Feminist Movers Makers & Shakers: Julie Gough and Illustrated Women In History

What inspired you to embark on this path?

I started the project in August 2015 after reading about a museum in the East End of London that had been granted permission on the basis that it was to be celebrating the accomplishments of women. Days before it was planned to open it was revealed to be a museum about Jack the Ripper – famous for brutally murdering women. It made me think about how much we actually need museums and other ways for people to learn about the influential women that have shaped our history, and how little I actually know about those women. I was determined to do something about it this and so Illustrated Women in History was born!

Can you talk about the evolution of your project?

Illustrated Women in History started as a blog where I would feature a woman in history every day. I managed to keep that up for around 10 months and then transitioned into posting a woman in history once a week. I had always envisioned turning this into a zine and in April 2015 I released my first zine in time for a solo exhibition in Bristol, UK. I was shocked at how people responded to the zines, and had to keep re-printing them to meet demand! Since then I’ve gone on to create a one off zine in collaboration with feminist club night & zinesters Fan Club Notts and two zines that feature submissions from a range of artists. I’ve also run workshops – one at an International Women’s Day event in Bristol organised by Bristol Women’s Voice in 2016 and a couple at a local schools where I was shocked at the narrow view of women in history that these kids had and the reluctance of them to choose anyone who wasn’t a glamorous celebrity.

How do you make Illustrated Women In History more inclusive?

I have strived to make sure that I am working towards making Illustrated Women in History inclusive, I’ve tried to feature people from a variety of backgrounds, culturally and geographically and ensure that I’m celebrating women who have contributed in a range of fields – from music to science to political activism. I have always welcomed suggestions for people to feature and have found out about so many women in history that I’d never have known about before. I’m conscious that in the beginning, I featured a lot of most western women and was called out on it. Illustrated Women in History began as, and remains a personal exploration of women in history for me and it was difficult in the beginning to find out about women who have made valuable contributions from places that I am not so familiar with – some I’ve had to rely on dodgy google translated websites in order to write a bio on! I’m grateful that people want to help both me expand my knowledge, and others when I feature women in history that they can learn about & share with others.

What feminist book are you reading right now & what do you think about it? Is there a particular quote or passage you found especially meaningful?

At the moment I’m reading Nasty Women and I really liked this quote by Kristy Diaz,

“Collaborate with women and other marginalised groups in punk, rally around each other, protect and support each other and invest energy in creating. Never apologise for an inch of space you occupy and answer to no-one.”

Ever since I started Illustrated Women in History I’ve been introduced to so many women who are creating similar projects and been involved with a bunch of zines. It’s been amazing to be able to support, and be supported by people who I never knew I shared so many things in common with and it’s weird but it feels like a bit of a community of women celebrating women, and that’s definitely something that’s needed at the moment!

Is collaboration something you incorporate into your practice? Why or why not?

I definitely believe that collaboration is important, and ever since I started the project I’ve tried to make sure that people feel like they can get involved, from having a submissions option on my tumblr to more recently when I’ve been making zines featuring submissions. This has been amazing because I am both able to showcase a bunch of amazing, talented artists in a range of media and also learn about women in history that I’d not necessarily have found out about on my own. I think its so important that people feel like they are, or can be a part of something which is why I’m thankful that I can use social media to connect with people and allow them to contact me if they need to!

What do you hope people gain from experiencing Illustrated Women In History?

I hope that people are able to see that there is nothing they can’t do – there are no fields they are excluded from or can’t succeed in and whatever barriers they think there might be in terms of gender can be breached. I also hope that I can encourage people who maybe aren’t that confident about their abilities in art to be able to share their work by illustrating a women in history. I had a message a while ago asking about submissions by someone who was in a bad place and wanted something positive to focus on and Illustrated Women in History was there for them to have a creative outlet.

Why do you choose this project as your main method of engaging with feminism?

Art is so easily accessible, even if people have limited abilities to read and understand text they can still see the importance of something if it is presented visually. We are so used to seeing endless images of men in positions of power that it is nice to be able to slightly tip the scale and put the spotlight on women for a change.

What are 5 ways our readers can support the work you’re doing?

You can support me by

  1. Submitting to the project – either just a suggestion of a woman in history for me to feature, or an illustration and/or a biography – twice a year I’ll have a call for submissions for these to be part of a zine too.
  2. Following me on social media
  3. Buying zines, prints or postcards tote bags, prints & more on Etsy or  on Society6
  4. Donating to the project via PayPal
  5. Writing about Illustrated Women in History on your own blogs

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Julie Gough is an illustrator and graphic designer who lives in Swindon, UK. She specialises in digital illustration and runs the Illustrated Women in History project which aims to celebrate women in history and educate both herself, and others on the accomplishments and contributions women have made. She creates or shares one illustration a week featuring a woman in history and creates zines to showcase both her own, and submitted illustrations. She is currently exhibiting a selection of illustrations at the Central Library in Swindon, UK.


 

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