Remarkable women connected with the East of England

In the year marking 100 years of women first gaining the right to vote, we take a look at our stories connected to suffrage and the wider role of women, whose experiences of survival, courage and determination have shaped the fate and history of the special places we all enjoy today.

Octavia Hill (after John Singer Sargent) by Reginald Grenville Eves, RA

Octavia Hill - a pioneer with a lasting legacy 

A social reformer, public figure, artist and activist, Octavia Hill was also a key figure in the foundation of the National Trust. Strongly influenced by the belief that good environments make better people, she built improved housing and campaigned to give ordinary people access to the countryside.

A portrait of Edith Pretty

Edith Pretty - the woman who gave us Sutton Hoo 

Uncovering our Anglo-Saxon past, Edith Pretty instigated and paid for the archaeological excavations at Sutton Hoo that led to the discovery of a royal ship burial, which is believed to be the final resting place of King Raedwald. She generously donated the fabulous treasures to the British Museum and the nation.

Portrait of Charlotte Payne-Townshend

Charlotte Payne-Townshend - a political activist 

Charlotte Payne-Townshend was a committed political activist, member of the Fabian Society and lobbied widely for suffrage. She married playwright George Bernard Shaw and they lived together at Shaw’s Corner. Shaw's play readings of his farcical comedy from 1909, ‘Press Cuttings’ ridicules the anti-suffrage campaigners.

theodora ickworth

Alice Theodora Wythes - a woman with vision 

Theodora was the granddaughter of a Victorian railway contractor and had an immense personal fortune. A thoroughly modern woman whose vision, passion and commitment helped to seal the future of Ickworth. She was responsible for major improvements to the house, including the latest in Edwardian plumbing and a new servants' quarters.

Camera and old photographs

Emma Turner - a pioneering naturalist and photographer 

Emma Turner was an Edwardian ornithologist and pioneering bird photographer. She was the first person to take a photograph of a bittern since its national extinction in the 1800s and her passion for nature led her to become the first "watcher" or warden of Scolt Head Island in Norfolk.

Garden Designer Norah Lindsay in 1890

Norah Lindsay - a remarkable garden designer 

Facing financial ruin after the collapse of her marriage, Norah Lindsay embarked on a career as a garden designer. She hugely influenced the course of garden design and planting and spent her entire life socialising with the upper echelons of society, which led to commissions from a client base which included royalty and English nobility and American expatriates.

The staircase at Melford

Ulla, Lady Hyde Parker - rescued Melford Hall 

On her husband's death, Lady Ulla Hyde Parker fought to keep the estate together. She was determined to rebuild Melford Hall from the ashes, after part of the Hall was gutted by fire during the Second World War. Her determination came to the forefront again when she first opened the Hall to the public in 1955.

George Bernard Shaw sits cross-legged with a notebook

George Bernard Shaw championed women's rights 

The suffrage movement was also quietly championed by one man in particular – playwright George Bernard Shaw. Shaw moved in suffrage circles for years, and believed in suffrage for all women – not just the wealthy. He and his wife Charlotte were committed socialists, who believed that capitalism produced an unequal society.

Tudor stables at Willington

Caroline Orlebar’s campaign to save Willington Dovecote and Stables

Find out how Willington Dovecote came to be a National Trust property and the role Caroline Orlebar played in its acquisition.