A collaboration by Sophie Parkin & Mandee Gage to celebrate in ceramics the lives of one hundred and forty seven forgotten women of Britain who helped give this country an identity and what it meant to be British.

© sophie parkin / mandee gage 2021


The 147 Women’s Dinner collaboration came from Sophie Parkin’s response to being stuck in Delphi, Greece during the first Lockdown in February 2020, and her obsessive collecting of Motto Ware since growing up in St Ives and living in other seaside towns on the South coast of England.

On returning from Greece Sophie approached mixed media artist Mandee Gage with the idea for an installation bearing the 147 Maxims of Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi, the begetter of wisdom. Little known, Pythia is often described as ‘a channel’ for Apollo the Greek male god whose Maxims are often quoted as being by Socrates or Plato.

And whilst Sophie researched and wrote the biographies of the 147 women and then matched the maxims to the women, Mandee began the task of making the 147 pieces in her Stoke Newington ceramic studio.


Motto Ware is a variety of pottery inscribed with slogans, aphorisms or poetry. The pottery comes in a variety of pieces such as egg cups, mugs, small plates, teapots, milk jugs, vases, cruet ware, butter and trinket dishes. It is made from dark red terracotta and there is always the same symbol central to the design ( a cottage or a cockerel or an abstract pattern).

Also known as Torquay or Devon Ware, Motto Ware first appeared in that SW region of England in the 1860s to be sold as tourist gifts all the way from Somerset to Cornwall. Made by anonymous penny workers mostly women, no two pieces were ever uniform as each artist would interpret the cockerel or cottage and other patterning differently.


The aim is to re-imagine Motto Ware pottery with its symbols of a Great Britain, the country cottage, the male crowing cockerel and then subvert that imagery and replace the ‘cute’ mottos with philosophical quotations based on the 147 Greek Maxims originated by the oracle of Delphi, Pythia the high priestess and Sybil for Apollo at his temple 800 years BC.

These aphorisms have been the mainstay of all religions world wide and although first uttered by women and inscribed across the temple, somehow they are always attributed to male scholars and sages from Socrates (470 BC) onwards.

The installation features 147 hand made, hand painted pieces, each inscribed with its own maxim, ‘Know Thyself, Respect Thyself’ is probably the most famous. The work will be displayed as a dinner party setting on a long table of plates, bowls and cups along with 23 extraneous other pieces in the centre including vases, candlestick holders, cruet sets and large serving plates.

The visitor will enter the gallery into the sight, smells and sound of a dinner party in full swing. There will be no food on the plates but images of food and information about each dinner guest will be projected onto the gallery walls. There will be no guests at the table but there will be name cards for the best of dinner guests, some of whom are still alive today.

© sophie parkin / mandee gage 2021


What does it mean to be British?

As a country of tens of millions we should be described by our history and our future, our ethics and our moral stature, but who has written our history? Writing out the deeds and lives of only mainly 50{becadb6bdea5a41ab443f196aae132715666f0f63ec5a71582903b9f050de250} who are men, what about all these amazing women? And what makes us British? What or where does our identity lie?

What symbols represent to us?

Are we a cottage in the countryside with a path, trees and roses around the door? Or, a sailing boat in the sea. Mottoware was a terracotta pottery made by women from the 1860s and hand painted by women who were paid a penny a day and have been forgotten, not allowed or deemed worthy to signature their individual work. These pieces were then sold as holiday mementoes of Britain. Male landowners of the terracotta kept the profits.

Sophie Parkin came up with this project 147 Women during Lockdown 2020, to shine the light on women, despite being dealt a shoddy hand, politically, financially and legally, who have been endlessly inventive, courageous and creative in the way they have chosen to live, no matter the boundaries fencing them in. Sometimes you have to jump fences before you smash them down.

147 Women is not many. They might not even be the most deserving, but as life is a thing of chances and fate(see the Greek Philosopher/Mathmatician Hypatia’s life), these women’s names and stories have fallen before me to highlight and honour with one of Pythia of Delphi, Maxims from Ancient Greece and a decorated handmade pot by Mandee Gage. The painting was shared between us. The ceramics all 147 pieces were made by Mandee alone.

Why the maxims of Ancient Greece when surely it’s about being British?

During the start of Lockdown I was in Greece, The exhibition I was supposed to be part of was about Brexit, was cancelled for Covid. My friend Wilma the artist and I decided to drive to Delphi, a place we had both wanted to go to instead of turning around and going home we had an adventure. Why I asked was the high Priestess of Delphi, Pythia ( The interpreter of the male god Apollo ) given a generic pythia and not remembered in the way Socrates or Plato were, though the words she spoke were deemed important enough as Maxims to govern the world and chiselled into stone and then became the base of all religions, like Know Thyself?

Other Discussion Topics

Why is Pythia still seen as a cypher for the gods and not a human?

Who else had been forgotten?

Who’s words had been stolen by others because women were not respected as equals or seen as half of the country?

Which women would you choose from the past who should be better remembered? Why would women not have been treated equally?
Lets talk about Power Religion Politics + Money.

© sophie parkin / mandee gage 2021

Examples of some of the 147 extraordinary women to be celebrated in the installation

AEthelflaed, c 870-918. First Queen of the Mercians. Born at the height of the Danish Viking invasion of Britain, Her father, King Alfred The Great, won the battle of Edington and gave his daughter to Aethelred. On her husband’s death 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, literally to Wessex. AEthefled was a great ruler, described as ‘Renowned Saxon Queen’ and ‘a woman of enlarged soul’ she made a united Britain Great.

Bell, Gertrude 1868-1926. Writer, Archaeologist, British Diplomat to the Middle East. Born to wealthy Liberal parents (her mother died when she was 3) Gertrude Bell was raised by he Grandparents who encouraged and enabled her travelling and curiosity. First women to graduate from Oxford studying modern history with First Class Honours. She was fluent in Arabic, Persian, French, German, Italian and The Ottoman languages. She was an accomplished mountain climber. Published her first book on the Middle East in 1907. She travelled 12 times across Arabia. She took part in Archaeological sites and Army intelligence during WW1 with TE Lawrence forming alliances with the Arabs. She became close friends with the tribes of the deserts. From mapping and writing the Halamata Caves in Mesopotania to writing about the Ottoman Empires genocide of the Armenians, to informing government policy between the Arabs and the British, she was said to be the one British diplomat, still held in high regard in the Middle East.

Burdett-Coutts, Angela 1814-1906. British Philanthropist. On inheriting a fortune, and becoming the richest heiress in England, Angela Burdett-Coutts 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 social housing project called Holly village. She was the opposite of ‘Not In My Back Yard’. She funded Florence Nightingales nursing and Louisa Twinings work with poor girls in workhouses. She also helped the poor 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 in turn changed his name to hers and became an MP.

© sophie parkin / mandee gage 2021

Devlin, Bernadette (aka McAliskey) 1969-74. Irish Civil rights leader, and former politician. Bernadette Devlin survived being shot at by Ulster Unionists in front of her children 9 times. Convicted in 1969 of incitement to riot in Bogside she went on to sit as an Independent Socialist Member of Parliament. The day after Bloody Sunday she slapped the conservative Home Secretary Reginald Maudling across the face in Parliament, when he lied that the Parachute regiment had fired in self-defence. Devlin had been present. A woman of giant moral stature and courage that helped build peace in a country divided by Britain’s invasion.

Duncan, Helen 1897-1956. Scottish medium, spiritualist mother of 6 and part time bleach factory worker. Spiritualism has grown with every War in Britain, the need to feel your child who fought for their country is happy and has not died in vain. Duncan was the last woman in Britain to be tried as a witch(under the Witchcraft act 1735) and sent to prison in1944 by authorities that were afraid that she would reveal classified information as in sunken ships, through her conversations with the dead. And that she was exploiting the grief of the deceased for monetary value. Released in 1945 she was banned from holding seances. Arrested for it again in 1956, and died soon after.

Eaton, Fanny 1835-1924. Pre-Raphelite Muse/Model/Servant/Mother. Fanny Eaton came to London with her mother as a teenager from Jamaica and became a cook and domestic servant to the Pre Raphaelite brotherhood of British artists. Artist model, Fanny remained their domestic servant despite adorning the walls of the rich and famous. She married a Shoreditch Cabbie and had 10 children. She modelled to supplement her meagre wages and was painted by amongst others Dante Gabrielle Rossetti, Blake Richmond, Rebecca Solomon, Joanna Boyce Wells, Simeon Solomon, Walter Fryer Stocks. Her nobility shines through the ages.

Farr, Florence 1860-1917. The Bohemians Bohemian. Florence Farr was a leading actress, composer, producer and director of her time. First wave feminist writer on The Rights of the Modern Woman, in workplace, law and home. Named after Florence Nightingale, a friend of her father, a renowned emancipator. Writer, singer, political activist, educator, novelist and leader of The Hermatic Order of The Golden Dawn and oculist religion founded by men ruled by women. Friend of the literati fin de siècle she was a friend and collaborator of Nobel laureate William Butler Yeats, poet Ezra Pound, playwright Oscar Wilde, artists Aubrey Beardsley and George Bernard Shaw.

© sophie parkin / mandee gage 2021

Franklin, Rosalind 1920-1958. Scientist. Chemist and X-Ray Christolographer whose work was central to understanding and mapping the structure of DNA, RNA and Viruses coal and graphite. She died of Ovarian Cancer aged 37 probably because of the X-Ray work she studied, her outstanding contribution to DNA structure was not discovered until after her death Whereby scientists Watson + Crick received the Nobel prize.

Gray, Eileen 1878-1976. Architect and designer. Irish born, Slade student, self- taught pioneer of the modernist movement who had much of her work claimed by male lover architect Badovici and defamed by Le Corbusier who had a heart attack and died near by the Hse E1027 in the South of France that he had defaced with his murals. Lived most of her life in Paris mixing in the lesbian circles, she was interned by the Germans during the war she was interned and her homes were looted of her work. Gray was rediscovered for her pioneering work upon her death of inspiring Modernist clean simple design and Art Deco.

Jones, Claudia Cumberbatch 1915-1964. Journalist & political activist. Jones family emigrated to America from Trinidad and Tobago when she was 8. There 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 founding 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.

Matthews, Helen b1857. Footballer, Manager & suffragette. Helen Graham Matthews, also known by her pseudonym Mrs Graham was a Scottish suffragette and women’s footballer. Matthews (or Graham) is known as a pioneer in the women’s sport, founding the first Scottish and then British women’s football teams, Mrs Graham’s XI. Firstly they were playing English suffragettes, and later men’s teams, and recruiting the first black woman footballer, Emma Clarke. The first match was played in 1881. There were worries that the success of women’s football would damage the popularity of the men’s game once the WW1 was over. On 5 December 1921, The FA banned it, saying that no clubs could let women’s teams play in their grounds.

© sophie parkin / mandee gage 2021

Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley 1689-1762. Lady Mary Wortley was the first person to bring inoculation for smallpox to Britain from Turkey using her own children as guinea pigs, they both survived unlike her brother who was unvaccinated who died. Her social circle was such that she made it acceptable amongst the aristocracy, 65 years before the vaccine was formulated by a Dr Edward Jenner in 1796. Lady Mary was also a writer of great wit and intellect in her poems and essays, and invented the modern form of travel writing, she was the first female to do this. Her books encouraged women to travel, the romance of Italy(she had a few) and what actually went on in the ladies quarters of the Ottoman Empire that inspired Ingres Paintings. She lived life rapaciously and unrepentantly.

Murdoch, Iris 1919-1999. Philosopher & Writer. Iris Murdock was not just a great novelist she was also a formidable philosopher taking over the chair of Philosophy at Cambridge University when her colleagues were away at war. With her understanding of a modern interpretation of Aristotle and Plato she was at the head of a surge away from didactics, a male centre philosophy towards moral philosophy and the power of the unconscious that was more understandable for the modern world. She was also considered to be one of the 50 greatest writers since 1945 says The Times,

Read, Mary (aka Mark) 1685-1721. Mary Read began being dressed as a boy by her mother in order to inherit and later dressed as a boy to join the British military. After her Dutch husband died she moved to the West Indies where her ship was hijacked by pirates led by Jack Rackham whom she joined dressed as a male. she joined his crew along with the Irish legend Anne Bonny. They were arrested after a year of successful piracy during a golden period, Rackham was executed whilst both Bonny and Read said they were pregnant so they weren’t. Mary died in a Jamaican prison of fever having led one hell of a life, unconstrained by her sex or a dress.

Somerville, Mary (nee Fairfax) 1780–1872. Scientist, Writer, & Polymath. Mary Somerville studied mathematics and astronomy alone in Scotland, and in 1835 she was elected together with Caroline Herschel as the first female Honorary Members of the Royal Astronomical Society. When John Stuart Mill, the philosopher and economist, organised a massive petition to Parliament to give women the right to vote, he had Somerville put her signature first on the petition. When she died in 1872, The Morning Post declared in her obituary that “Whatever difficulty we might experience in the middle of the nineteenth century in choosing a king of science, there could be no question whatever as to the queen of science”. Somerville College, University of Oxford, is named after her, reflecting the virtues of liberalism and academic success. Her first published paper was in 1862 “The magnetic properties of the violet rays of the solar spectrum”.

© sophie parkin / mandee gage 2021


After studying Creative Design at Loughborough University, Mandee gained an MA in Ceramics at the Cardiff Institute. Trained in 3D design, ceramics and sculpture, Mandee is first and foremost a mixed media artist with a practice that is primarily sculptural but includes painting, photography, installation and film. She has a deep connection to the natural world and the importance of well being informs her subject matter. Her work is driven by social issues, in particular climate, environment as well as social justice. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally in Spain, Estonia, Athens, Venice and Berlin.

Information and images of other work by Mandee Gage –


Sophie Parkin is a writer and artists who attended St. Martin’s School of Art and Maidstone College of Art, where she graduated with a Fine Art degree in 1982. She appeared in Andrew Logan’s 1979 film Alternative Miss World and the Dylan Thomas biopic The Edge of Love, directed by John Maybury and starring Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller and Matthew Rhys. She has written for numerous British newspapers and periodicals including; The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, The Daily Mail, The Lady Magazine, Harpers, Bonhams Magazine and The British Library. Her novels include All Grown Up (1998), Take Me Home (1999) and Dear Goddess (2000). She has also written for Piccadilly Press the teen novels, French for Kissing (2005), Best of Friends (2006), and Mad, Rich and Famous (2006). In 2012, she published The Colony Room Club 1948-2008, a history of Bohemian Soho and in May 2014 she opened Vout-o-Reenees in London – an arts club which also encompasses The Stash Gallery. Open to public the Stash Gallery specialises in showing contemporary living artists often outside of conventional mainstream considerations.

© sophie parkin / mandee gage 2021

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© sophie parkin / mandee gage 2021