‘Gentle-women & tradesmen wives’

‘Gentle-women & tradesmen wives’

This petition was one of a number which were produced by and for women from the early 1640s. Women were not then political citizens and their right to speak remained contested, but this petition sugge …

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1879)

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1879)

Julia Margaret Cameron took up photography in earnest at 48, specializing in portraits such as this one. She was criticised by some contemporaries for poor technique, but her ‘imperfections’ (includin …

Sybil Pye (1879–1958)

Sybil Pye (1879–1958)

Sybil Pye was one of the best known and most highly regarded bookbinders of her era, and one of the few in England who specialized in inlaid leather bindings. Self-taught, she used simple shapes and m …

St Margaret, Queen of Scots (died 1093)

St Margaret, Queen of Scots (died 1093)

This beautiful manuscript belonged to Margaret, Queen of Scotland, who was renowned for her piety and was canonized in 1249–50. A compact selection of passages from the Gospels, this finely illustrate …

Katharine Adams (1862–1952)

Katharine Adams (1862–1952)

From an early age Katharine Adams was a gifted bookbinder. Winning first prize in the Oxford Arts and Crafts exhibition of 1898, she became an acclaimed and highly sought-after bookbinder in Britain a …

Fanny Hensel (1805–1847)

Fanny Hensel (1805–1847)

Fanny Hensel was a prolific German composer, scholar and pianist. Her brilliance was evident to many of her contemporaries including her brother Felix Mendelssohn to whom she was close, but her work r …

Elisabeth Pickering (c. 1510–1562)

Elisabeth Pickering (c. 1510–1562)

Elisabeth Pickering was a printer and business woman. Her husband, Robert Redman, ran a successful printing business until his death in 1540, after which his widow took over the family printing busine …

Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth (1533–1603)

Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth (1533–1603)

The eleven-year-old Elizabeth gave this book as a New Year’s gift to her stepmother, Katherine Parr, on 31 December 1544. It consists of Elizabeth’s own translation into English prose of a French medi …

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797)

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797)

Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication became an instant bestseller and has continued to inspire and divide readers since. Wollstonecraft argues that women were ‘rendered weak and wretched’ through culture …

Emily Hobhouse (1860–1926)

Emily Hobhouse (1860–1926)

Emily Hobhouse was a lifelong pacifist and one of the most influential humanitarian campaigners of her era. She was a suffragist and social reformer, but is best known for her work in South Africa. Li …

Women’s suffrage movement annual reports

Women’s suffrage movement annual reports

As the women’s suffrage movement expanded from the late nineteenth century, so too did the number of organisations which catered to particular interests and agendas. Most societies published annual re …

Mary Collet Ferrar (1601?–1680)

Mary Collet Ferrar (1601?–1680)

This Gospel Harmony was created as a form of devotional activity which consisted of cutting, arranging, pasting and binding biblical texts and illustrations to create ‘harmonies’ of the four gospels w …

Geronima Parasole (died 1622)

Geronima Parasole (died 1622)

This study of coins, here published in Italian for the first time in 1592, contains more than 1,200 woodcuts. Some of the large woodcuts such as the one shown here, bear the monogram G.A.P, attributed …

Hannah Snell (1723–1792)

Hannah Snell (1723–1792)

Having served more than two years in a regiment of the marines, Hannah Snell (alias James Grey) announced to her disbelieving shipmates that she was in fact a woman. She sold her story to a publisher …

Suffrage: organizing

Suffrage: organizing

Suffrage activists were often described as ‘suffragettes’ if they adopted militant tactics, and ‘suffragists’ if they were non-militant or constitutional. In reality, the borders between them were qui …

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717)

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717)

Maria Sibylla Merian was an exceptionally talented naturalist, entomologist and botanical artist, one of the first to study insects and to describe metamorphosis. At the age of 52 she travelled from A …

Esther Inglis (1571–1624)

Esther Inglis (1571–1624)

Esther Inglis, one of the finest calligraphers of the Tudor and Stuart period, worked in both Scotland and England. The daughter of French Huguenot émigrés, she was relatively well educated and probab …

Mabel Purefoy FitzGerald (1872–1973)

Mabel Purefoy FitzGerald (1872–1973)

Mabel Purefoy FitzGerald studied pre-medical subjects in Oxford in the 1890s, but as a woman she could not take a degree. She nonetheless continued to work in physiology and pathology, and in 1911 joi …

Mary Frith (b. 1580–1659)

Mary Frith (b. 1580–1659)

Many details about the life of Mary Frith (Moll Cutpurse), are unclear and exaggerated. Such embellishment of the truth began in her own day when her reputation as a notorious thief and organised crim …

Mary Read (c. 1695–1721) and Anne Bonny (1698–1782)

Mary Read (c. 1695–1721) and Anne Bonny (1698–1782)

Anne Bonny and Mary Read lived deeply unconventional lives. Both were brought up as boys, married as women, dressed again in men’s clothing and ultimately became pirates. Extraordinarily, they met on …

Yolande Bonhomme (c. 1490–1557)

Yolande Bonhomme (c. 1490–1557)

Yolande Bonhomme was born into a family of Parisian printers and probably learned aspects of the trade in her father’s shop. After her printer husband died, she took over the business, and built a hig …

Irish women

Irish women

Cumann na mBan (Irishwomen’s Council) was founded in Dublin in 1914 by women determined to play an active role in the Irish republican movement. The association adopted an explicitly feminist position …

Florence Nightingale (1820–1910)

Florence Nightingale (1820–1910)

By the time Florence Nightingale began corresponding with Henry Acland in 1867, her reputation was well established. In addition to her work in the Crimea in the 1850s, she had been involved in nurse …

Votes for Women

Votes for Women

This illustration of a woman, seated and holding a ‘Votes for Women’ demand while contemplating the Houses of Parliament, originally appeared in the Daily Chronicle in 1907. It appears here on the cov …

Marjory Wardrop (1869–1909)

Marjory Wardrop (1869–1909)

Marjorie Scott Wardrop was a pioneering scholar and translator of Georgian. Her interest in the country was piqued by her brother, the British diplomat, Sir Oliver Wardrop who travelled there and lear …

Ethel Stefana Drower (1879–1972)

Ethel Stefana Drower (1879–1972)

Ethel Stefana Drower (née Stevens) began her career as a novelist, travel writer and freelance journalist. Between 1909 and 1927 she published thirteen novels; many of them, like these, were based in …

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797–1851)

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797–1851)

The inspiration for Frankenstein came to Mary in a ‘waking dream’ in 1816, leading to the creation of an immensely influential novel and enduring metaphor. Many critics believed Frankenstein had been …

Jane Austen (1775–1817)

Jane Austen (1775–1817)

‘The Beautifull Cassandra’ is one of sixteen short works in ‘Volume the First’, a collection of juvenilia composed while Jane Austen was between twelve and fifteen years old. Consisting of twelve chap …

Mary Astell (1666–1731)

Mary Astell (1666–1731)

Mary Astell was a philosopher, an advocate of women’s education, and a pioneer of feminist thought. In this, her most celebrated work, she urges women to aspire to the life of the mind, arguing that t …

Victoria Woodhull (1838–1927)

Victoria Woodhull (1838–1927)

The Humanitarian was a radical journal published in New York and dedicated to ‘subjects appertaining to the well-being of humanity’. Its editor, Victoria Woodhull, was well known as an advocate of fre …

Cicely Hamilton (1872–1952) and Ellen Terry (1847–1928)

Cicely Hamilton (1872–1952) and Ellen Terry (1847–1928)

Cicely Hamilton was an author, actress, suffragist, and co-founder of the Women Writers’ Suffrage League. A Pageant was written to entertain and to propagandize by assembling a large cast of women, pr …

Christine de Pizan (1364–c. 1430)

Christine de Pizan (1364–c. 1430)

Christine de Pizan began to write professionally to support her family after her husband’s death. She produced a large corpus of work in French verse and prose, often for patrons, becoming one of the …

Suffrage: resisting

Suffrage: resisting

Suffrage resistance took a variety of forms from tax refusal and boycotting the 1911 census to window breaking and arson. The Home Office recorded more than 1,300 arrests for suffrage activity between …

Sappho (c. 620–c. 550 BC)

Sappho (c. 620–c. 550 BC)

Widely considered by her contemporaries to be one of the greatest lyric poets of her era, Sappho’s poetry was almost lost to us for nearly two millennia and mainly survives in fragments. In this poem, …

Louise Bourgeois (1563–1636)

Louise Bourgeois (1563–1636)

Louise Bourgeois was a pioneering female medical practitioner who overcame significant opposition to qualify as a midwife and went on to enjoy an exceptionally successful career as midwife and medical …

Suffrage: galvanizing

Suffrage: galvanizing

Local and sectional suffrage societies adopted a number of strategies to draw attention to their cause and to convince others to join them. Some associations were organized around particular occupatio …

Mary Lacy (b. 1740)

Mary Lacy (b. 1740)

In 1759, Mary Lacy stole a set of men’s clothes and ran away from home. Taking the name William Chandler, she became a ship’s servant before ultimately completing a shipwright’s apprenticeship in 1763 …

English women

English women

The English Woman’s Journal was a pioneering feminist publication made primarily for and by women. It was at the forefront of the suffrage and property reform campaigns, but deliberately served as a p …

Learned nuns (14th century)

Learned nuns (14th century)

This richly illuminated book of homilies was made in the fourteenth century for the use of an unidentified community of nuns in northern Germany. The ‘N’ (for ‘Nativitas’) begins the Christmas section …

Suffrage: uniting

Suffrage: uniting

The women’s suffrage movement was built on a foundation of diverse activism. As the campaign attempted to appeal to women and men from varied social and economic backgrounds across the country, differ …

Abbess Čika of Zadar (died c. 1095)

Abbess Čika of Zadar (died c. 1095)

This exquisite prayer book was made for the Benedictine nuns of Zadar (in modern day Croatia), most likely for the personal use of their leader, Čika, who founded the abbey around 1066. She may well h …

Suffrage: fundraising

Suffrage: fundraising

The suffrage movement could not have survived and expanded without funding, and suffragists were obliged to think imaginatively about how to continue to attract donations over a long campaign. Money r …

Primrose League

Primrose League

The Tory Primrose League pioneered the democratic engagement of women in British politics even before they could vote. Unusually, women were involved from its foundation in 1883 before forming their o …

Lady Ise (c. 875–c. 938)

Lady Ise (c. 875–c. 938)

The Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry are considered to be the best exponents of Waka, a type of Japanese poetry using 31 syllables. In this anthology each poet is identified by name and accompanied by a …

Suffrage: educating

Suffrage: educating

Educating the public in the facts and justice of the women’s cause was a key aspect of suffrage activism. Suffragists argued that the enfranchisement of women was a sign of national progress rather th …

Suffrage: marching

Suffrage: marching

Mass marches are one of the enduring symbols of the suffrage movement, though local societies also staged thousands of smaller marches as well. Women had been involved in political marches throughout …

Elizabeth Holt (died 1707?)

Elizabeth Holt (died 1707?)

Elizabeth Holt worked in the London printing trade alongside her husband until his death in 1688, after which she took over the business. Being entrusted with the first edition of Locke’s most famous …