Women’s History Month 2024

Women’s History Month is a way to reflect on how the past has been presented by encouraging the stories of women throughout History. Historically, women have often been marginalised and overlooked both in their daily lives, in the historical record and for their contributions across society. Therefore, during March, the boys learnt about how women have changed the societies around them to shape the lives of everyone.

As “roughly 50% of the population at any given time”, the Historical Association recognises women played significant roles in how our communities and societies have been structured and developed. Ensuring that women get 50% of the historical storytelling is at the core of Women’s History Month, with the aim to increase representation throughout the rest of the year. When women campaign and succeed, history tells us that they raise the level of inclusion and equality for everyone.


Within Years 7 and 8, the boys consolidated learning on one of England’s most famous kings, Henry VIII, by comparing him to Empress Wu of the Tang Dynasty in China. Empress Wu is the most famous women in Chinese history. Wu was the only women to ever rule in her own right as empress and thus heavily shaped the lives of people at the time. Wu is a figure around whom various myths and, perhaps, misconceptions have built up – and in the lesson students examined the extent to which evidence supports some of these myths in order to conduct a comparative analysis of the two leaders.

During their ACE Day trip, Year 7 also learnt about the activist Suffragette Leonora CohenDuring the 20th Century, the violent division of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), known as the Suffragettes, campaigned for

women’s right to vote. In 1913, Leonora Cohen arrived at the Jewel House in the Tower of London with an iron bar in her handbag to make a demonstration. She caused £7 worth of damage to the casing surrounding the crown jewels. This militant suffragette later got off on a technicality and went on to make a huge difference.  This also follows on from previous trips to York, where the boys learnt about the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) during the War and the difference they made.

Linked to their current topic of the Norman Conquest, Year 6 looked at how significant Gytha Thorkelsdottir was. In order to do this, the boys made inferences about her from the stained glass window of Gytha’s image; which can be found in the Church of St Nectan in Devon. The site of the current church was once home to an older church – which was built by Gytha and her husband Godwin. As the wife of the Anglo-Saxon Earl Godwin, Gytha was one of the most influential and wealthy women in England during this period. This is further reinforced by the fact ordinary women from the 11th century are not usually depicted in stained-glass windows! Gytha and Godwin’s sons had a big influence on the English throne. Harold was king of England in 1066, whilst their other three sons all fought in key battles in 1066. When Harold was preparing to fight William at the Battle of Hastings, she tried to persuade him to wait before heading into battle. If Harold had listened, the course of history might have been very different.

Having studied The British Empire, Year 5 researched information about Queen Victoria and presented a fact file of key events in her life and their thoughts about why she is such a significant figure of History.

As Year 4 have started learning about WWII, the boys explored the changing role of women before, during and after WWII. Using photographic evidence the boys described what they could see, thought about what they could infer and then reflected on further questions they could ask. They had great discussions about sexism and equality.

Year 3 looked at Elizabeth Fry for Women’s History Month, as a social reformer in Britain, and the impact that she had to raise further awareness of the contributions women have made to events through history and society. For example, Elizabeth Fry visited prisons that were dark, dirty and dangerous. She believed that prisoners should be treated with kindness so helped to teach them skills as part of rehabilitation. Chronologically, this fits with the work Year 5 also did as Queen Victoria liked Elizabeth Fry and met her a few times. She gave Elizabeth money to help with her work.

Women’s History Month provided additional awareness of the key impacts that women have had in society and how this should not just be restricted to one month. By being able to link topics to current schemes of work, the boys were able to consolidate key skills that are so vital to the subject to assess the importance of women throughout history.  Such months provide wonderful opportunities to keep history relevant and celebrate equality.

Mr Fryer, Head of History


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