Ladies of Quality & Distinction
21 September 2018 – 20 January 2019
Marking 100 years of female suffrage, this exhibition resets the focus of the hospital’s story, and radically re-hangs the museum’s Picture Gallery.
For the first time, visitors to the Foundling Museum have an opportunity to discover portraits and stories of the remarkable women who supported the establishment and running of London’s Foundling Hospital.
Thanks to 336 funders through Art Fund's crowdfunding platform, Art Happens, who raised over £37,000 for the project, the museum brings together portraits of the ‘ladies of quality and distinction’ who signed Thomas Coram’s original petition to King George II in 1735, calling for the establishment of a hospital.
Hung together for the first time, these paintings will temporarily replace the portraits of male governors that line the walls of the museum’s Picture Gallery, reuniting the Ladies on the site of the charity they helped establish, and highlighting their role in shaping British society today.
Included are magnificent court portraits by leading 18th-century painters William Hogarth, Thomas Hudson and Godfrey Kneller.
Downstairs in the museum’s exhibition gallery, the lives of the women who supported the day-to-day running of the institution will be brought to life. They include Mrs Prudence West, a female inspector and the only woman to run a branch Hospital; Miss Eleanor Barnes, one of the earliest female Governors of the Hospital; Mrs Elizabeth Leicester, an early matron of the Foundling Hospital who oversaw some of its most challenging years; and Jane Pett, a dry nurse highly acclaimed for her exceptional care.