This exciting, two-year project run by Intra Arts and Live Music Now, focuses on 10 female leaders of Medway. In a series of 60 creative workshops taking place throughout the Medway Towns, the women will be celebrated with community-made textile banners, ceremonial garments, and composed songs.
We asked for nominations of Medway women who have had a positive impact on communities, particularly with innovative or pioneering work. A public vote to select five of the nominees was launched in November 2022 and a further five were selected by the project team. It was very hard to choose as the 21 nominees were all excellent. Thank you to the hundreds of people who voted!
We are delighted to announce the chosen ten women are: Kathleen D’Olier Courtney, Verena Holmes, Constance Huggett, Lorna Wing, Zandra Rhodes, Hilary Cooke, The Two Lindas, Carol Stewart, Wendy Daws, and Rachael Burford. You can read about them and their wonderful work below.
We are working with artists and musicians to run free workshops that explore the chosen women’s stories through stitch, appliqué, embroidery, printmaking and music, in community spaces across the Medway Towns.
If you run a space that hosts local groups, or are an organiser of a group who would like to take part – please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01634 790959.
To receive updates on the project and invites to join our workshops –
please sign up to the project mailing list
Nominees for The Cut Of Her Cloth
We had a fantastic response on public nominations. In the vote, choices were made between the following fascinating women.
Mary Ross – Shipbuilder
Owned and ran a shipyard at Acorn Wharf in Rochester, inherited when her husband died, building warships for the Navy from 1808 to 1815. An independent woman running a high profile maritime business, she was significant employer of local people, and lived on the premises.
Anne Pratt – Botanical Illustrator
One of the best known Victorian botanical illustrators, born in Strood. Composed and illustrated more than 20 books. Wrote in an accessible, accurate style partly responsible for popularising of botany.
Catherine Booth – Co-founder of The Salvation Army
Established a Mission in Chatham, and advocated for women’s ministry in 1859, when it was unheard of for women to preach. Campaigned for better working conditions and pay for women who worked in sweat shops, and set up shelters for the homeless and rescue homes for women fleeing abuse.
Vera Conway Gordon – Suffragist
President of the Rochester branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, author and lifelong campaigner for women’s rights. Organised many public meetings and non-militant protest marches in Medway.
Kathleen D’Olier Courtney – Suffragist & Pacifist
Born in Gillingham. Became a prominent member of of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies from 1908, and vice-president of the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship. After the first world war, she became leading figure in the pacifist movement.
Sybil Thorndike – Actor
Stage and film actor who grew up in Rochester and toured internationally in Shakespearean productions. George Bernard Shaw wrote the play Saint Joan for her, and she was the first to perform the challenging role of Joan of Arc in 1924. Performed as the ‘Spirit of Rochester’ for the epic 1931 Rochester Historical Pageant.
Verena Holmes – Engineer
First woman member elected to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1924 and the Institution of Locomotive Engineers in 1931. Held a dozen patents for medical and safety devices and engine improvements. In WWII ran a programme to train women for munitions work. Set up a Gillingham firm in 1946 that employed only women, to help start their engineering careers.
Hilda Willing – Swimmer
Grew up in Chatham, captain of the Medway Mermaids swimming club, teaching over 2000 women and girls to swim at a time when this wasn’t commonplace. One of the earliest women to attempt to swim the English Channel in 1920. She completed 30 miles and held the record for time in the water, but had to abandon the attempt six miles from France.
Constance Huggett – Dockyard Worker
Born in Brompton. Became one of the first women to be an overhead electric crane driver, at Chatham Dockyard, where she worked through both world wars. Worked in France behind the front line in WW1 with the Women’s Royal Army Corps.
Evelyn Dunbar – Artist
Grew up in Rochester. Became an official war artist and the only woman artist to receive continuous salaried commissions throughout the war. Recorded the activities of the Women’s Voluntary Service and the Women’s Land Army through her art.
Dolly Morgan – Ambassador & Campaigner
Lives in Chatham. Campaigned for creative and cultural activity for older people. Regeneration Ambassador for Medway and passionate about improving things for the future of young people.
Lorna Wing – Psychiatrist
Born in Gillingham. Trained as a medical doctor, specialised in psychiatry, and became a pioneer in the field of childhood developmental disorders. Her work revolutionised thinking on autism, highlighting that the number of autistic people was far higher than previously thought – one in 100 rather than one in tens of thousands. She developed the idea of the autistic spectrum, and was a founder of the National Autistic Society.
Zandra Rhodes – Fashion Designer
Born and grew up in Chatham, and studied textile design at KIAD. Innovative fashion and textile designer, considered outrageous by the traditional British manufacturers. One of the new wave of British designers who put London at the forefront of the international fashion scene in the 1970s. Founded the Fashion and Textile Museum in 2003.
Hilary Cooke – Equality Champion
CEO of Medway Gender & Sexual Diversity Centre based in Rochester, providing support services for LGBTQI+ communities. Chair and organiser of Medway Pride, and Medway Pride Radio broadcaster. A woman with a trans history, delivering awareness training on: gender identity, trans and non-binary equality issues, healthcare, discrimination and hate crime.
The Two Lindas (Linda Fiddyment & Linda Jones) – Charity Organisers
Managers of All Saints Community Project Trust for many years, transforming lives in the Luton area, particularly for young families.
Jane Furst – Artist
Lives in Rochester. Inspiring artist and teacher. Constantly curious, motivated and nationally recognised. Printmaking work spans meticulous traditional mezzotint work, experimental large scale drypoint / monoprints, and mixed media work.
Carol Stewart – Campaigner
Chair of Medway African & Caribbean Association, promoting awareness of African and Caribbean culture (through arts, educational and social programmes), the achievements of young people, and community support on diversity, equality and racial harassment issues.
Wendy Daws – Artist & Accessibility Advocate
Advocate for accessibility and innovator in collaborative sensory art. Has led creative voluntary and professional work with groups of blind and partially sighted people in Medway and Kent since 2005. Co-founder of Chatham-based, not for profit arts organisation the MESS ROOM.
Zara Carpenter – Artist
Rochester-based artist with work themed on the body, trauma and grief, using experimental photographic processes and printmaking. Runs arts workshops and co-created ‘SICK!’ a project exploring what it means to live with invisible illness.
Rachael Burford – Rugby Player
Rugby player for England and Harlequins, became a world champion in 2014, with the team earning the first women’s professional contracts. Head of Womens Rugby at International Rugby Players, first woman to be elected on the professional players board in England, and co-founder of Girls Rugby Club.
Robyn Wadhams – Marine Engineer
Following a seven year apprenticeship, became the first female freeman of the Rochester Oyster and Floating Fisheries guild of fishermen. Now an experienced engineer working in the transportation/ trucking/railroad industry, and specialising in marine operations.
We launched this project for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee in summer 2022.
Read more in this post about the launch of our project.
Many thanks to National Lottery players for making The Cut Of Her Cloth possible – this project was awarded funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, saluting 70 years of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and legacy as part of the Platinum Jubilee Fund.