“Moved and inspired”: Cambridge teenagers create prize-winning responses to suffragist workshop

A feminist podcast set up by four Year 12 girls, a #MeToo suffragist banner, and poems exploring women’s role in society: just some of the prize-winning projects created by local teenagers after attending Newnham’s workshops on the suffragist movement.

Last week, the prize-winners came to Newnham, not only for the awards ceremony, but for masterclasses in their subjects with Fellows of the College. This was the students’ opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a Cambridge undergraduate, exploring ideas in small groups with a leading researcher.

The original Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences workshop was part of Newnham’s celebrations of Vote100, the centenary of the first British women receiving the vote. Newnham was co-founded by Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, leader of the suffragist movement, and Newnham alumnae campaigned alongside her over many years.

Alice Reynolds, of Comberton Sixth Form, created a banner, inspired by those carried by the suffragists, and quoting Fawcett’s famous words “Courage calls to courage everywhere”. She explained “The banner is meant to represent that courage can call not only people around the world but through time from protests and movements from the pasts – such as the suffragists – to the protests and movements today – such as the #MeToo movement.”

Kathryn Farrell, Sophie Perumalla, Amy Warburton and Rebekah Timms, all of Comberton Sixth Form, set up a feminist podcast. Kathryn says, “Myself and three other girls from my school were so moved and inspired from learning about the work that the Suffragettes did that we decided to take action towards change ourselves. We decided to create our own podcast for this project, calling it ‘Girls Don’t Cry’ and using it to discuss societal issues that affect our generation massively.” The podcast can be found on Stitcher and is now in its seventh episode.

Katherine Kirkpatrick, of Hills Road Sixth Form College, explored conventional notions of the feminine in a striking poem, inspired by reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles alongside testimony of the #MeToo movement.

Mathematician Philippa Fawcett, who famously came top of the Cambridge Mathematics Tripos and yet couldn’t receive a degree, provided inspiration for Rebekah Timms of Comberton Sixth Form. A talented mathematician herself, Rebekah created a podcast exploring the heavily male-dominated field of STEM subjects. How much have things really changed since Rebekah’s own grandmother was told that girls couldn’t be mathematicians?

Lydia Balon, of Hills Road, said “I found the ‘Deeds, not Words” workshop to be a day of endless inspiration.” That inspiration turned into a poem in a Victorian verse form, deftly commenting on the power of language to achieve change: “Is not a word a deed?”

Annabel Trevillion of Hills Road used poetry to voice her opinions on how young people, and especially young women, are treated today with regards to politics. “The spirit of the women a century ago / Will rise in the women of today,” she concluded.

Newnham was delighted to welcome these talented young women to the College – congratulations to them, and thank you to all those who put so much time, energy and thought into making this a truly inspirational project.

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