bernadette devlin mcaliskey one of the 147 Women dinner party exhibition at Broomhill Estate, Devon

147 Women Dinner Party

Brief bios of 10 out the 147 women to be commemorated by the exhibition

Key Women, it is celebrating. 


  1. AEthelflaed First Lady of the Mercians Britain c 870 -918  – 131.Crown Your Ancestors – Pot.
    Born at the height of the Danish Viking invasion of Britain, Her father, King Alfred The Great, won the battle Edington and gave his daughter to Aetheired, who subsequently died. AEthelfled ruled alone for 7 years until her death. Male Historians site this as unprecedented Her daughter AElfwynn succeeded her until Edward 1st, her uncle, carried her off to Wessex. She was a great ruler, described as ‘Renowned Saxon Queen’  and ‘a woman of enlarged soul’ she made  Britain unite.
  2. Bailey, Alice 1880-1949 – 91 – Have Kindly Interactions – plate.
    A working-class girl from Manchester who goes to America and sets up the foundations of The New Age philosophy and The Age of Aquarius. She championed freedom of body and mind, petitioning for abortion and self-ownership. She moved to the United States in 1907, where she spent most of her life as a writer and teacher. Bailey’s works, written between 1919 and 1949, describe a wide-ranging neo-Theosophical system of esoteric thought covering such topics as how spirituality relates to the Solar System, meditation, healing, spiritual psychology, the destiny of nations, and prescriptions for society in general. Her vision of a unified society included a global “spirit of religion” different from traditional religious forms and including the concept of the Age of Aquarius.
  3. Bodichon, Barbara Leigh Smith1827 – 1891 5. Be Ruled By Justice – Plate.
    Artist, Reformer, Feminist Activist. An Illegitimate child of  Anne Longden and a Whig Politician Benjamin Leigh-Smith. She refused to marry her lover because she did not wish to lose her legal rights or income bequeathed by her father. This stipend of 300 a year gave her unimagined independence and agency over her own life. She eventually married an eminent French physician Dr Eugene Bodichon when the access to divorce courts for women The Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 that she had campaigned for came through. In 1858 she began the English Women’s Journal to discuss laws, employment and equality issues. In 1865 she brought up the idea of Parliamentary Reform so that women should have the right to vote. In 1866 she started a scheme to allow women university education that became Girton College Cambridge. An early member of the Society of Female Artists, she regularly showed with them – most of these 19th C. women artists have also been forgotten. A friend of George Eliot, the heroine of Romola is meant to be based upon her. 
  4. Coutts, Angela Burdett-  – 1814-1906 –  100. Act decisively. Plate.
    British Philanthropist. On inheriting a fortune and becoming the richest heiress in England, she proceeded to spend it all on supplying clean water and the first social housing, endowments and scholarships. With Charles Dickens, she built a home for fallen women. Co-founder of the NSPCC and the RSPCA. President of The British Goat Society. President of the British Beekeepers The London Ragged School Union, Founder of Columbia Road and a sewing school in Spitalfields and all its social housing. On the corner of her estate in Highgate, she built a vast social housing project called Holly village. She gave money to Florence Nightingale nursing and Louisa Twinings, work with girls in workhouses.   She also helped the poor with clean water in Africa, Ireland, Palestine, Jerusalem, Turkey, Aboriginals in Australia and the Dayaks of Borneo. She married her male secretary when she was 67 and had to forgo three-fifths of her inheritance because she married an American. He changed his name to hers and became an MP.
  5. Somerville, Mary Fairfax – 1780-187221. Cling To Education – Plate.
    Scottish Mathematician, Scientist writer and polymath. She came from privilege but took every opportunity to learn outside the other concerns she was meant to pursue as a young lady of music, dance, embroidery etc. She taught herself Greek, Latin, French, mathematics and science and used her time to broaden her knowledge and liberal concerns against slavery. After her first husband died when she was 27 and with two small children, she used her money to study and had correspondence with notable mathematicians and scientists; she used Calculus to solve noted mathematical problems and became known. In 1831 she published her first science book, The Mechanisms of the Heavens, which became an instant hit and for 50 years would be standard undergraduate text. She married twice, had 6 children, wrote 5 books and made exceptional discoveries and advances in science. She died aged 91 in Italy. She was known as the Queen of Science throughout Europe. Somerville College Oxford is named after her
  6. Dame Dr Goodall, Jane b1934  124. Love Those Whom You Rear – Bowl.
    Conservationist, anthropologist and Primatologist. The worlds foremost expert on Chimpanzees from 60years of fieldwork with wild chimpanzees in Tanzania, immersing herself in their habitat and discovering that the bond between us was closer than we had ever acknowledged. In 1960 she discovered that Chimpanzees made and used tools just as humans did. Her work is as much about saving habitat and species as understanding the interrelated dependencies of all species on earth.
  7.         Wake Nancy 1912-2011   15. Help Your Friends – Jug.
    British Secret Agent, Captain, Journalist and nurse. Born in New Zealand and a quarter Maori, Her family moved to Sydney, Australia, where she grew up. Her father left when she was small. She trained first as a nurse, inherited some money from an aunt, went to New York, then London trained as a journalist, went to work on magazines,  moved to Paris in the 1930s,  and married a French Industrialist. As a journalist, she saw the rise of Hitler and the anti-Semitism and violence that became commonplace in Vienna. When Nazi Germany invaded Paris, she became part of the escape network for allied airmen to Spain, she escaped to Britain, her husband was caught and executed. The Gestapo referred to her as the white mouse because she kept evading capture. In Britain she became part of the Special Operations Team and was parachuted back to France where she was involved in a battle and then cycled 500kl to send a report to London. Wake received the George Medal from Britain, Medal of Freedom from the US, the Legion d’honneur from France, Companion of order from Australia, The Badge in Gold from New Zealand. Post-war she dabbled in politics but kept returning to the secret service. She lived between Australia and London, and when her last husband died, she sold her medals and lived in the Stafford Hotel in St James place where each morning you could find her and a G+T, propping up the bar telling war stories. She only went to an old people’s home for ex-servicemen/women in her 90’s.
  8.         Rothschild, Dame Miriam – 1908-2005 –88. Speak From Knowledge – Vase.
    Naturalist Flea Expert, Conservationist Renowned British natural scientist who published over 300 scientific papers throughout her lifetime, making ground-breaking contributions to the fields of entomology, zoology, marine biology, and wildlife conservation. In 1985 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society and credited for her work in the histology, morphology, and taxonomy of fleas. During the war, she worked at Bletchley with Alan Turing, she helped extradite both Jewish children and scientists out of Europe and to safety, often staying with her in her house that she gave over to the Red Cross. Her evidence of naturalised sexuality(nature, not nurture) was used to legalise homosexuality in Britain. An extraordinary woman of great privilege who extended it to others with knowledge and kindness.
  9.         Oram, Daphne – 1925 – 2003   121. Never Tire of Learning – Jug.
    British Composer A central figure to the evolution of electronic music and the first British Composer of electronic sound, co/ founder of the  BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop. Inventor of the Oramic Machine and the first composition in 1946 of live electronic manipulation on acoustic orchestration Still Point was eventually performed for the first time in June 2016, thirteen years after her death and 70years after it had been turned down by the BBC. By the 1950’s she left the BBC because of their conservative values towards music and was composing commissions for films ( Dr No, Goldfinger), tv (Dr Who) and plays by Samuel Beckett. She described the Oramics machine as the study of sound and its relationship to life; the brains apprehension of sound. She wrote a still-unpublished book, The Sound of the Past – a resonating speculation suggesting that Neolithic chambered mounds were used as resonators in long-distance communication.
  10.       Jones, Claudia Cumberbatch 1915-1964   116. Shun Hatred – Teapot Journalist and political activist.
    Jones family emigrated to America from Trinidad and Tobago when she was 8. where she became a Communist political activist, feminist and black nationalist, adopting the name Jones as “self-protective disinformation”. Due to the political persecution of Communists in the US, she was deported in 1955 and subsequently lived in the United Kingdom. Upon arriving in the UK, she immediately joined the Communist Party of Great Britain, and would remain a member for the rest of her life. She then founded Britain’s first major black newspaper, the West Indian Gazette, in 1958, and played a central role in establishing the Notting Hill Carnival, the second-largest annual carnival in the world. The Claudia Jones Organisation, a network for helping Afro Caribbean women, is named after her.