Women in Parliament: Works from the Parliamentary Art Collection

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17 February 2015

The exhibition ‘Women in Parliament’ is now open on the first floor of Portcullis House. It chronicles more than a hundred years of women’s influence on Parliament, as campaigners, voters and parliamentarians. Covering the period 1784 to 2014 it includes portraits, cartoons, photographs and prints showing how women influenced and participated in the business of Parliament.

Highlights of the exhibition include a bust of the first female MP, Nancy Astor by Zsigmond Kisfaludi Strobl, as well as portraits of the first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by Henry Mee, first female Speaker Betty Boothroyd by Jane Bond and Anthony William’s award-winning painting of Rt Hon Margaret Beckett.

'Women in Parliament' also offers an insight into women’s experiences of Parliament throughout history, with works such Reginald Thomas Cleaver's ‘Behind the Grille – The Ladies Gallery’ (1895), as well as historical artefacts including a hunger strike medal awarded to a suffragette in 1912.

Composed of over 80 works, the exhibition investigates the role and impact women have had in Parliament from the 19th century to today. It charts the successes and struggles faced by women over the course of a century.

Alison McGovern MP, Member of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, said:

“Increasing the number of women represented in the Parliamentary Art Collection has been a priority of the Works of Art Committee. The dynamic and influential women represented in this exhibition demonstrate both the success of this endeavour, and why it was necessary. The exhibition tells the fascinating story of women’s increasing involvement in the highest level of politics, first as campaigners and protesters, and more recently, as Members of Parliament and Ministers.”

Mary Macleod MP, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women in Parliament, said:

“The Women in Parliament exhibition is an important step in improving the representation of women, not just within our walls, but also on them. I am glad the new cohort of MPs elected in 2015 will see proof of the impact women have had on parliament when they return after the election.”


The exhibition will be on display in Portcullis House until July. Members of the public can access the exhibition free of charge from 10am – 4pm on the following dates:

  • 20 February
  • 13 March 
  • 27 March

Entry is via the Portcullis House Entrance to Parliament.

Tours which offer a guided interpretation of the exhibition are also available. Further information can be found on the Visiting Parliament section of our website.

Parliamentary Art Collection

The Parliamentary Art Collection is a unique and valuable educational resource which documents and illustrates the history of Parliament over the centuries. It also explains the function and activities of Parliament today. The Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art in the House of Commons is committed to developing the collection by acquiring works that depict issues and individuals of particular historical significance to Parliament, whilst improving the representation of women parliamentarians in the collection.

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Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

The Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art is a cross-party group of MPs appointed by the Speaker to advise on the management of the House of Commons Art Collection.

Lord Speaker's Advisory Panel on Works of Art

The Panel advises the Lord Speaker on matters relating to works of art in the House of Lords.