Image Reference: Acc 7143 Box 4 Envelope 35
Written by Lara Moon, Archivist
As part of plans for International Women’s Day this year we have been working with Assist Women’s Network to research into some inspiring women from Teesside’s past as well as celebrating the inspiring Women of Teesside today.
Set up in 2009, the Assist Women’s Network is a Tees Valley based organisation which allows women in business to grow professionally through a strong network of like-minded women. You can find more out about joining the network here. Back in 2022, I got in contact with Assist as part of our collections development strategy. After meeting and discussing women’s history on Teesside their co-founder and chair, Ann Stonehouse, very kindly invited me to be a part of their Sisterwood Project.
Sisterwood at Stewart Park
Located at Middlesbrough’s Stewart Park, the Assist Sisterwood recognises the achievements of Tees Valley women. The vision is to plant a tree each year to represent the Assist Goodwill Ambassador’s of the past, present and future. As well as the trees for the organisation’s Goodwill Ambassadors there will be several trees dedicated to historical women of importance from Teesside. Using research conducted by Assist for previous International Women’s Day events and material from the archives we found information on many inspiring Teesside women. These include notable figures such as Alice Schofield Coates, Sister Mary Jacques, and Maud Mary Chadburn as well as some lesser known individuals like Freda Gray. We hope to develop a steering group that can take the project forward and find more ways to celebrate women. All of the research into the historical women that the trees will be named after along with the profiles of the Assist Goodwill Ambassadors will form an archive of it’s own that we will add to our collections so that the inspiring women of Teesside past, present and future can be remembered. This legacy will go hand in hand with the ever growing Sisterwood that will be a constant reminder of the amazing women that lived and worked in Teesside. If you would like to get involved with the project or have any suggestions please do get in touch with us or Assist.
We have also been involved with co-hosting Assist’s annual International Women’s Day event this year. Held as The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum (just a short walk from the Sisterwood) we welcomed over 50 women to join us in discussing the theme ‘Embrace Equity’. The celebrations kicked off with a musical performance by Erin Holmes followed by a panel of three inspiring women – Karla Edwards from The Protection Parent, Kimberley Turner from Double Eleven, and Shahda Khan from Borderlands Creative People and Places. We were then treated to a poetry recital from Chikomborero Manoah who was voted the first ever Miss Black History Northeast last year. The event culminated in the announcement of the Assist Goodwill Ambassador for 2023/2024 followed by a TikTok dance challenge. The event was a huge success with the celebrations being a great way for the archives to showcase our fantastic collections and engage with a different audience. We are looking forward to continue working with Assist going forward to raise the profile of women’s history as well as capture the current women of Teesside who deserve to be remembered in the future.
Off the back of the research conducted into Teesside’s Inspiring Women of the past we have produced a talk based on Women’s History from the Archives which has already been given to various groups and organisations such as the Women’s Institute and local U3A branches. We would love to share and celebrate Teesside Women’s history more widely so if you are interested in inviting us to give a talk to your school, community group or business – please get in touch!