Women’s History Month

Photograph: Dame Ethel Smyth and Pan III, 1928 Bassano courtesy of National Portrait Gallery.

The inspiring stories of Surrey women in history

March is Women's History Month and the 8 March is also International Women's Day. Both initiatives promote the achievements and contributions of women in the past and present, and the ongoing campaign for equality in all areas of life.

From artists to actors, suffragettes to scientists, and gardeners to musicians, you can discover important and inspiring stories of Surrey women in history on the Exploring Surrey's Past People web page.

Influential Women

The 'Influential Women' section of case studies for the Exploring Surrey's Past website was created by Surrey's museums and each museum revealed stories from their collections about talented and inspiring local women.

These included Margaret Robinson of Chertsey (1920 to 2016), who was an artist, a puppeteer, and a model-maker with a worldwide fan base because of the models she created for Hammer Film, most noticeably The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Mummy. You can read all of the stores on the Influential Women web page.

Harriet Grote

The writer and a Radical political hostess, Harriet Grote (1792 to1878), lived in Oxted and Shere, and she signed the first mass petition for Women's Suffrage in 1866.

Discover more about the life and work of this extraordinary Surrey suffragist on the Exploring Surrey's Past Harriet Grote web page.

Women in the first world war

Surrey's women played a vital role during the First World War, serving as Red Cross nurses at home and abroad, working on the Home Front in the Women's Land Army, and being munitions workers in factories.

The Surrey in the Great War website records and preserves their contribution and hosts research guides, film and fascinating stories about local women. One of the films you can watch captures a rural community caught on camera for a local newsreel, with members of the Women's Land Army demonstrating their ploughing skills in an inter-farm competition at Cross Farm, Shackleford, in April 1917.

Find out more and watch the film on the Screen Archive South East web page.

Dame Ethel Smyth

Surrey History Centre holds a large collection of material relating to the Woking-based composer and suffragette, Dame Ethel Smyth, pictured above.

Lewis Orchard, whose research papers about Ethel Smyth, is an expert on her life and work and over the years he volunteered with us to make our Smyth collections as accessible and accurate as possible.

He has helped the Surrey History Centre create a fantastic online resource on the Exploring Surrey's Past website, including downloadable research guides about her published works, family and friends, and her memoirs, see the Dame Ethel Smyth web page.

For more information about Dame Ethel Smyth, you can hear Dr Chris Wiley speak about her life and local connections at the forthcoming Surrey Local History Committee Symposium in April. Information about the event can be found on the Surrey Archaeology Society web page.

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