temporary exhibition

Black dress. Patriotic women in the fight for freedom

  • September 15, 2023–January 28, 2024
  • Opening: September 15, 2023, 5:00 pm (free admission)
  • The exhibition will be open to the public from September 16, 2023
  • Admission fee is included in the price of the museum ticket
  • Team of curators: Małgorzata Orzeł, Magdalena Sozańska, Magdalena Sudoł
  • Curator of the part of the exhibition dedicated to the times of “Solidarity”: Marta Dzido

The exhibition called “Black dress. Patriotic women in the fight for freedom” is dedicated to the role of women in the greatest national uprising of the 19th century, i.e. the January Uprising. Its 160th anniversary is celebrated in 2023. The exhibition takes place at the Pan Tadeusz Museum (Branch of the Ossoliński National Institute) and comprises two parts: the first one is devoted to the contribution of Polish women to the January Uprising, while the second one refers to more modern times, namely the revolutionary uprisings of women of the “Solidarity” period. The exhibition reminds visitors of the great commitment of Polish patriotic women who ardently fought for freedom in large numbers.

The “Solidarity” dissidents followed the footsteps of female participants of the January Uprising and learned a lot from them. Despite decades between the events of 1863 and 1981, women’s attitudes to the fight for the country’s sovereignty remained unchanged. At all costs, often putting their life and health at risk, they went against authorities’ orders. They were harassed, beaten, imprisoned, blackmailed and intimidated. They hid conspirators, organized food collections and got involved as liaisons, couriers, nurses.

As part of the mass political protest, women of the January Uprising put on mourning clothes and wore the so-called “black jewellery”, such as brooches, necklaces, bracelets, earrings. Jewellery was used for propaganda purposes and was made of inexpensive, generally available materials. The exhibition shows how black jewellery became patriotically symbolic. This symbolism was shaped in the years 18611864, and resumed during World War I to represent the Reborn Poland. The jewellery was worn during World War II as well as during the “Solidarity” period. In the 1980s, interned women embroidered the symbols of “Solidarity” on sweaters, shirts, socks or scarves as a gesture of defiance. Crosses with eagles in the crown, medallions, rings, bracelets, rosaries were handmade.

The exhibition covers short biographical notes and achievements of such incredible women as Emilia Heurich née Szwarce and her daughter Teodora Kiślańska née Heurich, authors of memoirs, Eliza Orzeszkowa, a novelist, Anna Henryka Pustowojt, a participant in many patriotic manifestations, Zofia Romanowicz, a social activist, and Maria Bruchnalska, an author of the study “Silent Heroines”. Other women such as Joanna Lenartowicz, Jadwiga Kryńska, Janina Drabowska, Wanda Kołodziejczyk or Grażyna Kuroń, who lost their lives or health as a result of actions taken by secret services of the People’s Republic of Poland, are also worthy of mention.

The exhibition, in addition to exhibit items from the collections of the Ossoliński National Institute, will also feature objects borrowed from private collection of Wojciech Postuła, an antiquarian, expert on Polish history and lover of historical memorabilia, and Jacek Dehnel, a writer, collector of photographs, and translator. What is more, the visitors will see a reconstruction of a mourning dress made by Elżbieta Dunin-Wąsowicz and copies of banners from the period of the January Uprising used by insurgent troops or carried at the head of processions and demonstrations. These items are made available to the public by courtesy of the Royal Castle in Warsaw – Museum.

The exhibition will show not only black jewellery (rings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches), but also elements of mourning clothes, patriotic jewellery from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, prayer books, leaflets, manuscripts, photographs, woodcuts and watercolours. Furthermore, documentary materials featuring political prisoners from the period of “Solidarity”, unique photos from demonstrations, patriotic clothes, jewellery, and songs performed by internees in Gołdap will be presented as well. The European Solidarity Centre, the “Memory and Future” Centre, the KARTA Centre and private owners, namely Apolonia Dwurnik and Bogna Janiec, have lent exhibit items from their collections.

Małgorzata Orzeł, Magdalena Sozańska and Magdalena Sudoł are the exhibition curators. The part of the exhibition dedicated to the times of “Solidarity” is curated by Marta Dzido.

Events accompanying the exhibition will include guided tours, engagé embroidery workshops, graphic workshops, jewellery making workshops for children and young adults, film shows, a lecture entitled ‘“Fridays”, “Enthusiasts”, “Gals”, “Klaudynki”, “Women's Committees” – Polish women in the January Uprising’, and a debate on patriotic women.

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