History 51 Roadshow dates

Did you come to Heartlands on 26 May for our very first History 51 Roadshow event Wise Women? If not, this short video gives you a flavour of the energy and enthusiasm the Hypatia Trust has for promoting women's heritage in communities across Cornwall and Scilly. And the huge amount of interest shown in it. Remember women's heritage belongs to all of us, it's about the history of the majority of our people!


Roadshow dates

We have planned four more History 51 Roadshow events. The dates and subjects are as follows. We are still on the trail of an event in North Cornwall and one on Scilly. We have a small amount of funding to publicise, promote and organise the events and those who volunteer to help run the event will have their expenses paid.

Sea Women in Fowey

Women in Cornwall were not left on shore while the men went to sea, nor were they absent from the many maritime industries and trades that were vital to the Duchy's economy and culture. Special guests Dr. Helen Doe, a maritime historian and Dr. Leonie Hicks, a medieval historian, will talk about women and the sea across time, including Jane Slade, the inspiration for Daphne du Maurier's first novel, The Loving Spirit. There will follow an afternoon tour of the the ancient and picturesque port town of Fowey, still an active harbour for the China Clay industry.

Date: Saturday 7 September 2013.

Venue: Fowey Library.

Places: FREE but places limited. Booking will open soon.

Rug Tales in Helston

A practical, fun-filled workshop led by Diane Cox of the Mesdames Myrtles rug hooking group. It will show us how biographies of women in Cornwall needn't just be written but they can also be made. Mesdames Myrtles have been creating stories of seven women as part of History 51 and it is hoped some of these may be on display. So if you want to have a go at rug hooking and find out more about it, this is an event for you.

Date: Saturday 12 October 2013.

Venue: Helston Museum.

Places: FREE but places may be limited.

Women in Industry in St Ives

Women working at sewing machines at Flawns, St Ives (St Ives Archive) St Ives is not normally associated with industry. But did you know it was until the 1970s a hive of activity for hundreds of women especially in dress-making and military clothing. An open day organised jointly with St Ives Archive. Following an overwhelming response to the archive's call for women who made clothes for department stores such as Flawn's we hope to show you displays, conduct interviews, share photographs and even have a go at knitting string vests!

Date: Friday 25 October (11-3pm).

Venue: The Western Hotel.

Places: FREE. Drop-in basis.

Woman with a Cause in Liskeard

Emily Hobhouse was a pioneering campaigner who brought to the world's attention the horrors on both sides of the Boer (or South Africa ) Wars. Hobhouse is a national hero in South Africa but hardly known in her native Cornwall and indeed was reviled by several town worthies from Liskeard who attempted to discredit her. This workshop will introduce you to several important issues about how we understand history, and more importantly, what we remember. Our very own Eleanor Tench will give a keynote address after which we will have a small debate. Afterwards you will have the chance to be a historian by working on primary sources from Emily's time and understanding for yourself why she is so poorly represented in Cornish history. Organised jointly with Liskeard and District Museum, there will also be opportunities to visit the brand new exhibition on Hobhouse both before and after the event.

Date: Saturday 16 November 2013 (9.30-1pm).

Venue: Liskeard District Museum (for the exhibition) and Public Hall (for the talk, debate and activity).

Places: FREE but strictly limited. Booking will open soon.

Kernow Fest


Hypatia had a wonderful day on May 26th at the KernowFest, held at Heartlands. Our presentation was on 'Wise Women' through the ages, showing how women have been the repository of Health care, herbal remedies and treatment. Using natural herbal treatments, as well as charms and traditional cures, they were very often the place that people went to in times of illness. The woman of the house would be in charge of any 'doctoring' that went on, and would be responsible for her family, any servants and tenants who needed treatment. Many of these old remedies and treatments were handed down from mother to daughter over the ages, and some can still be heard today in what we think of as old fashioned sayings.

The workshop attracted about 120 people through during the course of the day, and both children and adults seemed very happy to sample the herbs and activities, including writing charms with goose feather quills.

There was a lot of interest shown in the concept of the old remedies,and their upsurge today as people return to more natural and organic remedies,rather than using chemical substitutes. Thank you, everyone, for coming to seek out knowledge of this significant aspect of the history of women.

Another fruitful playday

The latest from our friends at Mesdames Myrtles rug hooking group. [Thanks Diane and all for the updates and photos. Keep 'em coming Ed.] We now have 7 females under way.....my domestic lady, a balmaiden, a fishwife, a dairymaid, a flower picker, a midwife and a land army girl.

As yet, Alice de Lisle has not been attempted but do not despair..she will, eventually! [If you can wait until June we will have information and some contemporary pictures to send your way--not of her but the kind of clothes she would have probably worn.]

26 May: Wise Women at KernowFest, Heartlands

What did we all do before the NHS and professional medical practice? We turned to the women in our communities to help us, cure us and treat us.

History 51 Roadshow: Wise Women

Download Wise Women poster (PDF, 102KB)

When? Sunday 26 May (bank holiday weekend), 12-4.30pm. Where? Chi an Bobel (upstairs), Heartlands, Pool (between Camborne and Redruth). How to find us. What?

  • FREE
  • Create your own charm
  • Smell and handle ingredients and implements
  • Lady of the Manor and her servants’ ailments
  • Medieval housewife and nature's medicine cupboard
  • Meet the "Pellar of Pool"
  • Bring family recipes and old wives' tales
  • Write in the History 51 Cornish Remedy Book

History 51 Roadshow

Women and medicine is the theme of our first History 51 Roadshow FREE event. It will take place at Heartlands on Sunday 26 May 2013 and is part of KernowFest, a massive celebration of all things Cornish, especially food and culture. We obviously come in the culture bit even though some of the medical ingredients on show are edible too.

Wise Women will be a series of continuous demonstrations, digital displays of historical sources, costumed interpretation, and hands-on activities suitable for all ages, including kids, all based on real Cornish sources about the knowledge held by women as healers of their households and communities. We will be dressed up in period costume including a medieval housewife, an aristocratic lady from the 1520s and a Victorian-era white witch or 'pellar' in Cornish.

It is apt this event takes place in Pool, very near to what used to be the West Cornwall Women's Hospital, near Redruth.

History 51 Roadshow is a series of events taking place in 2013 to promote different aspects of women's heritage in local communities in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

History 51 Remedy Book

As part of the event we are inviting people to bring with them their old family cures, treatments and old wives' tales, especially those passed down to them from their mothers, grandmothers and other women in their families and communities.

By collecting these remedies we hope to preserve an important part of our community history which might otherwise be forgotten.


We will be filming the event for the History 51 archives, some of the footage will be turned into a film about our project.

No prescriptions! Please don’t ask us for cures or treatments for your own ailments as we are not trained medical professionals.


Penlee House Gallery and Museum for lending us historical costume for our Pellar character.

Cornwall Record Office for images of Cornish sources.

Heartlands for welcoming us to KernowFest and giving us a free venue.

Steph Haxton for coming up with the idea and helping bring it all together.

Constructing life stories of women

Archaeolgists, Mr and Mrs Mallett at Harlyn Bay, c. 1900 (credit: R. Ashington Bullen, "Harlyn Bay and the Discoveries of its Prehistoric Remains" 1902). How do you write the life-story of a woman? Are biographies of women different to those of men?

Biography as a genre has a field of study all of its own. But for History 51 we are very much starting from scratch and most of our subjects are having their biographies written or constructed for the very first time (e.g. through art, craft, photographic journeys, film and oral history).

The history of the great and the good?

Contributors to History 51 have asked if the women we want to record have to be famous or have done something outstanding in the conventional sense of the male dominated narratives we're used to that promote the achievements of 'great men' especially if they are kings, princes and politicians.

The simple answer is No.

History is about understanding change over time. The acts of women, good and bad, have contributed hugely to those changes which have affected the lives and men and women alike.

We also have hundreds of thousands of female ancestors about whom nothing is written.

The Elizabeth Treffry Collection documents the lives of women in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly from all walks of life and will continue to do so. We do not privilege one kind of achievement over another.

We can learn so much about the past and about our own attitudes today if we listen more to the everyday stories of ordinary people. And very often we will find that they were not that ordinary at all.

We also have hundreds of thousands of female ancestors about whom nothing is written. Archaeologists are experts at reconstructing lives and lifestyles from the remains of past societies, and Cornwall and Scilly are blessed with some of the the richest, most fascinating archaeology in the world.

Cornish Women's Index data entry form

Documenting lives in the Cornish Women's Index

As part of History 51 we are developing a pioneering digital project to record and gather together the life-stories of as many women as possible. The Cornish Women's Index will be a Wikipedia-style online database that contributors can add to from anywhere they have an internet connection.

We'll shortly be offering training to our contributors so if you'd like to take part and add your story, please register your interest.

You can also find out more in our Cornish Women's Index guide in the History 51 resources section.

The History 51 Battalion meets up

Talking shop, History 51's first meeting. On 9 February we invited all those who had expressed an interest in History 51 to attend an open afternoon at the Hypatia Trust in Penzance. Several were not able to make it but we still had a room of 18 people (all women) eager to share their passion, thoughts and ideas about how their own experiences could be brought to bear on this seminal project.

I think everyone would agree that the local rug hookers really made our meeting, they turned up in force!

We enjoyed all sorts of conversation, from setting up our own tour businesses, ornamental pets, herbal medical knowledge, women war artists to keeping hens, rug hooking, fishing ancestors, women in sport, Cornish migration, slavery and anti-slavery, medieval business women, husbands, teenage parents and weaving.

I don’t think I have been in a room full of more articulate people in my life!

What did we talk about?

The promise of tea and cake on the horizon got our humors working and any residual nerves at the thought of that classic ice-breaker, 'going around the room and telling each other a bit about ourselves', were soon forgotten. We enjoyed all sorts of conversation, from setting up our own tour businesses, ornamental pets, herbal medical knowledge, women war artists to keeping hens, rug hooking, fishing ancestors, women in sport, Cornish migration, slavery and anti-slavery, medieval business women, husbands, teenage parents and weaving.

History 51 is not a project just for women. It is about women

While I was listening my most immediate thought was how differently a room full of men or a mixture of men and women might have discussed their heritage. Here, it was personal experience and observation that informed the opinions of those present. History 51 is not a project just for women. It is about women and as such it is of importance to all of us, boys and girls, men and women.

It struck me that the study of history and the practices of heritage are inescapably 'male structures'. The development of social history, of which women's history is traditionally considered a part, was formatively a movement led by men.

In the effort to equalise the treatment of men and women in history, I believe it is essential we recognise this because otherwise women's history, as a fundamental field of study in its own right, will never be more than a niche subject destined to be a minority topic.

This is why we are called History 51. Women make up more than half the world's population but women themselves don't see themselves as worthy a topic of study as do men (cue: generalisation).

...we will be documenting and sharing information about the ordinary, as well as the extraordinary; and about bad women as well as the good women who never seem to make history.

History 51 Battalion

So the project's aim to provide current and future generations of people growing up and living in Cornwall and Scilly positive female role models was considered possibly its most important. This means we will be documenting and sharing information about the ordinary, as well as the extraordinary; and about bad women as well as the good women who never seem to make history.

Why a battalion?

... an organised group of people pursuing a common aim or sharing a major undertaking.

There was a strong sense of purpose about our first meeting. There was also a strong sense of the need for an organised approach and so, inevitably, I could only think of military metaphors. Women do need to fight to get their stories and opinions heard and so I thought it was appropriate that we behave like a battalion, an organised group of people pursuing a common aim or sharing a major undertaking.

What next?

Talking heads at History 51 meet up.

Each person was given a folder with an information pack aimed at familiarising contributors and correspondents with History 51 and answering questions I predicted they may have. This pack will be emailed to all those who were not able to attend and is available via the link below.

Download History 51 Contributor Pack (PDF, 611 KB)

Next steps are to start recording who is interested in what and sharing this information amongst the group. The great thing about History 51 is that even those running the project are getting stuck into some new research and exploration. I am dusting off my old medievalist's gloves. Polly Attwood, Hypatia Trust Director, is thinking about looking at the Cornish connections to Transatlantic Slavery and Jo Schofield, Hypatia Trust Events Co-ordinator, is looking at the women of the Godolphin family.

The online database for the Cornish Women’s Index is being developed and will be due for testing early next month and then it will be time to organise some training. I am also contemplating using screencasts and Google Hangouts for live online training.

Our events co-ordinator, Jo Schofield, is currently scouting venues for our workshops. We already have one in Liskeard Museum confirmed and another almost confirmed in Fowey. Firm dates will follow some time in March.

Next we will be buying the equipment needed, making sure that History 51 is regularly promoted online and in the press, and commissioning some quirky bookmarks or postcards to be widely distributed across Cornwall and Scilly, and beyond.

Telling Our Story: Cornish Women’s History Celebrates £10,000 Heritage Lottery Fund Grant

Call to Women, part of the Judith Cook archive We are delighted to announce that the Hypatia Trust of Penzance, Cornwall, is one of the first groups in the UK to receive a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) All Our Stories grant.

This exciting project called History 51: Unveiling Women in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, has been given £10,000 to encourage people to reconnect with the history of 51% of our population, and to champion historical female role models.

All Our Stories

All Our Stories, a brand new small grant programme – launched earlier this year in support of BBC Two’s The Great British Story – has been designed as an opportunity for everyone to get involved in their heritage. With HLF funding and support, community groups will carry out activities that help people explore, share and celebrate their local heritage.

Clearly the success of All Our Stories has reinforced the fact that we are indeed a nation of story tellers and that we want to explore and dig deeper into our past and discover more about what really matters to us. This is exactly what the grant will do for the History 51 project as they embark on a real journey of discovery. (Richard Bellamy, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West)

The popular series presented by historian Michael Wood and supported by a programme of BBC Learning activities and events got thousands of us asking questions about our history and inspired us to look at our history in a different way through the eyes of ordinary people.

This project gives a voice to the women of Cornwall and Scilly. So much research has illustrated how girls' voices become silenced as they grow to womanhood, and we hope that this project acts as a spur to girls and women everywhere, giving them the courage to be all they can be. (Polly Attwood, Director, Hypatia Trust)

One of our readers with Elizabeth Forbes's 'King Arthur's Wood'

Exploring women's lives and achievements in Cornwall and Scilly

The Hypatia Trust’s mission is record and promote the literary, artistic and scientific works of women in their communities. The Trust founded the Elizabeth Treffry Collection in 1996 to be the antidote to the domination of Cornish heritage by stories of ‘great men’. It now contains over 3000 books and archives that bear witness to the lives and achievements of the women who have shaped Cornish and Scillonian society and culture.

Following our success with the national Hidden Treasures Campaign in June we are absolutely thrilled to receive this award which will help more people be inspired by the women who have shaped Cornish history. (Melissa Hardie, Founder of the Hypatia Trust)

What History 51 will do

History 51 is inviting volunteers to come and explore the collection and to choose from a range of subjects and personalities that interest them, or to bring their own stories to be documented. They will receive free training to research, catalogue and author information which will help build an innovative online resource called the Cornish Women’s Index. Over the next year six free community workshops on themes such as writing, health and business, will be held across Cornwall where anyone can come to debate and learn more about the heritage of women.

This collection is so important to Cornish heritage but at the moment it is little known. I can’t wait to work with more people to help discover its treasures. If you love women and you love Cornwall and Scilly, come and join History 51! (Tehmina Goskar, Honorary Curator of the Elizabeth Treffry Collection)

The project will represent women from across the centuries. It was a woman, Alice de Lisle, who won the right to hold a market in Penzance in 1332, it was Dame Elizabeth Treffry who led the defence of Fowey against French raiders in the fifteenth century, Elizabeth Carne of Phillack was a celebrated geologist, writer and banker in the mid-nineteenth century and Violetta Thurstan, nurse and expert weaver and dyer, has been the subject of a major exhibition at Penryn Museum.

History 51 needs you! Get involved!

Do you want to take part or find out more? Register for History 51 Online. Or please contact Curator, Tehmina Goskar at the Hypatia Trust on 01736 366597. Go to full project details.

More information

The Hypatia Trust is based at Trevelyan House, 16 Chapel Street, Penzance, a charity that exists to further the understanding of woman and her achievements. For more information: http://www.hypatia-trust.org.uk/

All Our Stories is a new, simple, funding programme for 2012 with grants available ranging from £3,000-£10,000 developed so everyone can get involved in their heritage. From researching local historic landmarks, learning more about customs and traditions to delving into archives and finding out the origins of street and place names All Our Stories will give everyone the chance to explore their heritage and share what they learn with others. This programme is now closed to new applications and decisions were made in October 2012.

Heritage Lottery Fund. Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic, places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported 33,000 projects, allocating £4.9billion across the UK. Website: http://www.hlf.org.uk.

Heritage Lottery Fund