1st prize (16-18 yrs) collage 2021 Competition

Mock up of the British Workwoman


Mary Demirova

Foyle College, Northern Ireland

In this collage I drew a number of images from the British Workwoman, (Issue 11, Volumes 232 and 242, Issue 12 Volume 243 p.21) as well as some externally sourced images, specifically the Bulgarian woman, hand, mirror and flag images. 

The initial idea behind the composition was to create a mock up front page of the British Workwoman, depicting two working women from different cultural backgrounds and the contrast between their ideologies and realities. The usage of colour doesn’t adhere to historical accuracy, but it does emphasise the symbolism and message of the collage. 

Initially, I merged various article images to form a woman creating a garland. This was the form of work pictured in these articles intending to ‘romanticise’ the idea of women at work doing more ladylike activities. She is attached to a male hand like a puppet, symbolising the gender hierarchy during the era, as well as male influence over media, considering  the British Workwoman was ran by male patrons who reinforced gender roles and rigid feminine ideologies about work. Images of the reality of laborious work, like women in factories, did not appeal and were rarely printed, and so I added an image of  factory workers in the woman’s head to symbolise her reality amidst the pretence of casual work, as indicated in various articles in the British Workwoman. The mirror symbolises an alternative, reflecting a Bulgarian working woman.

Contrastingly, in Bulgaria, women’s work was not as undermined in society like in Victorian England, and women were held to a similar standard as men. The colour in the reflection represents more prosperity, the leaves reflected (the same as the garland) showing how the work is mirrored, yet valued differently in the two cultures. The woman’s head shows a family, illustrating how traditional female work roles were still reinforced alongside more laborious factory/field work, but not disregarded like the work of female factory workers. The overall media portrayal of the Victorian Era depicting a glamourised side to women’s work represents the work  which men carried out in order to project this façade, contrasting the more equal, standardised work in Eastern Europe.