100 Years of Plymouth Powerful Women Exhibition
  • Plymouth Guildhall, Guildhall Square, Plymouth PL1 2BJ

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The Hoe Neighbourhood Forum together with the University of Plymouth’s Time-Lock#ChitChat team, RIO and The Box, are hosting a Heritage Lottery-funded exhibition in Plymouth Guildhall to celebrate the contribution made by powerful women who, over the last 100 years, have promoted, protected and empowered Plymouth’s citizens.

Plymouth women voters demonstrated their power 100 years ago, on 28 November 1919, when Nancy Astor became MP for Plymouth Sutton, with women voters forming the majority of those casting their votes.

This exhibition emphasises the importance of the women’s dimension in shaping the modern city, and celebrates the impact and legacy of women whose contribution needs to be rediscovered and placed into context alongside Nancy’s. They include those who worked with Nancy – like Bessie LeCras, Clara Daymond, Louise Simpson and Mary Bayley – plus later figures whose contributions built on the earlier legacy. Plymouth has a proud unmatched legacy, sending six women MPs to Westminster, a record covering 96 of the last 100 years. 

Louise Simpson was one of the first 172 UK women appointed as magistrates in 1920; Clara Daymond was the first Plymouth women elected as a town councillor, in October 1919. Mary Bayley was a Councillor, a magistrate and an active supporter of initiatives including lobbying for women police, while Bessie LeCras became Nancy’s Parliamentary agent. But there are other names and this exhibition challenges the Plymouth local community to help us recover the record of their contributions over the last century, so we can remember figures like Jacquetta Marshall (the first female Lord Mayor) and later successors Dorothy Waldrond Innes, Eileen Evans, Sylvia Bellamy and Joan Stopporton. 

We need to know more about magistrates like Frances Wyatt and Mrs James Buller-Kitson. The exhibition challenges people to come forward and add to the list – tell us who YOU think should be on it! The top 30 out of up to 100 names (picked in a public vote held in January 2020) will feature in a new Plymouth heritage trail, launched in September 2020.  

We invite you to come and visit our Exhibition in Plymouth Guildhall which will open to the public after the unveiling on the Hoe, at 13:00 of the new statue of Nancy Astor. Just follow the Marching Band!

13:00 Soft opening
14:00 Welcome and speeches
14:30 Play showing Touching the Past 
15:00 Documentary showing A Returned Pilgrim
16:10 Play showing Touching the Past
16:40 Documentary showing A Returned Pilgrim
17:40 Event close

Touching the Past | A short play about the life of Nancy Astor

  • Writer/Director: Hugh Janes
  • Nancy Astor: Sheila Snellgrove
  • Waldorf Astor: Charlie Coldfield
  • Martin Ford and Winston Churchill: John James McColl

Running time - 20 minutes

A Returned Pilgrim | A documentary by Rob Giles and Dr Judith Rowbotham

This Time Lock documentary examines Nancy Astor's local legacy and long-term impact and how her association with Plymouth shaped her political vision and her election to Parliament. It explores this from her encounter with Plymouth in 1908, when (as Mrs Waldorf Astor) she was an active campaigner for her husband.The documentary includes interviews with Alexis Bowater and Penny Tarrant, as well as Lesley Abdela, who founded the 300 Campaign group in the 1980s.

Running time - 60 minutes
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