Hats and Hairdos
Museums across Cumbria have joined together to open virtual doors since February. As many as 122 of us are taking part in ‘My Local Museum’ social media campaign with weekly themes. The campaign’s running until Tuesday 18th May, the day we open our real museum doors again. It’s been a lovely way for everyone to see the amazing collections we all look after. As hairdressers reopen following Lockdown 3, our collective of Cumbrian museums is exploring the theme of Hats and Hairdos. We’re looking at the early Quaker refusal to doff ones’ cap, and the hairstyles captured in our embroidery panels.
Quakers believe that all people are equal in the eyes of God, which led early Quakers to refuse to practice ‘hat honour’. They wouldn’t take their hats off or bow to anyone regardless of title or rank.
One of the most famous Quakers who refused to doff his cap was George Fox, the founder of Quakerism. He said “When the Lord sent me forth into the world He forbade me to put off my hat to any, high or low”. He famously refused to take his hat off in the presence of the magistrates and ministers of Cromwell’s reign. “Proud flesh,” says George Fox, “looks for hat-honour”
The Quaker founder later recalled: “O! The blows, punchings, beatings and imprisonments that we underwent, for not putting off our hats to men! Some had their hats violently plucked off and thrown away, so that they quite lost them.” Many male Quakers were indeed imprisoned for this crime.
When it comes to capturing hairdos, there are some fabulous examples in the 77 modern embroideries that make up the Quaker Tapestry, of which 40 are on display in the museum at one time. Each tells stories of people across the centuries who made history with their deeds of discovery and daring.
One of those was Kathleen Lonsdale (1903-1971) – a Quaker chemist who was instrumental in developing the science of crystallography. She was a peace campaigner and a prison reformer and an influential author on all these topics. You can read more about her incredible achievements in our earlier blog.
Kathleen Lonsdale’s son said the embroidery of his mother, on the panel about scientists, was the best picture he had of her. A personal friend exclaimed, “That’s exactly her hair. She never could do anything with it!”
Begun in 1981 and completed in 1996, two of the 77 panels that were produced depict punk hairstyles. One is linked to a panel about unemployment and another two punk hairstyles can be found on a panel about the Quaker Peace Action Caravan.
It’s been 50 years since punk hairstyles came to signify new attitudes and new ways of seeing the world. Part of a 1970s rebellious, anti-establishment movement that set out to break all the rules of conventionality. It’s wonderful to see three hardcore punk styles recorded on these panels of social history – tall mohawks and spiked hair, bleached or in bright colours.
If you’re looking for some hair inspired embroidery – and you don’t mind a pun – why not have a look at Bramley Hare