Jane uncovers more incredible women

October 05 2019

Jane uncovers more incredible women

Photo courtesy of Jon Craig photos

AN AUTHOR who shone the light on more than 200 remarkable women from Bristol's past is about to release her follow-up book.

Jane Duffus was overwhelmed with the success of The Women Who Built Bristol which was published last year, supported by a series of talks and events across the area.

She had been fed up hearing about the great men who shaped the city, noticing that all but one of Bristol's statues were of men, and the one who was female was a goddess – not even a real woman.

Her original book set about addressing this disservice in the form of a compendium of 250 great women who contributed to the city's rich history, including reformer Mary Carpenter, suffragette Annie Kenney and haematologist Janet Vaughan.

Jane's second volume is released on October 21 by publisher Tangent and features 250 new stories of inspiring women. 

The women may have been born in Bristol, died here or lived in the city for a bit, with Jane's only rule that they must no longer be alive.

Jane, who lives in Bedminster, said: “I’ve tried to leave no stone unturned in my quest to represent women from all walks of life who contributed something - no matter how small - to the Bristol we live in today. 

“Through researching two volumes of The Women Who Built Bristol, I’ve uncovered the overlooked stories of more than 500 astonishing women.

“The response to Volume One was overwhelmingly positive. Throughout the project, I have met people with even more stories of fantastic women to share, seen murals that are inspired by women in the book, heard about school children inspired to do their own research, and have given no end of talks about these astonishing women. 

“The second volume soon began to write itself. More women kept coming out of the woodwork and they were too good to keep to myself.”

Jane said the second book offers some surprise characters: “The book features a brand new set of 250 amazing, but largely overlooked, women from Bristol’s history and, by virtue of being the second book and the obvious characters mostly being swallowed up by volume one, includes, to my mind, a much more interesting and diverse set of women who are by no means second class to the first lot! There’s a real emphasis on working-class and 'ordinary' women, as well as the more predictable novelists, artists, musicians and so on. I’m also including a handful of ne'er-do-wells this time, which is fun - if grisly.”

From the wicked woman with a whip in Clifton to the young lady who climbed to the top of St Nicholas’ Church spire, from the rebel librarian who campaigned for votes for women to the first ever Bristolian to win an Olympic gold medal - they’re all stars in Volume Two. 

In fact Jane discovered so many interesting figures she was forced to leave some out.

“I already have more than 150 on my list should Volume Three ever happen,” she said.

The Women Who Built Bristol: Volume Two can be purchased from bookshops or directly from the author via https://janeduffus.bigcartel.com/ at the price of £13.

If you would like Jane to speak at an event you can get in touch via her website www.janeduffus.com/contact

Jane Duffus tells us about a daredevil whose father ran Douglas Motorcycles and a woman who earned her crust making children's boots at a factory in Charlton Road

Mad for motorcycling The history of motorcycling is closely linked to Kingswood thanks to Douglas Motorcycles. One such fan was Lillian Allen (1898-c1950) of Bedminster, who was one of the very first female motorcyclists in Bristol and was also known to take her younger sister May Mullins out for a spin on her Duggie. Meanwhile, the sight of Rosina ‘Rosie’ Douglas (1913-2000) standing on the saddle of her motorbike and speeding down Kingswood High Street was enough to make even the most composed of bystanders feel nervous. But if they considered her pedigree, it should have come as no surprise: her dad William ran the 12-acre Douglas Motorcycles site. Rosie, sister Irene and cousin Margaret were excellent motorcyclists and competed successfully in competitions as the Douglas Motorbikes’ Women’s Team in the years leading up to World War Two. 

These boots were made... The Spencers lived at 41 Belgrave Terrace and, after being widowed in 1915, Lily Spencer (1883-1945) took outwork at the Iles Brothers factory on Charlton Road, where she made children’s boots. Her son Wilfred later remembered how each pair of boots that Lily made would be fastened together at the back of the uppers with a piece of string. And each Friday, when he finished school, he would hold out his arms for up to 20 pairs of boots to be hung across them ready for him to take to the factory, so that Lily could be paid on the Saturday.