'Everyday Heroines’ originally accompanied an Elmbridge Museum display at Esher’s Civic Centre (April – August 2017). The exhibition shines a light on the women that have made a difference to local life, the places in which we live and work. The 8 women outlined below represent a cross section of society, from the regal to the modest. 43 Surrey museums and galleries decided to put women at the centre of their work in the summer of 2017, so there was - and still is - plenty to see across the county about our remarkable local heroines.
Surrey Museums Month
Each April, the Surrey Museums Partnership works with 43 of Surrey’s museums and galleries – including Elmbridge Museum – to celebrate the hidden histories of Surrey. In 2017, each museum and gallery highlighted objects that related to the Surrey Super Women that have shaped their collection or made an impact on their local area.
At Elmbridge, we could not choose just one woman, so we have brought the stories of 8 figures together to show what a diverse, long-lasting, and impactful influence these women have had on Elmbridge and the world. Find out more about the women that are part of ‘Everyday Heroines’ through the information, objects, and links below.
2017 marked the bicentenary of Princess Charlotte’s death, a royal figure who some have called ‘the original people’s princess’.
After honeymooning in Weybridge, Princess Charlotte and her new husband, Leopold, visited and fell in love with Claremont House in Esher. As a gift to the happy couple, Claremont was purchased by the nation and became a royal residence at the beginning of the 19th century.
Amy Gentry OBE
Amy Constance Gentry was something of a sporting hero – a leading athlete and a pivotal figure in the world of women’s rowing. Amy helped found and was captain of Weybridge Ladies Amateur Rowing Club as well as acting as secretary to the Women’s Amateur Rowing Association, rowed every week in Weybridge and held down a full-time job in the City of London.
Amy Gentry died just one month before the first ever women’s rowing event in the Olympic Games of 1976, a milestone she played a leading role in bringing about.
Actress, writer, and social reformer Fanny Kemble hailed from Weybridge – living in the family residence, Eastlands – before travelling to America on literary tours.
Kemble’s husband, Pierce Butler, was a plantation owner, something Kemble was ardently against. Her book ‘Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation, 1838-1839’ was a damning diary which outlined the plight of slaves across the southern states. Despite the fact it was written in the 1830s, Kemble decided to publish her writings in the 1860s when the American Civil War broke out, rousing British involvement in the social issues surrounding slavery.
Elmbridge Museum’s own Miss Harting was a natural historian, watercolourist and acted as Natural History Curator from 1909–1929. Miss Harting travelled widely in the locality to capture subjects for her paintings. Elmbridge Museum is proud to have over 170 of Harting’s botanical watercolours in its collection.
Ada Currey captured a changing Weybridge in the 1800s, painting scenes that mixed the verdant countryside with a town on the brink of expansion.
Currey was close to the church and taught Sunday school at St James’. The grand East Window, which still graces the building, was co-designed by Currey – a great artist with a big heart who loved the local area.
How far would you go to fight for what you believed in?
Marion became a full-time militant suffragette after a childhood in Germany and a career on the stage. Marion made the biggest impact on the local area in 1913, when she torched the grandstand at Hurst Park Racecourse, in part to avenge the death of Emily Davison a few days earlier.
Marion was sentenced to 3 years for her part in starting the fire at Hurst Park and immediately went on hunger strike.
The Tilly Girls
Alma Taylor and Chrissie White were two of the biggest stars of the early 20th century – playing the parts of Tilly and Sally in the ‘Tilly Girl’ series, produced at Walton Studios.
Taylor was a favourite actress of film producer Cecil Hepworth and, in 1915, she topped a poll of popular silver screen stars. Beating Charlie Chaplin to second place proved her popularity.
Chrissie White was another leading Hepworth Picture Player, star of the front page as well as the screen. With her husband, actor Henry Edwards, Chrissie and Henry were one of the first glamourous celebrity couples of the modern movie age.
Signed photograph of Alma Taylor
Alma Taylor signed this postcard of herself as a gift to an unknown ‘Edith’. As one half of a popular acting duo with Chrissie White, and with a string of successful films behind her, Taylor was not short of fans, both locally and nationally. In 1915 Alma Taylor was voted the most popular star of cinema by the readers of Pictures and the Picturegoers. Waiting for autographs is still popular today, but many people prefer to wait for a selfie with their favourite star.
Copy of Apocrypha, 1841
This copy of the Apocrypha – a selection of unofficial biblical texts – was given to Fanny Kemble in 1841, during her marriage to Pierce Butler. The book would have been with Kemble during her travels around America and during the continued arguments with her husband. The inscription on the opening page reads: "Fanny Butler, from her affectionate friend M. Banisters. Nov. 1st 1841". Mrs Banisters was a close friend of the Butlers and would often host Fanny Kemble in her home.
Weybridge Ladies Amateur Rowing Club megaphone, 1920-1950
Dark blue, light blue and red are the colours of Weybridge Ladies Amateur Rowing Club. This megaphone is made of compressed cardboard and would have been used by Amy Gentry and her teammates during training sessions on the River Thames. The megaphone is beautifully worn; you can see where it has been held and handled, where it has been screamed into, and where it has been laid down after long, tiring sessions on the water.