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International Women's Day - museum

International Women's Day - museum

Monday 8 March is International Women's Day and to celebrate we are highlighting some of our local inspirational women.  

Last year on International Women's Day the museum had an exhibition called Extraordinary Women which featured some amazing local women such as Violet Markham, Lady Olave Baden Powell, Martha Robinson and Barbara Castle. If you didn't get chance to visit this last year you can view it online to learn more about these and other fantastic local women.


Discover the struggles and successes of the suffragette movement as they fight for voting rights in the early twentieth century in this fantastic video from History's Maid.

Learn about Emmeline Pankhurst and the woman’s social and political union, how the suffragette’s chained themselves to railings outside Buckingham Palace, the hunger strikes and force feeding women endured and how Emily Wilding Davison lost her life in her quest for equal votes for women.

Charlotte, one of our front of house staff has done a fabulous video all about the life of local lady Emma Miller who was a political reformer and suffragist. She championed women’s rights and went on to play a central role in gaining the vote for women in Queensland in 1902.

Chesterfield woman, Winifred Jones was a well known militant suffragette who was jailed in 1909 after breaking a window at the Palace Theatre, Newcastle during a visit of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George, and again in 1910 for causing damage to numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street. She also hosted Adela Pankhurst on her visit to Chesterfield to address a rally held in the Market Place in 1910.

Winifred Jones Gravestone

Winifred is buried in Old Brampton in the family grave with her parents and sister.

Spital Cemetery has various local women buried there including Nurse Fletcher who served in the Territorial Nursing Force and is buried in a war grave within sight of her house, Susannah Williams who during WW1 became the forewoman at the Staveley Coal and Iron Company and is buried in an unmarked grave and Mary Swanwick who was devoted to improving social welfare in Chesterfield and championed education.

Veda, another of our Museum Assistants has been researching local lady Valerie Hunter Gordon who designed the first biodegradable disposable nappy. 

Paddi Advert 

World War I saw women take on lots of traditional male roles as the men went off to fight. Local historian Janet Murphy has researched the employment of local women in World War I which is shared by our Museum Assistant Jess. This video includes companies such as Robinsons and Sons, Midland Preserving Company at Whittington, Staveley Coal and Iron Company and many more and covers a diverse range of roles which women undertook including manufacturing fuses and detonators, cleaning engines, driving trams and making surgical dressings.

We would love to find out more the work undertaken by women during WWI. If you have an ancestor who worked during WWI please let us know – even a name is a help.

Patent Electric Shot Firing Company

Janet has also researched local legend Violet Markham who had a strong desire for social reform and in 1902 financed the Chesterfield Settlement which aimed to provide recreation for working girls and children and went on to provide clubs to educate women in baby care and domestic hygiene. Listen to our Museum Assistant Charlotte tell Violet's story.

If you have any memories of the work of the Settlement please let us know.

Violet MarkhamChesterfield Settlement

You can find out more about these and others in Janet's book on Chesterfield’s remarkable women. It includes the stories of 50 Chesterfield women and is due to be published shortly with the proceeds going to Ashgate Hospice.  

We really hope that you've enjoyed learning about our inspirational women and discovered some fabulous facts about our local heroines.

Why not test your knowledge on these inspirational women by having a go at our Extraordinary Women Quiz. 


Last updated on 01 April 2021