What was life like for women in pre-independence Singapore?  What roles did women play in a society where, until well into the 20th century, there were far more males than females? Who were the women who first broke through the gender barriers in the professions? What brought about the new laws that were introduced soon after Independence and which significantly affected the lives of women?

These are some of the questions explored in an exhibition by the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame (SWHF) at the National Museum of Singapore (NMS) that opens on 11 May and will run till the end of July.

The Lives of Women: What life was like for women in pre-Independence Singapore is the first of a three-part series by the SWHF in collaboration with the National Museum. The second, in 2019, will look at the key issues affecting women in Singapore since Independence, and the final exhibition in 2020 will look at what lies ahead.

Two talks will be held in conjunction with this year’s exhibition.

She Works Hard for the Money: Sociologist Dr Lai Ah Eng, who has researched and written extensively on women, heritage and multiculturalism in Singapore, will shed light on the lives of women who worked in tin-mining, rubber production, construction, domestic service, hawking and leisure in early to mid-20th century Singapore and Malaya. This talk will be held at NMS on 25 May.

I am Woman, Hear me Roar: Educationist Dr Phyllis Chew will talk about the half-forgotten and under-appreciated movement that struggled for women’s betterment throughout the 1950s. The Singapore Council of Women campaigned passionately for the laws that would come into effect after Independence and which significantly changed the lives of women. This talk will be at NMS on 8 June.

The Lives of Women exhibition

Venue:  The Concourse @ NMS
Dates: 11 May to 22 July 2018
Time: 10 am to 7pm, daily.

Admission is free