Emmeline Pankhurst. Elizabeth Garret Anderson. Beatrice Shilling. Most people will recognise the first two names – the infamous suffragette, and the first woman to qualify as a doctor in Britain. But who was Beatrice Shilling?
Besides being a racing-car driver and an aeronautical engineer, Shilling’s solution to a potentially fatal flaw in Hurricane and Spitfire fighter-bombers is credited as a major factor in winning the Battle of Britain. And yet her name is almost entirely forgotten, along with the achievements of thousands of other women, from all walks of life around England.
Next year, Heritage Open Days will celebrate Shilling, Anderson and Pankhurst – among others – through our theme for 2018 - Extraordinary Women. In part, the theme is in recognition of the centenary of the Universal Suffrage Act, when (some) women finally gained the right to vote. But alongside celebrating the unique achievements of the suffragists, we want to tell the stories of the hundreds and thousands of other women who have changed our lives, in both large and small ways over time.
And this is where YOU come in! We’re asking our organisers, volunteers and visitors to begin to think about women in your community, town or village that deserve to be recognised and celebrated. Women who have achieved greatness in their field – or simply been a wonderful and supportive neighbour. Women whose stories have never been told – until now.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll tell you more about our plans for Heritage Open Days 2018, and how we are going to explore, discover and share these stories. For now, we’d love to hear about the women you believe should be celebrated in next year’s festival. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about the women who have made your family, community or town just that little bit more, well, extraordinary.
Text updated: 15/11/2017