Rebel Women celebrated as part of England’s largest festival of History and Culture

As part of Heritage Open Days’ 25th birthday, Sunderland Culture will be celebrating the lives of Rebel Women of Sunderland with specially commissioned artworks and stories.

Inspired by the popular children’s book Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls which has shone a light on 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 selected from past and present to represent the diversity of the achievements of the women of Sunderland. 

Two creatives from Sunderland were commissioned to collaborate on the project and tell the stories of the women: illustrator  Kathryn Robertson, a recent graduate of University of Sunderland, and writer Jessica Andrews, whose debut novel Saltwater was published by Sceptre in June this year. 

The Rebel Women of Sunderland selected 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

Laura Brewis, Creative Producer at Sunderland Culture said:

“The theme of Heritage Open Day is ‘People Power’ and we wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women from the city from a historical perspective, but also in the present. Many of these stories are unknown and we were very keen to highlight them. 

“We were thrilled to get so many nominations and we know that this is just the start of the Rebel Women of Sunderland project – we hope to tell more stories in the future and encourage people to keep nominating!

“That we were able to do this by commissioning young female creatives from the city is also really important, as we hope that hearing these stories will inspire the next generation of Rebel Women in the city!”

The first chance to see the Rebel Women of Sunderland illustrations and stories will be at Sunderland Culture’s Mini Manifesto family event Saturday 14 September (11am-3pm) at Pop Recs Ltd on 170 High Street West.

Part of Heritage Open Days, the family event invites children to have a go at badge and placard-making whilst nominating their own inspirational women. There will also be an opportunity to hear the stories of Rebel Women of Sunderland, written by Jessica Andrews, read by a storyteller from Theatre Space North East. 

Following the event on 14 September, the project will remain at Pop Recs for the duration 

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.