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"Architecture can offer spaces in which memories are born, remembered and re-enacted" by Taka from 'The Lives of Spaces', RIBA, 2010

Tracing themes such as 'Women's Rights', 'Women and Public Freedom', and 'Housing' through listed buildings and other historic properties brings exciting surprises. From the mid-1850s, discontent and anger at women's lack of rights mobilised groups of women across the country to organise political protests. Gradually the Women's Movement for social, economic and political freedom began.

A Sylvia Pankhurst poster representing her commitment to win votes for working women.
Women's Social and Political Union membership card painted by Sylvia Pankhurst about 1905 representing her commitment to win votes for working women. © & source The Women’s Library

Women's journey to equality from 1850 onwards meant creating their own alternative network of institutions. By borrowing, renting, buying, and eventually building their own premises, women started to gain control over their lives.

By the 1950s women had the vote, they were Members of Parliament, a limited number were in the professions, and they were in demand in the post-war labour market. But there was still a long way to go.

Women started compaigning for equal pay in 1888
Campaigning for equal pay began in 1888. This is the 1951 Civil Service National Whitley Council (Staff Side) pamphlet. © & source TUCLIB

The location of these buildings, how and why they were acquired, and the way they were used provides a key contribution to charting women's history. Claiming space, demanding recognition, and pursuing freedom are highlighted through tracing such properties and people. The buildings featured here are a monument to those women who had the tenacity and courage to argue for and capture their vision for our future.

Mary Macarthur addressing a crowd about the Corruganza box factory strike in Tooting, London, 1908
Mary Macarthur addressing a crowd in Trafalgar Square about the Corruganza box factory strike in Tooting, London, 1908 © & source TUCLIB
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Visible in Stone - Introduction

Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

  • Mary Sumner House, Tufton Street, London. Mothers’ Union headquarters, dated 1925 and designed by Claude W. Ferrier FRIBA, it was built from funds raised by its women members. Listed Grade II.
© Historic England
  • Nancy Astor’s maiden parliamentary speech as Britain’s first woman MP, 1919. © & source The Women’s Library.
  • Women were vital to Britain's post-war industrial recovery, 1952. © Unite the Union. Source TUCLIB.

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