Hidden stories of Essex Women

One hundred years ago some women got the right to vote. How has life changed for women since this landmark change?

Snapping the Stiletto is working with museums, community groups and volunteers to uncover new stories taking the ‘Representation of the People Act’ (1918) as a starting point to explore 100 years of strong Essex Women.

The project is in its early days and Pippa (the Project Manager) is working with community groups and museums to look for these stories and to work out how to follow them up by exploring the various collections held in museums and the Essex Record Office. We’ll be inviting volunteers to help with this research and you’ll be able to find various ways to volunteer over the next couple of months as the project progresses.

So what stories are out there? What stories would people like us to tell? Who were the strong Essex women of the past 100 years who have contributed to this diverse county?

So far we are looking at telling the stories of little known suffragettes such as Grace Chappelow who lived in Hatfield Peverel and the key role of some of the women of the Courtauld family, with links to Braintree, in the campaign. The Combined Military Services Museum has some amazing stories of the undercover roles women have played in wartime. Elsewhere in the county groups have told us that they are interested in finding out more about ‘campaigning women’ such as Ada Cole, who founded ‘World Horse Welfare’ and Leah Manning, the MP for Epping in the 1940s who organised the evacuation of orphaned children during the Spanish civil war. A group in Harlow have told us of a National Front March that was turned away by a group of women and they’d like to find out more about this.

The Essex Police Museum and the Essex Fire Museum both have stories to uncover about the role women have played in these key services. Other stories that are emerging involve women in industry such as Marconi in Chelmsford and EKCO in Southend.

Women worker at a machine

A worker at the EKCO factory in Southend. Image courtesy of Southend Museums

Community groups have suggested other leads we could follow and are interested in women who were invited to move to Essex to support the NHS and the key role women have played in forging new communities and integrating new cultures into the life of the county.

We’d like to know what potential stories interest you? What do you think museums might have in their collections (objects, documents, photographs) that could tell some new stories about strong Essex women over the past 100 years? We can’t promise that every story can be told- it will depend on what we can find in museum collections- but it would be great to know what you’d like the project to look at to help steer our research.

pippa.smith@essex.gov.uk

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