Celebrating Women in Our History
We have nearly 60 churches in our care spanning more than 1000 years of history. The structure of society has meant that the vast majority of architects, craftspeople, clergy, and high-profile parishioners have been men. However, half of the people who worshipped in our churches over the centuries were women, and women have played instrumental roles in the history of the buildings and parishes - providing spiritual inspiration, financial backing, community leadership, and a wide range of skills and expertise. We're also proud to have connections to many trailblazers - women who broke through barriers in their time.
It's important that we acknowledge that the women highlighted here were all, as far as we know, white, and mostly came from privileged backgrounds; these are the few who were afforded the most opportunities, and left the clearest paper trail. However, we hope that by celebrating the contributions of these women, we can honour all of the women in our rich history, including those whose names we will never know, and those whose stories are still waiting to be discovered.
Saints and Holy Women
The heroic and pious examples set by fifth century saint Ellyw, third century saint Helen, and fourteenth century holywoman Margaret Marloes, inspired early and medieval Christians to acts of devotion and dedication, including the foundation of churches in their names. But their true stories are shrouded in mystery.
Founders and Funders
Learn about Lady Mander, a founder of the Friends of Friendless Churches, and about the tragedies and challenges that inspired Louisa Tooth, Louisa Tooth, Mary Barton, Bertha Kessler and Katherine Hudson to build new churches in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Plus, find out how Mrs Wienholt and the ladies of Laugharne helped to save Llandawke church.
Craftswomen & Artists
At Penmorfa, wood carver Constance Greaves and stained glass maker and conservator Joan Howson have left examples of their beautiful work for all to enjoy.
... while hidden away on the roof at St Mary's, Caldecote, Katherine Morris left a permanent record of her work.
We're proud about our churches' connections to pioneering women like Ann Walker, wife of 'Gentleman Jack'; Mary Flint, female parish clerk; militant suffragette Isabel Seymour; and the Victorian fossil-hunting women associates of the Sedgwick Club.
Photograph of Isabel Seymour planting a holly tree in 1909 is in the public domain (downloaded from Wikimedia Commons, 2021).
Photograph of the ladies at Penmorfa Church is in the Archives of the Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge, and reproduced here with their permission.