Women Holding Important Posts

Before I opened this file I assumed it would be correspondence but I was amazed on opening it to discover a huge manuscript detailing the achievements of women worldwide in fields as diverse as Accounting, Archaeologists, Bargees, Crane Drivers, Doctors, Explorers, Fire-fighters, Headships, Lighthouse-keepers, Mayors, Plumbers, Sculptors, University Professors, and Veterinary Surgeons.  It must have been some feat to compile this manuscript – the index is 2 pages and the records themselves number roughly 200 pages.  The pages are all typed and the content ranges form a few lines just detailing the name of the individual and the post they hold to including detailed information on their achievements and qualifications.

The full size of the manuscript on 'Women Holding Important Posts'

 There is a large section on Aviation which includes details on Amy Johnson, and her plans for a lone flight to Australia and Amelia Earhardt but also lots of women I hadn’t heard of before such as Winifred Brown who won the King’s Cup.  You can see some great footage of her at British Pathe.  Another large section is on ‘Women in the Diplomatic and Consular Services’ which includes lots of firsts such as Mme Tsurn Shiskawa the first women in the Japanese Diplomatic Service.  One, which I initially thought incomplete just says ‘Isobel – One of the most influential women in London it how world of dress design’.  A few searches later I found the archive of an Isobel, listed as a fashion designer, in the Art and Design Archive at the Victoria and Albert.  Her full name was Isobel Robinson and she was an haute couture designer who specialised in fur.  I liked the example highlighted below as well, of London’s only women bargee Carolina Louisa Walker who would load and unload her barge and did all the work herself in order to support her four children since the death of her husband.

Page from 'Women Holding Important Posts', ©Institute of Education Archive

Beatrice Webb is in there, though according to the custom at the time she is listed as Mrs Sidney Webb.  I find this habit incredibly insulting, as if a woman is not more than an appendage of her partner, and have to remind myself that if I get mail addressed to myself like this that it is not meant as a personal insult or slight on my character but merely a convention that will disappear in time. Anyway, to get back to the point Beatrice Webb is listed under Economists and it states that she was the first women to be elected to the British Academy.  Some of my favourites:

  • Nina Demney of Leningrad Explorers –  the first woman Arctic Explorer
  • Mrs Yearian Herdsmen – called the ‘Sheep Queen’ in Idaho as she is the only women herder in the area
  •  Mrs William Mortimer Herdsmen who was in charge of a flock of sheep on Parliament Hill Fields – described as London’s only shepherdess
  • Mlle Suzanne Biget Inventions who invented a non-inflammable and non-submersible suit which she demonstrated by plunging alight into a pool of water at Luna PArk in Paris. ‘ The experiment was acclaimed with applause when Mlle. Biget, flames extinguished, emerged smiling from the pool.’
  • Miss Margaret Irving Tea Tasters apparently London’s only woman tea taster making 200 tests a day in 1927. How many tea tasters did London have? Could I be one please?!

I came across a familiar story as well, that of a female grocer, Irene Page, who  won a competition against men in boning and rolling gammon. She was the first woman ever to compete.  I found a press cutting about this away back in May and tweeted about it then so it was really funny to come across her again!

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