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International Women’s Day 2019

International Women’s Day 2019
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To coincide with International Women’s Day 2019 we asked four women who work at the Cathedral to identify a woman from its history who inspires them within their role.

Jo Kelly-Moore is the Archdeacon of Canterbury Cathedral. She is one of the Cathedral clergy and is actively involved in its daily life. She lives in the Precincts.

Who is your inspirational woman from the Collections and Heritage of Canterbury Cathedral?
Queen Bertha was an international woman, a political leader. She was the daughter of a king in a region of what is now France. She married Ethelbert, son of the King of Kent.

How does she, or her work, inspire you?
Bertha inspires me as she was a woman of good influence. Bertha’s Christian witness led to her husband becoming a Christian. Together they supported Augustine on his mission from Rome. Bertha, personally encouraged by Pope Gregory, was central to the reestablishment of Christianity in England in 597. The fact that recorded history remembers her demonstrates the significance of her leadership.

Where can visitors see them in the Cathedral?
On International Women’s Day 2019, Bertha reminds us to celebrate the women that history remembers. But we should also take a moment to contemplate that Bertha would have been surrounded by a community of other women – other women that the history books have overlooked.

 

Alison Ray has worked as the Assistant Archivist of Canterbury Cathedral’s Archives & Library since joining the team in October 2018. As part of her role, she helps look after original manuscripts and documents relating to the Cathedral and city of Canterbury, dating from the Anglo-Saxon period up to the present day.

Who is your inspirational woman from the Collections and Heritage of Canterbury Cathedral?

I’m very inspired by Susanna de Planaz, a medieval woman who lived in Canterbury in the 13th century. She was a widow who independently owned at least nine shops that she rented out to crafts and tradespeople. An area of the city was known in the Middle Ages as ‘the Planas’ after her.

How does she, or her work, inspire you?
Susanna’s remarkable life as a successful businesswoman resonates with me as she forged her own path at a time it was uncommon for women to be in positions of authority. She is an inspirational role model today when more women than ever before are leaders in their communities and the workplace.

Where can visitors see them in the Cathedral?
Susanna also gave back to the Canterbury community, and a surviving charter in the Cathedral archives (CCA/DCc/ChAnt/C/764) shows that Susanna conveyed land she owned to the Christ Church Priory. Her personal seal is attached, displaying her name ‘S. Sushene Planas’.

 

Jackie Deal started working in Canterbury Cathedral almost 44 years ago and currently work in the Visits department.

Who is your inspirational woman from the Collections and Heritage of Canterbury Cathedral?
One woman who inspires me is Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 – 1717). She wrote and illustrated two marvellous volumes published between 1679-1683 called Der Raupen wunderbare Verwandelung, und Sonderbare Blumen-nahrung (The Wondrous Transformation of Caterpillars and their Strange Diet of Flowers).

How does she, or her work, inspire you?
Her books illustrate in detail the metamorphosis of the caterpillar and she was the first scientist to document the evidence for this.

Her beautiful illustrations reminded me of my childhood in Mauritius when my grandmother helped me identify a chrysalis. I put it in a matchbox and eventually, to my utter joy, I actually watched a butterfly emerge into the world.

Where can visitors see them in the Cathedral?
A copy of Der Raupen wunderbare Verwandlung is held in the Canterbury Cathedral Library (reference: W/S-10-5/6).

 

Heather Newton has worked at Canterbury Cathedral for over 30 years, initially as a stone mason and conservator. She is now the Head of Conservation, a newly-established senior staff post.

Who is your inspirational woman from the Collections and Heritage of Canterbury Cathedral?
For International Women’s Day 2019, I’ve chosen someone who has been closely associated with Canterbury Cathedral for a very long time. As Cathedral Historian, Mrs Margaret Sparks became a respected authority and her books are key resources.

How does she, or her work, inspire you?
A 30-year perspective allows me to compare how the role of women working in the cathedral has changed. In 1988 the thought of a group of women, including an architect, engineer and skilled craftsperson, making major decisions on the repair and conservation of cathedral fabric would have seemed highly unlikely. This does not undermine or diminish the contribution made by male colleagues, but underlines the fact that during this this time the Cathedral has changed its outlook, moved with the times and is benefitting from the skill, knowledge and determination of all, regardless of gender.

On a personal level, I am particularly grateful to Margaret for the time she spent with me, walking around the building and telling me of its history. This generous sharing of her knowledge was later extended to members of the masonry team, who would gather to hear Margaret bring to life the story of the area they were working on.

Where can visitors see them in the Cathedral?
Margaret’s books are available to buy and I would highly recommend them if you are interested in the complex and exciting history of the Cathedral and Precincts.

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