Women’s History in Wales

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Use the lists below to discover stories about women’s lives in Wales. You can also access the stories at each featured location, by using your mobile to scan our QR codes there.

Some of the stories relate to pioneering women who challenged societal norms, helping to shape current opportunities and expectations. Other stories provide an insight into the work done by women in peacetime and in wartime, or celebrate achievements in areas such as the creative arts and business. You’ll also find places in Wales which are linked to women who lived long ago and became objects of veneration and myth.

NORTH-WEST WALES

Anglesey
Ynys Llanddwyn - St Dwynwen, who set up a cell here in the 5th century, is the patron saint of Welsh lovers
Llanfairpwll - the first Women’s Institute branch in Britain
Penmynydd - effigy of Myfanwy (wife of Gronw Fychan) with angels and small dogs
Menai Bridge - Gracie Davies was Mentioned in Dispatches for her Red Cross hospital work in First World War
Menai Bridge - Edna Pritchard inherited a fortune but died in Snowdonia while walking with Oxford University friends
Beaumaris - effigy of Siwan (d.1237), wife of Prince Llywelyn Fawr and daughter of King John

Gwynedd
Bangor - in Second World War, Women’s Voluntary Service helped with evacuees and ran salvage drives
Caernarfon – Ellen Edwards taught navigation to more than 1,000 Victorian sailors
Llanberis - nurse Jennie Williams died in 1919 at the French hospital where she’d tended wounded soldiers
Llanberis - strongwoman Marged ferch Ifan rowed copper ore in her self-made boat, wrestled and played the harp
Criccieth - former home of Megan Lloyd George, Wales’ first female MP
Criccieth - suffragettes smashed windows in 1914 as David Lloyd George gave a speech
Porthmadog - women made shell cases at Ffestiniog Railway works in First World War
Tanygrisiau - Mary Silyn Roberts organised classes for working adults. Led a women’s peace march to London in 1926
Dolgellau - ancient plaster depiction of a woman on a ducking stool, used in witchcraft trials
Llanbedr - the Gamwell sisters worked in both world wars, trained as pilots and did botanical research

Conwy county borough
Llanfairfechan - noted botanist Mary Thoday was also a suffragist and peace campaigner
Penmaenmawr
- site of a con-woman’s sensational attempt to fake her death in 1909
Penmaenmawr - Rogark doll factory employed 100 local women who assembled and dressed dolls at home in 1950s
Conwy - former office of Agnes Hughes, the first female solicitor in Wales 
Conwy - Margaret Williams made her way in male-dominated journalism and inherited Britain’s Smallest House
Conwy - Elizabeth Ann Jones lived to 100. Born in 1864, when girls’ average life expectancy was 44 years
Conwy - Sarah Dutton took over the Castle Hotel aged 26. She enlarged it and commissioned the grand frontage
Deganwy - women made sphagnum moss dressings for wounded soldiers in the First World War
Llandudno - childhood home of the USA’s first female state senator, Martha Hughes Cannon
Llandudno - founding place of first women’s suffrage society in Wales
Llandudno - Mostyn Art Gallery was built at the request of the Gwynedd Ladies’ Art Society
Llandudno - Beatrice Blore-Browne, a pioneer of women’s motoring, died of cancer aged 34
Llandudno - Aldwyth Williams nursed wounded soldiers and died of flu shortly before the 1918 Armistice
Llandudno - Mary Edith Neapan was an artist, novelist, film columnist and Red Cross nurse
Llandudno - the Queen of Romania joined the Gorsedd of Bards while staying in the resort in 1890
Llandudno - hundreds of Land Girls rested at the WLA’s holiday home during the Second World War
Llanrhos - school for poor girls and boys built with endowment by Miss Frances Mostyn of Bodysgallen Hall
Glan Conwy - a tribunal in 1594 concluded Gwen ferch Elis was a witch. She was hanged later
Llangernyw - memorial window for poet Margaret Sandbach of Hafodunos Hall

 

NORTH-EAST WALES

Denbighshire
Rhyl - birthplace of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain
Rhyl - former Great Ormond Street matron Edith Vizard ran Rhyl children’s hospital for 35 years
Rhyl - writer Angharad Llwyd won eisteddfod medals for her historical essays in the 19th century
Rhyl - laundry manager fined in 1909 after a spot check found women working 15 hours in one shift
Rhyl - widow funded furnishing of children’s hospital ward in 1900 in memory of Gertrude Ffoulkes, her only child
Rhyl - women at the Thomas Cliffe postage stamp ‘factory’ had their own dormitories and a free coach to work
Rhyl - Roberta Leigh was a romantic novelist and created children’s TV puppet shows in the 1950s and 60s
Bodelwyddan - the Marble Church was built after Margaret Williams persuaded bishop to create a new parish
St Asaph - eight poor widows lived in the Barrow Almshouses, built c.1680
St Asaph - home of poet Felicia Hemans in the early 19th century
Corwen - novelist and children’s writer Elena Puw Morgan was the first female winner of National Eisteddfod prose medal
Llangollen - home of lesbian couple who had eloped from Ireland in 1780 and were visited by many celebrities

Flintshire
Holywell - St Winefride’s Well has longest unbroken pilgrimage tradition in Britain
Whitford - first Welsh woman transported to Australia was sentenced by Thomas Pennant in 1783
Flint - post box painted gold in 2012 to celebrate Jade Jones’ taekwondo Olympic gold medal
Caerwys - effigy of unknown lady in church. Reputedly depicts Elizabeth Ferrers, wife of Prince Dafydd ap Gruffydd
Hawarden - childhood home of Emma Hamilton, artist’s model and later Lord Nelson’s mistress
Hawarden - Helen Gladstone was a pioneer of education for women and girls

Wrexham
Wrexham town - suffragettes attacked by crowd for heckling Lloyd George at the National Eisteddfod

 

MID WALES

Powys
Newtown - Alix Clark ran the region’s suffragist campaign from her home, which became known as ‘The Hut’
Newtown - the Davies sisters brought wartime Belgian refugees to Wales and hoped this would stimulate artistic development
Newtown - two women who died in the First World War are buried in St David’s Churchyard
Machynlleth - first shop of self-taught textile designer Laura Ashley
Llandrindod - local rector Joanna Penberthy became Wales’ first female bishop in 2017
Talgarth - Elizabeth Griffiths had to transfer pub licence to husband as it wasn’t right for him to ‘have no control’
Brecon - birthplace in 1755 of superstar actress Sarah Siddons
Brecon - Eileen Talmage of the Women’s Land Army represented Breconshire at a London rally in 1919
Crickhowell - large medieval church founded by Lady Sybil Pauncefoot, whose effigy is inside
Crickhowell - author Harriet Traherne died before her 100th birthday, having left instructions for her dog’s poisoning
Ystradgynlais - opera star Adelina Patti gave £100 to clothe the poor one winter, and treated 2,000 kids to tea in 1892

Ceredigion
Llansantffraed - St Ffraed reputedly crossed the Irish Sea to Wales on a piece of turf in the fifth century
Llangrannog - poet and magazine founder ‘Cranogwen’ went to sea in her teens and later taught seafaring

 

SOUTH-WEST WALES

Pembrokeshire
St Dogmaels - Wales’ first rescue by an all-female lifeboat crew took place on the Teifi estuary in 2011
Fishguard - in 1797 Jemima Nicholas arrested 12 French soldiers the during last invasion of Britain
St Davids - Wales’ first female bishop and the cathedral’s first female dean took up their posts in 2017 and 2018
Pembroke - Margaret Beaufort was 13 years old when she bore the future King Henry VII at Pembroke Castle

Carmarthenshire
Kidwelly - Princess Gwenllian led her army in defence against a Norman Lord in 1136 but was killed
Hendy - toll-keeper Sarah Williams, 75, was killed by Rebecca Rioters while trying to save her possessions
Pembrey - thousands of women worked in the dynamite factory, some suffering fits in the polluted atmosphere
Pembrey - three women at the bomb-filling factory died in 1918 when a shell exploded

Swansea
Gower - women harvested large volumes of cockles along the coast in the Penclawdd area
City centre - poet and novelist Ann Hatton ran a bathing house where the Civic Centre stands
City centre - industrialist, feminist and novelist Amy Dillwyn supported the local Ragged School
City centre - Lilian Davies grew up in ‘slum’ housing, became a model and married into the Swedish royal family
City centre - women walked from north Gower to sell cockles in Swansea Market, wearing unusual ‘cockle shell’ hats

 

SOUTH-EAST WALES

Valleys
Maesteg - suffragettes Emmeline and Sylvia Pankhurst and Amy Jenkins of Nantyffyllon attended Town Hall gatherings
Pontypridd - lifeguard Jenny James was the first Welsh person to swim the English Channel
Porth - five local businesses fined at the same court session in 1899 for making young women work illegally long hours

Cardiff
Cathays - memorial to victims of Thalidomide, recommended for pregnant women in the 1950s and 1960s
City centre - Glamorganshire Canal was a magnet for suicidal young women, including one holding a baby in 1907
City centre - 1987 bust of Princess Diana is in St David’s Hall, where she took Prince William on his first public engagement

Newport
Caerleon - Maria Fernandez looked after 56 Basque refugee children during the 1930s and 1940s
City centre - suffragettes addressed crowd in 1908, five years before post-box arson by the future Viscountess Rhondda

Monmouthshire
Chepstow - effigy of Elizabeth Browne (1500-1565), lady-in-waiting for Anne Boleyn
Abergavenny - Lady Llanover sponsored eisteddfodau and effectively invented the ‘Welsh lady’ costume
Abergavenny - suffragette Catherine Gatty was jailed for a month with hard labour for smashing a Post Office window