Rebel Women of Sunderland

I’m hardly known for my rebellious streak, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be inspired by those who have broken the rules to affect change.

And there’s plenty to be inspired by when it comes to the Rebel Women of Sunderland.

Inspired by the popular children’s books, Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, the project shines a light on women from Sunderland who have broken the mould.

The Rebel Women of Sunderland – in postcard form.

More than 100 nominations were crowd-sourced via social media and 10 women from past and present were chosen to have their stories told.

They were:

  • Sunderland’s first female MP, Dr Marion Philips 
  • Teacher and missionary Margaret Dryburgh
  • 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 Sunderland University’s pharmacy department 
  • Indie rockers Kenickie (Lauren Laverne, Marie Nixon and Emma Jackson) 
  • England footballers Steph Houghton and Jill Scott
  • Team GB paraclimber Abbie Robinson
  • Journalist and broadcaster Kate Adie
  • Musician and University of Sunderland Chancellor, Emeli Sande

The following women were added in March 2020:

  • Shipbuilder Florence Collard and The Shipyard Girls
  • Ellen Bell, Sunderland’s first female councillor
  • Musician Nadine Shah
  • Marathon runner Aly Dixon

Two creatives from Sunderland were chosen to collaborate on the project – illustrator Kathryn Robertson and writer Jessica Andrews.

Laura Brewis, creative producer at Sunderland Culture, said: “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 important, as we hope that hearing these stories will inspire the next generation of Rebel Women in the city.”

The illustrations and stories have been on display at Pop Recs Ltd in Sunderland, as part of Heritage Open Days, and Sunderland Students’ Union, with plans to move the exhibition around the city, into community settings.

The project is 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.

Leave a Comment