Ada Lovelace invented the computer in the 18th century. Only in the 21st is her name becoming spoken about so it is not surprising that 19th century women, who fought for equal rights in all fields, are still buried. Monuments to male achievements dominate all countries’ national monuments and street names? Where are the women?
We are aware of so many whose names deserve our recognition. Among those are Elizabeth Jesser Reid who founded Ladies College (renamed Bedford College) to offer higher education to women, Sophia Jex Blake, who opened the London School of Medicine for Women, Eleanor Marx whose actions and writings have been obscured by masculinist Marxists and historians, Eliza Orme, the first woman to obtain a law degree in England who worked as an unofficial legal practitioner, women unable to qualify as barristers or solicitors until Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919. To celebrate the work of these activists is to challenge patriarchy which dominates every country in the world.
In the Lottery Heritage Fund project Women for Women we are discovering so many whose names have been whitewashed from the national memory. They fought for female entrance into the arts, business, law, politics, medicine, sciences, social reform, philosophy. Without them our education system would be the poorer. Without them women would never have been allowed to enter male-only institutions or consider professions considered unsuitable for women. Without them we might still be under laws which prevent women owning property or our own bodies.
The work is not finished. Honouring these 19th century women empowers girls and women today and makes us realise that we are standing on the strong shoulders of those fearless women who came before us. We are now unearthing those whose names have been buried. We will continue excavating to honour these female ancestors who still empower the living and the not-yet-born.
Learn about women we should celebrate here: Introduction and Women – Pascal Theatre Company (pascal-theatre.com)