When the widowed Hester Bateman took over her husband’s silver workshop in 1761, she faced the staggering challenge of running a physically and creatively demanding business at a time when domestic service was the only female-friendly industry. Fortunately, Hester was up for the challenge and proved to be a skilled craftswoman, savvy businesswoman, and an industrial matriarch who led a son, daughter-in-law, and grandson into the family profession.
Hester Bateman: Setting the Table for Female Enterprise will include examples of fifty beautiful silver works wrought by Hester and her descendants over a span of fifty years. From a delicately detailed medicine dispenser or an intricately wrought sugar basket to a stately imposing urn, the exhibit showcases the stunning functional objects that the Batemans crafted for upper class society in the buttoned-up era of Jane Austen. The polished tableware that once signaled elegant refinement takes on a new luster when viewed as the product of Hester’s tenacious pioneering in female enterprise. This exhibition tells the remarkable story of everyone’s soon-to-be favorite 18th-century silversmith.
Hester Bateman: Setting the Table for Female Enterprise has been made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, and support from the City of Birmingham.