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The stories behind the unofficial blue plaques appearing around Norwich

PUBLISHED: 11:43 22 May 2019 | UPDATED: 11:43 22 May 2019

One of the blue plaques commemorating women throughout history in Norwich. Photo: Kyle Iverson

One of the blue plaques commemorating women throughout history in Norwich. Photo: Kyle Iverson

Archant

Over the past week mysterious unofficial blue plaques have been appearing around Norwich commemorating the revolutionary women who made the city such a feminist landmark. Isobel Rix looks at some of the incredible stories behind the guerrilla movement.

One of the blue plaques commemorating women throughout history in Norwich. Photo: Kyle IversonOne of the blue plaques commemorating women throughout history in Norwich. Photo: Kyle Iverson

Emma de Gauder, Countess of Norfolk, 1059 - 1096

At sixteen she defended Norwich Castle when it was under siege from William I for three months while her husband, Ralph de Gael, sailed to Denmark for reinforcements.

Margaret Elizabeth Fountaine, diarist, lepidopterist (a person who studies or collects butterflies and moths), 1863-1940

Moved to Norwich in 1877 following the death of her father.

Margaret travelled all over the world collecting and breeding butterflies, she would refuse to ride side-saddle and developed a love affair with her travelling companion and interpreter, Khalil Neimy.

Her travels amounted to the Fountaine-Neimy Butterfly Collection which contains over 20,000 specimens and is housed at Norwich Castle Museum. There you can also find twelve journals from 1878 until 1939 detailing her life and travels. Her sketchbooks of larvae and pupae are kept at the Natural History Museum.

Mabel Clarkson, Norwich's first female councillor, 1874-1950

Elected in as a Liberal councillor in 1913, she remained the only woman serving in the council for many years. She became Norwich's second female mayor in 1930.

Dorothy Jewson, educated at the Assembly House when it housed the Norwich School for Girls, Norwich's first female MP in 1923, 1884-1964

Dorothy's first speech as an MP was on extending voting rights to young women. She sought more influence for Labour women within their own party's structure, joined the suffrage movement and the Women's Social and Political Union.

She conducted an inquiry into poverty and poor relief in Norwich leading to publication of "The Destitute of Norwich and how they Live: A Report into the Administration of out Relief (1912)." She served on Norwich City Council from 1929 to 1936.

7 Brigg Street

This is where a branch of Millicent Fawcett's National Union of Women's Suffrage opened, selling badges, pins and books, to raise money for the suffrage movement and spread the word.

Fye Bridge

It is said this is where suspected medieval witches would be ducked to test for witchery. If the suspected woman survived, she was a confirmed witch and would be burnt to death.

1909 St. Andrews Street

Where suffragettes stormed a meeting Winston Churchill held at St Andrews Hall.

The Meeting House, Upper Goat Lane

This plaque commemorates the women who were removed from a Quaker meeting for being "profane and opinionated" on issues related to women's rights and the environment.

The plaques

In an interview on the 5Live Emma Barnett Show, a member of the group responsible for the plaques dispersed some of the mystery surrounding them.

She said that following a walking tour around Norwich, the group became aware of some 300 plaques noting historic events and people, only 25 of which related to women.

Around 10 members of The Common Lot theatre group donned Rosie the Riveter outfits to put up the eight plaques on historic feminist landmarks.

The spokesperson said help from artists in creating the plaques was essential to their success.

The representative noted they had done thorough research into removable fixings and the last thing they wanted to do was damage any of Norwich's historic buildings.

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