Women of Bedford

Hidden Herstories

2018 marks 100 years since women won the right to vote. Now is the time to celebrate Bedford's amazing women.

Local voluntary group, Women of Bedford, are fundraising to erect the first statue of a woman in Bedford as part of the national 'Vote 100' celebrations.

The statue will address the huge gap in the town’s existing 11 works of public art. Despite a wealth of strong, high achieving women of historical significance, there is no recognition of their continued contribution to the borough.

The sculpture will celebrate one of the town's most passionate advocates of women's equality - a strong and enigmatic woman who was head of the local school, a business leader, educationalist, suffragette and politician.

Amy Walmsley

First maquette of Amy Walmsley

Amy Walmsley deserves her place amongst the celebrated leaders in the town's history.

Amy moved to Bedford in 1896 to become the Principal of Bedford Kindergarten School and Teacher Training College, expanding the School and teacher training facilities to make it a success. The school had been in decline when Amy took it on, but she was determined to turn things around.

She set up a second Kindergarten school, called “Froebel House”, which opened on Goldington Avenue in 1896. Then, in 1899 she opened a hall of residence for pupils that meant the school could now compliment the Harpur Trust Schools in the town for elementary education.

The Froebel Gazette in 1900 comments: “She has made the Bedford Kindergaten College analogous, on a small scale to the women’s colleges at Oxford and Cambridge...Why should not Bedford become as conspicuous a centre of Kindergarten study as it has become as a centre of secondary education generally.”

Amy had also always had an interest in women’s rights and in 1908 she was instrumental in re-founding the Bedford Women’s Suffrage Society. Amy was appointed honorary secretary to this group in 1909 and became its Chair in 1913. In June of 1913, 56 members from Bedford joined other Suffrage Societies at Sandy in a national march, known as the Women’s Pilgrimage, which culminated in an enormous rally at Trafalgar Square. In 1928, after the vote had been achieved for all women over 21, Amy went on to found the National Council of Women Workers. In 1918 she stood as a Parliamentary Candidate, but was unfortunately unsuccessful. By 1922 she decided to run in the local elections and became Bedfordshire’s first female County Councillor.

Sadly, Amy Walmsley suffered ill health and was forced to retire in 1927. After Amy’s death in 1928, Froebel House school changed its name to Walmsley House in 1954 and moved premises in 1956 to Kimbolton Road where the building is now part of St. Andrew’s school.

Making History

This campaign is part of vital work being done to elevate the visibility of women in our heritage. A mere 2.7% of the UK’s statues are of historical, non-royal women - much greater recognition is needed for the astonishing contribution made by woman to the story of our borough, our country and the world.

What Will It Mean for Bedford?

The impact for Bedford will be significant. Far more than an additional piece of public art for the community to enjoy - the sculpture makes a strong statement about our town's role in reversing the historical trend of making women invisible. In recognising the significance of the suffragette movement, alongside the national celebration of Vote 100, it celebrates Bedford’s central role in the campaign to create equality for all.

Owned By the People of Bedford

At the start of the project it was estimated that, if every woman in the Borough made a contribution, the target funds needed to commission the sculpture would easily be reached. Our next campaign is focused on 14th December 2018, which will mark 100 years since women first took to the polling booths to vote. We will be spreading the word, encouraging everyone in the town to donate £1 via our new online donation page on the website.


The statue will be in a prime positioned along The Embankment. Situated between the road and the Butterfly Bridge, opposite Russell Park, it is in the centre of one of the busiest routes through the town. Located at ground level it invites interaction from all visitors and passers-by.

The Team

Diane Gorvin is the artist responsible for bringing Amy to life. She makes sculpture for the public realm, collaborating on a wide range of public art projects, throughout the UK and internationally.

Experienced in liaising with architects, structural engineers, fabricators and landscape architects, she designs, makes and installs hundreds of sculptural works in a wide variety of environments in both urban and rural contexts.

Who are 'Women of Bedford'?

A volunteer-led community group working with schools, community groups and public bodies to identify and celebrate the impact women have had on the heritage of our borough, informing and inspiring current and future generations.

The team work across communities in Bedford to ensure representation from the diverse population of the town. Through education, art and engagement, they bring groups together and encourage integration.

How can the town get involved?

The statue has been created by the town for the people of the town. Individuals have already donated generously - anyone wishing to support the statue can do so via our website www.womenofbedford.org.uk - the online donation tool will be live from next month.

There are some exciting, fascinating, powerful stories in our town's history. Uncovering these, sharing them in a substantial way, has the potential to change the way we see ourselves - to recognise the important, hidden people who have created the place we love.

For up to date news on the project, follow our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BedfordWomen

We are also on Twitter (@WomenOfBedford) , and Instagram (womenofbedford)

If you have any questions, suggestions, ideas or just want to chat, we'd love to hear from you! Email us at womenofbedford@gmail.com


Diane Gorvin Tracey Cartledge David Litchfield The Higgins, Bedford

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