress. Her selections from the Museum’s displays are a letter to Annie Carpenter and telegram to Sam Mold.

Dame Gillian Pugh DBE OBE is the first female Secretary to the Foundling Hospital. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is the fair copy of Handel’s Messiah.

Professor Louise Richardson is the first female Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. Her selections from the Museum’s displays are letters to the Hospital from foundling girls asking to be rescued from the local workhouse.

Juliet Sargeant is the first black woman to create a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is a self-respect cup.

Dame Marina Warner is the first female President of the Royal Society of Literature. Her selection from the Museum displays is a button from the uniform of a Coldstream Guard.

Judith Weir is the first female Master of the Queens Music. Her selection from the Museum displays is John Verelst’s portrait of Anna Maria Strada.

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