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Help Bring 21 Ladies of Quality & Distinction to Foundling Museum

Giving a new meaning to 'girl power'

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The Foundling Museum needs your help to put their first female champions back in the picture…

The Foundling Museum in London tells the story of The Foundling Hospital, the first place in Britain dedicated to providing a home for the country’s abandoned children.

Joseph Swain print of women at Foundling Hospital

Joseph Swain, Sunday at the Foundling Hospital c. 1872

Founded in 1739 by Thomas Coram, the Hospital was an institution that provided education, hospitality and healthcare for an increasing number of children abandoned on the streets of London. Undoubtedly a noble endeavour, but one which we might be surprised to hear was met with little support initially.

While the Royal Founding Charter which allowed its inception received the backing of numerous distinguished men of Britain’s high society, it is a little-known fact that the Hospital may never have existed without the initial support of 21 ‘Ladies of Quality and Distinction’. They were the only ones who signed Coram’s original petition in 1735, marking a turning point after his 17 long years of campaigning to no avail.

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Coram's pocketbook with signatures

Thomas Coram’s pocketbook with the signatures of the 21 ladies

This year, The Foundling Museum will celebrate these forward-thinking Georgian ladies whose help was vital in establishing an institution that saved the lives of thousands of vulnerable children. It seems only right that in the year of the ‘100 Years of Suffrage’ celebrations, the neglected role of women in the Foundling Hospital story finally be brought to light – but they need your help!

‘Despite the male face of the institution, women permeate every aspect of the Hospital story; as mothers, founding supporters, wet nurses, staff, inspectors, apprentice masters, artists, musicians, crafstmen and foundlings’

Portraits of these 21 ladies are scattered around the country, and extensive research has been conducted to track them down. The Museum launched its Art Happens crowdfunding campaign yesterday to raise £20,000 to help bring all these brilliant women back together again, and give them their rightful place in the Museum.

Can you think of anything more satisfying than watching the Picture Gallery’s portraits of the Hospital’s male governors be taken down (‘given a rest’, if you will) and be entirely replaced with portraits of the forgotten women whose vision and empathy galvanised Coram’s campaign?

The Foundling Museum Picture Gallery

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You can donate to the Fund here, and in exchange for your support, you can choose from a range of exclusive rewards – from limited-edition prints to VIP experiences and private tours of the Museum. Watch the video below, in which Ruth Jones talks about the project.

‘For nearly 300 years these remarkable women have remained a footnote in the Hospital’s story. In the centenary of female suffrage, we think it’s time this changed’

So, for all you ladies (or gents) of real quality and distinction – it’s time to come together to help ensure these 21 wonder women finally take their rightful place on the site of the Foundling Hospital they helped create! Find out more here.

If the campaign is successful, the ‘Ladies of Quality and Distinction’ exhibition will take place from 21 September 2018 – 13 January 2019.

There’s a whole host of exciting events taking place this year to celebrate the Suffrage Centenary – check out our selection here.