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 — 10 Mar 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

Diane Abbott is the first female of colour to hold a seat in the House of Commons. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is Casali’s Adoration of the Magi. 

Baroness Valerie Amos CH, PC is the first female of colour to be Vice-Chancellor of a University (SOAS) and first black female cabinet minister. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is the billet for Mary Lamas.

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.

Sarah Clarke is the first female Black Rod. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is Hogarth’s portrait of Thomas Coram.

Eileen Cooper OBE is the first female Keeper of the Royal Academy. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is Hogarth’s sketch of the coat of arms.

Dany Cotton is the first female Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is an Act for Regulation of Buildings and Party-Walls and Preventing Mischiefs by Fire in London and Westminster.

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.

Sian Edwards is the first female conductor engaged by the Royal Opera House. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is Hogarth’s portrait of Thomas Coram.

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.

Francesca Hayward is the first black female Principal Dancer of the Royal Ballet. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is the heart ring token.

Venetia Hoare is the first female Partner at C. Hoare & Co. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is a print by Nathaniel Parr depicting the balloting process at the Foundling Hospital.

Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin is the first female Chaplain to the House of Commons. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is the reproduction of Coram’s Pocket Book showing the list of the 21 ladies of quality and distinction.

Carris Jones is the first female full-time Chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is a pewter pap boat. 

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.

Reverend Libby Lane is the first female Bishop. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is a recording from the Foundling Voices archive.

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.

Alex Mahon is the first female Chief Executive of Channel 4. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is Hogarth’s portrait of Thomas Coram.

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.

Lady Nicola Mendelsohn CBE is the first female President of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. her selection from the Museum’s displays is the portrait of Mrs Forbes.

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 Stephanie Shirley CH, DBE, FREng, FBCS is the first female President for the Chartered Institution of IT. Her selection from the Museum’s displays is a letter from Ann Twigg.

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.

Alexandra Wood is the first female men’s tailor on Savile Row. Her selection from the Museum displays are the fabric tokens.

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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