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Hidden Heroines

29 May 2021 - 31 Oct 2021

Hidden Heroines

The untold stories of the women of the Dockyard

Hidden Heroines: the untold stories of the women of the Dockyard celebrates extraordinary women in Chatham Dockyard’s history who campaigned for change, fought against the odds and whose impact left a lasting legacy.

Featuring stories from the first ladies of the Spinning Rooms and Sail and Colour Loft to tales of women boarding warships masquerading as men and the invaluable female workforce that kept the home fires burning during two World Wars.

Brought to life in the No.1 Smithery gallery and through a supporting digital exhibition, Hidden Heroines brings together a fascinating collection of stories, objects and photographs for the first time.

Hidden Heroines: the untold stories of the women of the Dockyard has been created by a group of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust’s ‘Women of Today,’ Helen Brown, Lynnette Crisp, Alexandra Curson and Victoria Mulford, along with a ‘Man of Today,’ Stephen Billington.


Book tickets

Admission into Hidden Heroines: the untold stories of the women of the Dockyard is FREE as part of an entry ticket to The Historic Dockyard.

At this time we are operating additional safety measures to keep all our visitors safe. Take a few moments to read our KNOW BEFORE YOU GO page for the latest information.

There are a number of interactive panels within the exhibition. You can use your own smartphone (via QR codes) to access this additional information. We recommend that you bring your own headphones to benefit from the full experience.

Please note: face coverings are recommended within all covered spaces, this includes Hidden Heroines, to ensure your own safety and that of others.

The Exhibition

Whether they were real-life action conquerors of the high seas, in the mould of  Nelson, or fictional characters such Moonfleet’s John Trenchard, we tend to think of our naval heroes as men. Hidden Heroines: the untold stories of the women of the Dockyard challenges such preconceptions and reveals the variety of fascinating roles women played on land and at sea.

The exhibition highlights many colourful characters – including Jane Austen’s sister-in-law Fanny, and Zandra Bradley, the first female apprentice – whilst not forgetting those women who currently work at The Historic Dockyard Chatham.

“As Hidden Heroines clearly demonstrates, the Royal Navy has progressed from women having to dress as men to gain opportunity to go to sea to being named one of the UK’s top employers of women. The exhibition serves to celebrate the success of women in the workplace, which was made possible by some of the amazing women highlighted in Hidden Heroines, who bravely broke down barriers, challenged gender roles and paved the way for others,” says Alexandra Curson, Hidden Heroines Curator.

If you cannot make it to Chatham right now and experience the exhibition first hand, Hidden Heroines: the untold stories of women at the Dockyard has a supporting digital exhibition that can be enjoyed here:

With thanks

Hidden Heroines has kindly been supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation.

Without the support of these individuals and organisations this exhibition would not have been possible:
Alamy, Bodleian Library, Chatham Dockyard Historical Society, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust Researchers, Desiree Home, Fremantle Media, National Maritime Museum, Medway Archives Centre, Linda Brown, Phyllis Graham, Brian Hooper, Imperial War Museum, Mary Evans Picture Library, Pam Wood, The National Archives, Tony Peacock, Sheila Kindred, , Margaret Lincoln, John Mulford, Sandra Fraser.

And special thanks to our exhibition designer, The Circus.

What's On

What's on