Guest Blog: Microfiche Training

pexels-photo-891059.jpegToday’s blog post is by project volunteer Emily Leonard.

I recently signed up as a volunteer for the, “Snapping the Stiletto” project and attended a session at Southend Library to learn more about the project, and how to use the available research tools. The training session was run by The Forum USO team and Iona Farrell (the Assistant Curator of Social History at Southend Museum). I, along with other volunteers learnt how to use the microfiche and microfilm scanners and the local history section of the library.

This enabled the group to help Iona research two pioneering Essex women, Rosina Sky and Councillor Adelaide Hawken.

We were shown how to use the library facilities which also included a comprehensive selection of PDFs of the “Southend and Westcliff Graphic”, an illustrated paper that gave a lot of interesting insights into the local area and attitudes in the early 20th Century.

Thanks to this training session and the background information supplied by Iona and Southend Museums I now feel prepared to delve into researching these two interesting figures further.

To find out more about our volunteering opportunities, click here.

Women’s History Month – Essex Campaigners

Every day during Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting a different inspirational Essex woman from the last 100 years. For the first week, we have focused on great campaigners.



Muriel Lester was twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize

We started the month with Muriel Lester. Born in Leyston, she was a pacifist who created a holiday home for poor children and toured with Mahatma Gandhi. She was also twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.


Grace Chappelow was a Suffragette and lived in Hatfield Peverel. She was arrested more than once for her activities while protesting. A volunteer at Chelmsford Museum recently wrote a Wikipedia article about her.

Another Suffragette was Ethel Haslam from Ilford. She was secretary of the local branch of the WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union) and a teacher. Ethel was dismayed to find her pay as a teacher was cut after she married.

Many of the iconic posters used by the Suffrage movement were designed by Catherine Courtauld, who was based in Braintree.


From Southend, we highlighted several “campaigning women”. Rosina Sky was a single parent who ran a tobacconist shop while also being an active Suffragette. Councillor A H Hawken, who founded the first child welfare clinic in Southend in 1925. That year, she also became one of the first female Justices of the Peace. We also looked at Lady Gwendolen Guinness, who was elected as Southend’s first female MP in 1927.

Southend Museums are really keen to know more about these women, so please do get in touch if you’re able to help with the research.


Another MP was Leah Manning. She was elected MP for Epping in 1945, was a campaigner for education reform and rescued Basque women and children from Spanish Civil War

Ada Cole was born in Norfolk, but was instrumental in setting up a charity to care for animals in Roydon. She was upset by the state of horses returning from WWI and campaigned for animal welfare.

Joyce Baldwin who was born in Essex, but later moved to Nottingham. She was a biblical scholar and early campaigner for women’s ministry. She worked as a missionary in China during the 1940s and went on to become Principal of Dalton House Theological College.


Don’t forget, there are lots of ways to get involved with helping us celebrate Strong Essex Women. Find out more on our Volunteering page.

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.