Zoë Thomas
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Exhibiting the Arts and Crafts
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Chapter 2 explores how women in the Arts and Crafts movement reshaped England’s exhibition culture for their own creative and professional needs. There is a tendency to portray the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society as the exclusive, sole site where Arts and Crafts practitioners displayed and sold work, and spread the ethos of the movement, but this is untenable: during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries there was an explosion in the number and diversity of public sites where the Arts and Crafts were exhibited. The particular focus of this chapter is to unpack the constraining term ‘women’s exhibitions’, to unveil the wealth of events, including several national and international exhibitions, alongside women-led suffrage and Arts and Crafts exhibitions, which are largely ignored by the historiography but were, in their day, highly influential and popular occasions. Ultimately, exhibitions enabled women art workers to play a central role in the public expansion of the movement, through the dual process of connecting them with people more receptive to their assertions of expertise, and by facilitating the engagement of different audiences with Arts and Crafts objects across an ever-widening range of public spaces.

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