A new exhibition exploring the lives of middle-class women in Edwardian England opens at the Panacea Museum next month.
‘Edwardian Culture and the Panacea Society’ focuses on employment opportunities for women, their role within the family, leisure time, and the limited roles available in religion and politics as the country emerged from the first world war and entered the 1920s.
The Panacea Society was a religious group, founded in Bedford in 1919. It followed the teachings of Joanna Southcott, who died in 1814, and campaigned for Southcott’s sealed box of prophecies to be opened according to her instructions. The Society believed Bedford to be the original site of the Garden of Eden.
Joining the Panacea Society allowed unmarried and widowed women some freedom from their family ties and gave a purpose and positive meaning to their solo status.
The last member of the Society died in 2012, and the museum and garden, dedicated to sharing its fascinating story, can be found on Newnham Road in Bedford.
The exhibition, which opens on 15 July, will include costume items, previously unseen archive materials, personal objects and art pieces painted by Members.
The majority of the museum is open to the public, with a one-way system in place which includes access to the Gardens.
All visitors to the museum are required to wear a face covering inside the museum, except for those with medical exemptions and children.
Hand sanitising stations are at each entrance and exit. Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic and sit in the gardens.
The museum is open from 11am – 5pm Thursday to Sunday until 24th October and it is free to enter.