Unbind the Wing: The suffragists of Bodnant Garden
Beneath the manicured lawns and flower-filled terraces of Bodnant Garden is a history of powerful, politically driven women. In 2018 we marked the centenary of Votes for Women in Britain by shining a light on their story.
At the forefront of the long struggle was Laura McLaren who inherited the garden and estate in 1895. Laura was a force of nature; not just an acclaimed gardener but formidable businesswoman, political campaigner and pivotal character in the fight for Women’s Suffrage.
Laura followed in formidable footsteps; her mother Agnes Heap was a pioneer of women’s suffrage, publishing the ground-breaking Right of Women to Exercise the Elective Franchise in 1855; her mother-in-law Priscilla Bright-McLaren was also leading early campaigner against slavery and for women’s rights.
The baton was passed to Laura's daughters Florence and Elsie who took an active part in the movement, as did the menfolk of the family, influential businessmen and political figures of their day. In 1918 after decades of peaceful campaigning the family saw the passage of the Representation of the People Act, which granted voting rights to all men and some women (finally extended to all women in 1928).
A century later, at the family home at Bodnant Garden, we celebrated the remarkable legacy of Laura, Agnes and Priscilla to horticulture and to the cause of women with 'Unbind the Wing', an autumn programme of theatre, art, music and a new garden trail.