Vabamu opens exhibition on 150-year history of women's movements in Estonia

Exhibition poster
Exhibition poster "Escape the Kitchen!" Source: Vabamu Museum

There are powerful women in Estonian history who helped build democracy but whose names have been unjustly omitted from historical records. "Escape the Kitchen!" is an exhibition that presents and celebrates the history of women's movements in Estonia over the last 150 years.

Lilli Suburg was in the same rooms as Carl Robert Jakobson and Jakob Hurt. Mari Raamot and Minni Kurs-Olesk also sat in the same meeting chambers where Konstantin Päts and Lui Olesk were present. However, they are not taught about in history lessons, the exhibition organizers write.

With this exhibition, the museum strives to give women who have been forgotten by history a dignified and equal place beside prominent men who are considered the greatest figures in Estonian history.

"For example, in his book on the leading figures of the [Estonian national] Awakening, Mart Laar named 455 men and four women. I have had methodological and academic disputes with editors regarding these numbers, but the disparity is certainly staggering," Piret Karro, chief curator and researcher at the Vabamu Museum, said at the "Terevisioon" morning program on Wednesday, March 8.

To help visitors to remember the main characters, the organizers are creating "humorous miniature equestrian monuments," to right the wrong that equestrian monuments traditionally celebrate men.

The "Escape the Kitchen!" exhibition is presented in Estonian, English and Russian. It will remain open for a year and will be accompanied by a diverse public programs.

The exhibition is curated by the museum's head of exhibitions Piret Karro, artist Flo Kasearu, decorator Kaisa Sööt and graphic designer Sandra Kosorotova, and is divided into seven sections:

  • The legacy of Lilli Suburg – the first school for girls and the first newspaper for women.
  • The Kreenholm strike of 1872 and the intersection of the women's movement with the workers' movement.
  • Women's societies in the first period of the Republic of Estonia and the economically independent woman.
  • What happened in 1941? The beginning of the occupation and the dissolution of the Women's Union.
  • Leida Laius, Malle Meelak and other women in the Estonian cultural canon
  • The return of feminism in newly independent Estonia – lesbian movement, contemporary art.
  • Current situation and the kaleidoscope of feminist practices in democratic Estonia.

Piret Karro's study "150 years of Estonian feminism," which was published (link in Estonian) as an article in the Vikerkaar magazine in spring 2022, gives the conceptual framework to the exhibition.

Supporters and partners of the exhibition are: National Heritage Board, Vikerkaar culture magazine, National Archives, Film Archives, Estonian Public Broadcasting Archives, Viljandi Museum, Narva Museum, Harjumaa Museum, Under and Tuglas Literature Centre, C. R. Jakobson Farm Museum, Estonian Literary Museum, History Museum, Estonian National Museum, Estonian Theater and Music Museum, Estonian Center for Contemporary Art.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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