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Political Activists and Professional Women

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The Extraordinary Lives of Elise Bowerman and Chrystal Macmillan: barristers and feminists

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Chrystal Macmillan and Elsie Bowerman were both born during Queen Victoria’s reign. At this time, girls’ access to education was substandard, women were barred from a number of careers considered ‘unfeminine’, and all women and many men could not vote. By the time of their deaths, many of these gendered barriers to success had been challenged and broken down.

This talk will investigate the extraordinary lives of both women, from their achievements of educational firsts, to their activism during the votes for women campaign, their wartime work, and their careers as early women barristers. In doing so, it will show the impact of their lifelong feminist activism.

Laura Noakes completed her PhD at the Open University. Her research examined the relationship between the women’s suffrage movement and early women lawyers through detailed contextual consideration of two women: Elsie Bowerman and Chrystal Macmillan. She now works as a Research Assistant at the Devil’s Porridge Museum.

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The Devil’s Porridge Museum commemorates HM Factory Gretna, the largest munitions factory in the world during the First World War and explores the stories of the Solway Military Coast during the Second World War and beyond. The museum uses artefacts, information panels, film and audio, photographs and oral histories to bring the fascinating history of this Border area to life!

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