Leeds exhibition to commemorate British activist seen as “heroine” in South Africa

Portrait panel of Emily Hobhouse at Leeds exhibition.The War Without Glamour Exhibition can be seen in Leslie Silver Building, in Leeds, between 4 and 20 November.

The War Without Glamour Exhibition aims to get peace activist Emily Hobhouse more widely recognised among the British public.

Emily Hobhouse pleaded for peace during the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa. One of her main achievements was founding textiles schools for Afrikaner women.

Exhibition panel with information on Emily Hobhouse's textile schools.Emily's bust in the background.
Alvaro Casas The exhibition gives details on Emily Hobhouse’s textile schools in South Africa.

One of the exhibition’s curators, Dr Rebecca Gill, said that these schools “provided the South African people with a self-sustaining industry”. She added that, in South Africa, Hobhouse “is celebrated as a heroine”.

Dr Helen Dampier, who co-curated the exhibition, said that Hobhouse’s craftwork should be seen as “political practice”.

She then talked about trying to reach multiple audiences, mainly “the community in and around Bloemfontain, who are very invested in Hobhouse” and “the British audience who knows nothing” about her.

Emily Hobhouse's portrait on the opening panel of the exhibition.
Eliza Lita A celebrated peace activist and moralist in South Africa, there is little known about Emily Hobhouse in her home country.

Both curators agreed that their intention was not to “place Hobhouse on a pedestal in this country, nor to knock her from it”, but rather to “give the pedestal a little wobble”.

After finding out about the high mortality rates in African concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer War, Hobhouse wrote a report exposing what the African women and children were going through.

Emily Hobhouse exhibition panel on journalism
Eliza Lita Emily Hobhouse fought for peace through reports, letters and books, pleading for the wellbeing of the Boer people.

According to Dr Dampier, “Hobhouse’s exposé of life in the camps brought her, in this country, the contempt of the British Government. The press, particularly The Times, claimed she was hysterical”.

Exhibition panels on Emily Hobhouse.
Alvaro Casas Dr Rebecca Gill: “What our exhibition tries to do is to highlight Hobhouse’s own place in the greater white Afrikaner nationalism”.

Leeds is not the only British city to celebrate Emily Hobhouse’s legacy. Other venues include: the University of Huddersfield, Liskeard Museum, in Cornwall, where Hobhouse was born, and the University of Oxford.

The War Without Glamour Exhibition is part of the Leeds Cultural Conversations series, an annual initiative meant to bring public lectures in Leeds city centre. This year’s conversations include: Peace Activism, Queer Culture and Community Resilience in Post-War Britain.

About the Author

Alvaro Casas and Eliza Lita
Second year Journalism students at Leeds Beckett University. Reporters for Leeds Now.

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