Skip to main content
A Magazine for Sheffield

1913: A Year That Influenced Everything

My grandma would have been 100 this year, so I've decided to research and celebrate other centenaries in her honour. She was incredibly warm, funny, caring, generous, kind, talented and cheeky. Nothing shocked her. I thought I'd remember her by introducing her to all of you via 1913 - a person who influenced me from a year that influenced everything. Her name was Celia Quint, but everyone called her Kitty. She would have loved Sheffield. She would have spent every dinnertime in Moor Fisheries. You'd never know she was in her 90s when she died. Attitude was everything. Take away the thick New York accent and she could have been a proper Sheffield nannan. She was born in 1913. You know who else was born in 1913? Rosa Parks, activist and icon for the US Civil Rights movement whose actions inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott. And Mary Leakey, who excavated the remains of some of the oldest prehistoric primates and worked out that we could walk upright before we were entirely human. And Hedy Lamarr, the Hollywood star who spent her evenings inventing. Her patent led to the development of spread spectrum frequency hopping, which we now use in computer networking, mobile phones and satellite television. My grandma had some very accomplished contemporaries. They were all born before women had the right to vote. 1913 was a big year for that. My grandma was born on 5th January on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Five days later, back here in England, Emmeline Pankhurst wrote a letter urging women to up the stakes in the fight for universal suffrage. You can look it up. It's right there in the national archives with her inciting people to violence. In March, US suffragists held a huge demo in Washington DC. Back in Sheffield, suffragettes bombed the post boxes in Surrey Street, the High Street and Fitzalan Square one night in April. But what happened in June is what everyone remembers - Emily Davison ran out in front of the King's horse at the Epsom Derby. She was seriously injured and later died in hospital. No-one's really sure to this day if that was her plan or if she was just trying to stop the race. It was a turbulent time for the arts as well. The Rite of Spring, a ballet composed by Igor Stravinsky and danced by the Ballets Russes, was causing havoc in Paris. On its opening night, the audience and critics started arguing in the aisles. They'd never seen such experimental choreography and didn't know what to make of the repetitive, atonal music. It caused a riot that was reported globally. By the time I was born, The Rite of Spring was considered a masterpiece, as were most of the paintings first exhibited together in New York in 1913 at the Armory Show, which caused a scandal of its own only a mile or two from my great-grandparents' apartment. A load of impressionists, modernists, cubists and expressionists took their art to the US and put up a huge warehouse exhibition - the first of its kind. Some of the work was quite traditional, but visitors were shocked at the futuristic ideas and old subjects painted in new ways. My grandma never batted an eye when we'd look through her big, glossy coffee table book of Toulouse Lautrec paintings. I guess that stuff was old hat to her. It seems like innovation was as normal as breathing if you were born in 1913. That was the year the zip was invented, just over the river from New York City in New Jersey, and that same summer, stainless steel was patented right here in Sheffield. I remember banging on my grandma's pots and pans one day and sounding out the words stamped into the bottom. I asked her what it meant, and she said it was the best. Takes one to know one. The 1913 Exhibition will appear as a pop-up gallery at Electric Works as part of both the Seven Hills Women's Institute's International Women's Day charity fundraiser event on the evening of Friday 15th March, and at Sheffield Zine Fest on Saturday 16th March. @1913Exhibition )

Next article in issue 60

More articles