Guest post by Christine Hobson

A summary from her new 99p kindle book ‘Audacious Women in Man’s World’

Until quite recently you could be forgiven for thinking that British history was made almost entirely by men, with just 8 queens and a handful of women we have all heard of like Florence Nightingale and Emmeline Pankhurst. More women are now, at last, being recognised and credited for their achievements.

Here are some notes on 4 women who were either entirely ignored in the past, or were acknowledged for just part of their life’s work. 

Nancy Perriam, born Ann Letton in 1769, married Edward Hopping, a second gunner aboard Nelson’s naval ships. Ann (nicknamed Nancy by the ship’s crew and who later remarried) was first employed on ships as a seamstress below decks.  During the Napoleonic Wars she began working alongside the powder monkeys delivering cartridges of gunpowder to her husband and his fellow gunners, as well as helping the surgeon with the battle-wounded.  This was dangerous and bloody work. There were probably many other women who did the same jobs, but only Nancy was mentioned by name in navy records. She was given a small pension in recognition of her contribution to the navy.

Marie Bethel Beauclerc – coming from an ordinary working background, she taught herself shorthand when she found an instruction booklet thrown away in a waste bin.  She went on to teach shorthand, and later typing, to thousands of students of both sexes in Birmingham.  The women who learned these skills could now take on clerical roles previously only open to men.  At the age of 26 she was the first woman reporter on a daily newspaper ‘The Birmingham Morning News’ owned by non-conformist minister George Dawson. She worked as an amanuensis for George Dawson, noting down his sermons and lectures in shorthand for posterity.  She was also the first woman to teach any subject at a boy’s public school when she was appointed as a shorthand teacher at Rugby.

Henrietta Vansittart – not only continued the nautical engineering her father, James Lowe, had failed to perfect in his lifetime, but went on to win world-wide acclaim for her propeller designs. She was a colourful character, exchanging argumentative letters in the press, and was for a time mistress of the author and MP in­­­­­ Disraeli’s cabinet, Edward Bulwer-Lytton.  Her mysterious and tragic death shortly after giving a presentation at the North East Coast Exhibition of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering has never been satisfactorily explained.

Mary Neal – Known for introducing morris dancing to Britain, despite being born into wealth, made herself a poor ‘Sister of Mercy’ at Cleveland Hall, a Methodist Mission, in order to help the poor in London.  There she met Emmeline Pethick (later suffragette Pethick-Lawrence) and the two women set up and ran clubs helping girls in the sewing industry. 

Cleveland Hall

They provided much-needed seaside holidays for the girls (a whole week’s holiday was almost unheard of at the time), negotiating with employers to ensure their jobs remained when they returned, and helping improve their working conditions. With her Esperance Club, it was so the girls could earn money that Mary arranged to have them taught folk dances. They toured the country earning money from teaching others the steps to the morris dances we know today.

Christine Hobson has written a kindle ebook ( 99pence) for anybody who wants to know more about these significant women.



One thought on “Four Audacious Women in History that should to be better known

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