A monstrous regiment of women is taking over. On Friday 3rd April the women held an all-day conference at the Antiquaries where over 100 women spent the day plotting. Your intrepid Editor-in-Chief gate-crashed the drinks party in the evening. Did he survive to tell the tale?
A monstrous regiment of women is taking over at the Society of Antiquaries. On Friday 3rd April they had an all-day conference at the Antiquaries to celebrate the achievements of women in the heritage (or HERitage, as they call it – a sister to herstory). Although not billed as being women-only, the event turned out that way: it began with a photo call, where over 100 women were photographed in front of the building, together with Margaret Hodge, the cultural minister, who conveniently is also a woman and could therefore show solidarity with the sisterhood. None of the female contingent from CA was able to go – they had already done a special article on Women in Archaeology – so I was deputed to carry the flag and put in an appearance: I decided that turning up for the drinks party afterwards would be a sufficient ordeal.
I arrived to find a crush of femininity: I shrunk back, though kindly one of the women took pity on me, and offered to plunge through the masses to get me a drink. But then horror of horrors, I found the ultimate disaster: they had even taken over our loos! Needing to hop into to our fine gentlemen’s apartments – done in the best style of the London Gentlemen’s clubs – I found that it had been taken over by the women, and the notice on the door: ‘Gentlemen’ had been pasted over by a temporary notice: ‘Ladies’. Gentlemen, I was told, had to go down to the cellars if they wanted to brush their hair or tittivate themselves.
I am told that the meeting was very successful – and I am glad that two women who did not make it to the Antiquaries were celebrated — the formidable Dorothy Marshall, who dominated archaeology in the Isle of Bute, and Daphne Lorimer, whom I knew as the stalwart of the Hendon and District Archaeological Society, and who went on to make valuable contributions to archaeology in Orkney, but who sadly died of cancer while her blue paper for election to the Antiquaries was making its way through the arcane election procedure.
But clearly it was a very academic occasion: where for instance was Annabel Lawson, the founder and head of Andante travels, our leading archaeological travel company, which consists entirely of women (though I gather they now have one token male on their staff). Surely she is the most distinguished, and certainly the most successful women in archaeology today? Where too was Jenny Page, the formidable first Chief Executive of English Heritage, who went on to run the Millennium Commission and was responsible for getting the Dome opened on time – as well as becoming a director of both Railtrack and Equitable Life? Or where was the recently ennobled Dame Fiona Reynolds, the Blairite Director General of the National Trust, who has done so much to install New Labour principles into the Trust’s every-day life? The Antiquaries have always been very snobby as regards commerce – and it appears that the women are following in the male tradition. But it was said to have been an extremely successful day: clearly we men must now band together and have a day devoted to the achievements of Men in archaeology, from which we will entirely forbid all women: let’s have the Antiquaries to ourselves for a whole day!