The portraits were taken as part of a research project by the University’s Huddersfield Centre for Research in Education and Society
A VIRTUAL exhibition created as part of a research project led by the University of Huddersfield and hosted by a Leeds museum, is highlighting the hard work undertaken by mums during the pandemic.
Mothers in Lockdown is a project led by Dr Jim Reid from the University’s Centre for Research in Education and Society, on display at the Thackray Museum of Medicine, which focuses on 12 working mums and their experiences juggling various responsibilities including, working from home, childcare and home schooling during the first Lockdown of the pandemic.
It features portraits taken remotely by photographer Fran Monks last May and June and offers a glance at what life was like inside the homes of other families, during what was an exceptionally difficult period.
“It has already been termed a crisis, but it would have been a crisis ten-fold if these women wouldn’t have been around to mediate the family’s wellbeing and I don’t think enough of that has been recognised.”
Dr Jim Reid
When the photographs had been taken, Dr Reid conducted telephone interviews with the women. The findings of which were included in a report which was then sent to the Women’s and Equalities Sub-committee.
“One of the key phrases used by the mothers when describing what the first Lockdown was like, is that it was very similar to the 1950s,” Dr Reid explained, “in that women were expected to do an increased amount of work in the home.”
It didn’t matter that they had full time jobs or if they were key workers, or that they had children at home who they had to home school argued Dr Reid, a large majority of the extra work both emotionally and physically was picked up by the mums.
The research report also notes that, “no one in authority sought the advice of mothers and while some were asked by loved one’s ‘how they were doing’, no one asked what they needed. A consequence of the response to the pandemic was to silence mothers as both care givers and in terms of their own care needs.”
It is this silencing of women that the exhibition hopes to address by allowing the women featured to each share their experiences in their own words.
“To me these women are health heroes,” said Dr Reid. “They have spent so much energy and so much time in trying to manage the mental and psychological health of the whole family.
“It has already been termed a crisis, but it would have been a crisis ten-fold if these women wouldn’t have been around to mediate the family’s wellbeing and I don’t think enough of that has been recognised,” he said.
Dr Reid first thought of the idea for the project after there were a lot of concerns circulating throughout the media about the negative impact the virus was having on women.
“I became interested in researching the effects of the coronavirus in cultural and social terms on family life, and on women and their children. It was after I viewed Fran’s work on a BBC website when I knew this was a project that would offer a way of revealing that.”
The exhibition is available to view on the website of the Thackray Museum of Medicine. To celebrate the official launch on Wednesday March 10, Anna Whitehouse – a mum, journalist, campaigner, and presenter – will join the museum to host a free webinar at 4pm.
The event will focus on the research findings, creative processes and experiences of the women who participated, with the webinar panel including Jim Reid, Fran Monks and two of the mums involved in the project.