Tour guides share the story of Lambeth’s inspirational women

11 December 2023

Written by: Lambeth Council

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Four writers chose to tell one tale each of an inspirational Lambeth woman from over 130 in a new book launched at Lambeth Town Hall and created by Lambeth Tour Guides.

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Tour guides share the story of Lambeth’s inspirational women

When Lambeth’s Tour Guides Association started researching the borough’s past for stories to tell visitors – or locals looking to know their neighbourhoods more deeply – they found twisted history, featuring almost exclusively white Victorian men. They went in search of untold stories. The result is a new book titled, and introducing more than 130, “Inspirational Women of Lambeth”.

The book was launched (with signed copies available) in Lambeth Town Hall’s Council Chamber on the last evening of November 2023.

Word from the Mayor

Mayor of Lambeth, Cllr Sarbaz Barznji said: “I welcome this book featuring a most important section of a community – women. All these stories are chapters in a story of strength and success that continues in Lambeth today”.

Stories of Lambeth’s women

Four writers – Jenni Bowley, Chris Everett, Jenny Rossiter and Elaine Wein – chose one tale each of women who helped shape Lambeth and helps to bring places in the borough alive:

  • Elaine W chose from entertainers. Theatre pioneers Lilian Baylis and Joan Littlewood, screen stars Ida Lupino and June
    inspirational women of Lambeth book cover

    Inspirational Women of Lambeth book cover

    Whitfield and singer/songwriter Adele are all in the book, but: “One story that fascinates me is music hall artist Vesta Victoria. She first went on stage aged 4 – as Baby Victoria – and by 20 was touring internationally, with ‘Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me a Bow Wow’ and ‘Waiting at the Church’ written for her.”

  • Jenny R highlighted women in science, with a reminder that both Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole were Lambeth women, choosing Wendy Atkin, inventor of the bowel cancer test that saves more than 3,000 lives a year in the UK alone, “Proving quiet persistence in an unglamorous branch of science can have huge impact.”
  • Jenni B mentioned the Barlow sisters, leading artists from Lambeth’s Doulton Pottery, before sharing the story of two different sisters, mountaineers Anna and Ella Pigeon. “Male mountaineers refused to believe they had climbed high passes in the Alps until a man confirmed it, and it’s still hard to imagine how they climbed higher than 9,000 feet in long Victorian dresses and hats.”
  • Chris E summed up the aims for the book – “We hope it becomes a schoolbook, inspires people to research projects about inspirational women, and we hope people nominate their own inspirational women. We should have called it Volume One.”

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