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Newsletter, January 2013 (Issue 190)

Ipswich Women's History Trail


On Thursday 18 October at the Tourist Information Centre, with the enthusiastic support of the Mayor. Councillor Mary Blake, we launched our Trail booklet which celebrates the contribution of women to Ipswich life over the centuries.

The Trail takes people on a walk around central Ipswich, looking at where the most influential women of the town lived and worked. The booklet gives brief details of the lives of over 20 women, and of what makes them worth remembering - from the three women martyrs who were burned at the stake in the 16th century right through to 20th century high achievers. Artists, politicians. benefactors, writers - virtually every area of cultural life is included. Some women will already be familiar - Edith Cook, for example, the aviator, or the writer Jean Ingelow. Others are less well-known: the embroiderer Judith Hayle or World War One taxi driver Olive Turney.

The Trail has been compiled, with the help and support of lpswich Borough Council, by Ipswich Women's Festival Group. Group member Joy Bounds said: "Many women have contributed to the dynamic development of lpswich, but their achievements are not always recognised in history books. This walk provides an enjoyable way to learn a bit about these women and perhaps draw inspiration from them." In addition, for those not familiar with Ipswich, the Trail will take them to many of the most interesting and attractive areas of the town. The walk can be done in either one or two parts - one to the north of the town centre, including Christchurch Park, and one to the south including the Waterfront. Joy Bounds

The booklet costs 75p and is available from the Tourist Information Centre and other outlets.

A Brief Review of the Trail booklet

I feel sure many members would find much of interest in this well presented colourful booklet.

It is stirring to be reminded that Alice Tooley and Emma Pownder survived their illustrious merchant husbands and carried on their businesses successfully. One wonders whether the 16th century was kinder to such women than would have been the case in later days. We also learn about Eliza Acton who wrote the first domestic cookery book and Constance Andrews a leading suffragette and of course Edith Cook (pioneer aviator) and Jean Ingelow (Victorian poet) who are both commemorated by Ipswich Society Blue Plaques.

The authors, perhaps wisely, allow facts to speak for themselves. It would have been understandable if indignation had broken through. We are simply told that one of the most distinguished women, Nina Layard, wrote a paper for the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1906 about her archaeological excavation of the Hadleigh Road Anglo-Saxon site. It had to be read by a man as women were denied admission to the meeting. Miss Layard is said to have sat behind a curtain to listen. (Marginally better than the women harpists of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra who had to perform behind a curtain.) And it's a reminder of how disgracefully women were discouraged or held back well into 'modern times' when we learn that Mary Whitmore was the first woman Mayor of lpswich in 1946. (Perhaps some good came out of the war?)

Neil Salmon

    Front cover of issue 190 Cover, issue 190

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