Finding and recording women’s voices
The Elizabeth Treffry Collection contains over 3000 books and archives that document the lives and works of women in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Its current strengths are in 19th and 20th century art and literature. The core collection comprises works by women about or based in Cornwall and Scilly; about women from Cornwall and Scilly; and works on other subjects by women from, or influenced by, Cornwall and Scilly.
The collection will play an essential part in rebalancing narratives about Cornish and Scillonian history and literature and is an exemplar project for recording, researching, preserving and promoting women’s heritage the world over. It will also provide young women and girls the historical role models they need to feel empowered and achieve their potential.
The objectives of the Elizabeth Treffry Collection are
- to honour women’s achievements in Cornwall and Scilly by knowing their histories
- to remember women’s lives spent in Cornwall and Scilly and tell their stories
- to support women’s creativity nurtured in Cornwall and Scilly by supporting their interests
- to create role models for women in Cornwall and Scilly in work, play and at home
- to record, promote and freely share women’s histories in a new public home and online.
A collection of the Hypatia Trust
The Elizabeth Treffry Collection is a part of the Hypatia Trust. The Hypatia Trust, based in Penzance, Cornwall, exists to to collect, and make available, published and personal documentation about the achievements of women in every aspect of their lives. The campaign to make the Elizabeth Treffry Collection publicly available is Hypatia Trust’s latest project. Read more about Hypatia’s other collections.
So far the collection’s development has been supported by internal funding of the Trust itself, and external research funding from the Arthur Quiller Couch ‘Q’ Fund of Cornwall County Council (now Cornwall Council) and the Cyprus Well Grassroots Literary Development Fund. A bibliographic project to index women and their works is under development and will be made available via a free online database. We are now looking to fund a new permanent home in a central location in Cornwall.
The Honorary Curator is Dr. Tehmina Goskar who was also commissioned to conduct a Collections Audit. Read more about Curating the Elizabeth Treffry Collection.
What’s in store for the future?
We are actively fundraising to secure a new permanent home for the collection so that its objectives can be achieved and sustained. Immediate fundraising will go towards remedial conservation of rare and fragile items, professional curatorial care, packing and moving the collection to a new home, providing archival grade storage for its long term care, and to provide regular and free access to the collection physically and online.
We are also developing a collecting policy to expand specialist areas such as
- women in religion
- women in science
- women in industry
- women in sport
- women in Cornish and Scillonian politics and campaigning
- Cornwall and Scilly women abroad
So who was Elizabeth Treffry?
“Still calm look’d forth the Lady
From her embattled wall;
Her presence was a power, her voice
Thrill’d like a trumpet’s call.”
The Elizabeth Treffry collection was publicly launched in 1996 by the Hon. David Treffry, a living descendant of Elizabeth Treffry, after whom the collection is named. Dame Elizabeth Treffry, according to medieval legend, was an aristocrat based at Place House in Fowey and renowned for heroically and successfully rallying troops and defending the town during the French raids of 1457. Her strategy was allegedly to pour molten lead over the rascally raiders. Her feats were immortalised in the poem The Lady of Place, by Henry Sewell Stokes (1884).