Rebel Women of Sunderland


The Rebel Women of Sunderland is a project that shines a light on the lives of Rebel Women from Sunderland with specially commissioned artworks and stories.


The project was originally commissioned by Sunderland Culture for Heritage Open Day in 2019, in partnership with Open Heritage and Sunderland Heritage Action Zone and was inspired by the popular children’s book 
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls which has celebrated the achievements of women around the world. 

Nominations for Rebel Women of Sunderland were crowd-sourced through social media with over 100 nominations of inspirational women of the city.  

Ten women were originally selected from past and present to represent the diversity of the achievements of the women of Sunderland.  

The original Rebel Women of Sunderland are: 

Dr Marion Philips, first female MP in Sunderland
Margaret Dryburgh, teacher and missionary
Ida and Lousie Cook, activists who smuggled Jews out of Nazi Germany
Elizabeth Donnison, founder of the Donnison School
Hope Winch, first head of the University’s pharmacy department
Kenickie (Lauren Laverne, Marie Nixon and Emma Jackson), one of the most famous female-led bands to come from Sunderland 
Steph Houghton and Jill Scott, England footballers
Abbie Robinson, Team GB paraclimber
Kate Adie, journalist and broadcaster
Emeli Sande, musician and University of Sunderland Chancellor 

The original 10 artworks and stories went on show at Sunderland Culture’s Mini Manifesto family event at Pop Recs as part of Heritage Open Days, 2019.  The family event invited children to have a go at badge and placard-making whilst nominating their own inspirational women.

To celebrate International Women’s Day in 2020, four more Rebel Women of Sunderland were also unveiled:

Florence Collard, shipbuilder
Ellen Bell, Sunderland’s first female Councillor
Nadine Shah, musician
Aly Dixon, marathon runner

Sunderland creatives, illustrator Kathryn Robertson, a recent graduate of University of Sunderland, and writer Jessica Andrews, who recently won the Portico Prize for her debut novel, Saltwater, were commissioned to produce portraits and tell the stories of the women.

This project is produced as part of Sunderland Culture’s Great Place programme, funded by Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund, and in partnership with Sunderland’s Heritage Action Zone and Open Heritage.