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The Hidden Heritage of a Naval Town – Celebrating Women’s Activism in Portsmouth since 1960

Published: 9th October 2018 10:56

After a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid by Dr Sue Bruley, Dr Laurel Forster and Dr Terese Jonsson at the University of Portsmouth, a project to record the history of 50 of the city’s unsung, and inspiring women’s community activists is launching this month. 

The project originates from work carried out by the Women’s Activism in Portsmouth group (WAP) since 2015 and the year-long project will have outcomes that include 50 recorded oral histories, video stories, a website, booklet, student learning pack, and a mobile exhibition.

The project is looking for members of public from the local community to help conduct interviews and be interviewed.

Dr Sue Bruley said: “The impact of feminist movements in Britain since the 1960s has been enormous. This is an essential part of our post war social and cultural history. We need to record these changes for women and society at a local level. This is particularly so in Portsmouth with its distinct naval heritage. The Time’s Up and #MeToo movements have made us all aware that there is still much work to be done. By recording the recent history of women’s activism in the city it will help us to link the past to the present and address issues of gender inequality in the city today.”

The fight for equal pay, maternity pay, struggles against sexual harassment and issues connected with women in the naval community will be some of the key topics. Research will also focus on the local women’s aid movement to combat domestic violence and provide refuge for women and children, anti-racist activism and the campaign for new housing. The research aims to document the activism of women from a diverse range of backgrounds, ensuring issues of class, race and sexuality are addressed and bringing the focus to contemporary debates. Photographs, digital stories and audio clips and with the oral history database will be digitally preserved and transferred to the Portsmouth History Centre collections where it will be publicly accessible via the catalogue.

The project is looking for a wide-range of volunteers, from students to our most senior citizens, to get involved in this vital project to record women’s history in Portsmouth.  Whether you are interested in website content, or want to find out about curatorial skills, or if you have a story to tell, we’d like to hear from you.

Come along (for all or some of the) launch day on Saturday 20 October from 10am to 3pm at the University of Portsmouth library to find more about the project and how you can get involved. 

Dr Bruley said: “There are opportunities to gain experience and skill, to work with an enthusiastic team of women and men supporting this project, to participate as an interviewee and to do something worthwhile and meaningful for your local community.” 

The event is free, but bookings are required.

For more information and to register your interest, please contact:

Anna Cole , Project Co-ordinator, on 023 9284 6121 or 07943 764 631, email

Sue Turner, Project Assistant, on 023 9284 6156, email

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