In November 2017, Milton Keynes celebrated 50 years since its founding, and MK Fawcett contributed to the anniversary through a touring exhibition entitled ‘Women Who Made Milton Keynes’. It featured the lives of 10 women who had had a huge impact on the identity of the new city but whose roles remained uncelebrated, often because they had chosen to work as groups rather than as individuals. Our research for the exhibition sparked an interest in documenting the lives and experiences of local women, which continues in various aspects of our current work.

The 10 women, included in the collage above (left to right in each row), were: Deirdre Battista, community activist and a leading figure in the creation of local community art projects; Margaret Durbridge, JP, influential in the early planning of the city; Matilda Kessler, JP, active in the support of young offenders, who also founded the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau; educationist Jane Henshaw, whose achievements included facilitating the accreditation of Computer Studies in Milton Keynes schools; Liz Leyh, the city’s first artist-in-residence, most famous for Milton Keynes’ iconic Concrete Cows; Teresa Collard, former Arts and Entertainment officer, who campaigned for the Milton Keynes theatre and art gallery complex; Margaret Powell, sheep farmer, who bequeathed a legacy to improve the quality of life for people in Milton Keynes; Margaret Sale, leading contributor to the saving of Bletchley Park for future generations, and who played a pivotal role in founding The National Museum of Computing; Avril Dankworth, musician and founder of the annual National Youth Music camps at The Stables, Wavendon; Dr Marjorie Reid, local pioneer in palliative care and co-founder of Willen Hospice.

The launch of the exhibition was attended by the then CEO of Fawcett, Sam Smethers, by politicians and by many local activists, along with the five surviving featured women and members of their families.

Below Jane Henshwaw, Liz Leyh and Deirdre Battista cut the celebratory cake.

You can view the posters at Discover Milton Keynes. More detailed biographies are archived at the Milton Keynes City Discovery Centre.

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