Caitlin Minter
19th February 2024

On March 8th, people far and wide will be celebrating the acts of courage and determination of women past and present who have played an extraordinary role in women's rights, freedom, and success. It’s time to reflect on the progress made and call to action on increasing gender equality and the empowerment of women. To celebrate and inspire, we're sharing the stories of some amazing women from Kent who have changed history, whose shoulders we stand on, and who inspire us with their strength and resilience.

POW Thanet

The month-long celebration of International Women’s Day is ready to roll out this year with the annual POW Thanet Festival. Power of Women (POW) brings together female creators, thinkers, performers, innovators, and dreamers, all joined together by the desire to share and create with freedom. The theme of this year is the Restival: A Year of Unapologetic Rest. So, come along and rejoice in the glory of resting. Turning our mindset from “do” to “be” with the help of some fantastic events throughout March, including a new exhibition at Tracey Emin’s studio, a talk from author Katherine May with the Margate Bookshop, and plenty more.

Turner Contemporary – Beyond Forms Exhibition

Collected in one place, a visit to the Turner Contemporary’s ‘Beyond Forms’ exhibition will give you a glimpse into the lives of inspiring female artists from across the globe in the post-war period. Witness how this collection of women dealt with identity, form, expression, and global change in their art, from the grids of Bridget Riley to Louise Bourgeois’ sculptures. The glorious scale of the artwork combined with that of the grand seascapes outside, you’re in for an inspiring afternoon at the Turner.  


Mainstream images of Pocahontas have been heavily influenced by Disney depictions, however she was a real-life woman, notable for her association with the colonial settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. Daughter of the chief of a tribal nations network, she faced pain and hardship throughout her life. Captured and held ransom by the English at 16, converted to Christianity and forced to change her identity, and made to marry and be presented as an example of the ‘civilised savage’. Today, she is buried in St George’s Church, Gravesend where you can see a statue of her to commemorate her life and the courage she had in being taken away from everything she knew and her identity.

Lady Baillie 

Leeds Castle is one of our county's true gems and, while it has seen many owners over its long history, the person we truly have to thank for this icon is its final owner, Lady Baillie. Lady Baillie spent decades transforming the castle to create what we know and love today, crafting lavish interiors, restoring the Banqueting Hall and turning the castle into one of England's great country houses, worthy of entertaining film stars and statesman, and throwing Gatsby-esque parties! But it wasn't all Champagne and dancing as World War Two saw those luxurious rooms utilised as a hospital under Lady Baillie's guidance, with top secret weapons research carried out in the grounds. In 1974 after decades of work breathing life back into the castle, this local icon gave one final gift and left the castle to the Leeds Castle Foundation in order to preserve it for generations to come.  

Joyce Barnes

Let's now turn our attention to a pioneer of the wine empire, inspiring others to jump on the band wagon and create the Wine Garden of England in Kent. After listening to a feature on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour, Joyce Barnes was inspired to turn her family’s 40 acre apple orchard into a vineyard. In 1969, one third of an acre of vines were planted and Biddenden Vineyards was born. Kent’s original vineyard remains family owned, with inspiration and innovation at its core. You can sample their delicious produce in a guided tour and tasting, experiencing first hand the effects of forward-thinking and determination.

Mary Bridges

Speaking of innovative women in the wine industry, let us introduce you to the new head winemaker at Gusbourne, Mary Bridges. With a degree in viticulture and oenology (that’s the study of wine, of course!), and her family’s background in farming, she has a deep-rooted understanding of the land which clearly manifests itself in the work taking place at Gusbourne. As part of the wider team, Mary has headed up the 2023 vintage, their largest to date, and continues her hard work to bring to life the flavours and excitement of Kent’s soil.

Naturally Funny at The Amelia

And if you couldn’t quite get enough of that delicious Kentish wine, how about an evening of guided tasting by expert sommelier Ellen Doggett, with performances from some of your favourite female comics? Sample the delights of natural wines and fantastic comedy, all under the roof of ‘The Amelia’, named after social reformer and campaigner for women’s suffrage, Amelia Scott. Bring your tasting cards and funny bones, we’ll see you there!

Suffragettes in Tunbridge Wells

Tunbridge Wells has been a long-standing hub for women’s equality and freedom, the burning of Nevill Ground in 1913 perhaps the most scandalous story of its ilk. As an act of protest against Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst’s recent imprisonment, the militant suffragettes set light to the Grandstand which spread further across the cricket ground, leaving behind a photo of the political activist before they left. The event sparked outrage, anger, and (most importantly) a dialogue amongst locals, making an impression in the history of the town and paving the way for future generations to have difficult and slow conversations around gender equality.

Dame Kelly Holmes DBE OLY

Our next Kentish inspiration led the way for women in sport and landed herself a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in the 800 and 1500 metres. She set British records in numerous events. We are talking about none other than Dame Kelly Holmes DBE OLY (now there's a title). Not only is she athletically gifted, but she also proves that women can go above and beyond, joining the British Army at the age of 18 as well as becoming a Judo champion. We've now got the sudden urge to put those running trainers on! 

Mary Tourtel

Canterbury’s very own Mary Tourtel changed popular British culture by creating one of the most lovable British bears in history and selling over 50 million copies of her work worldwide. Mary created Rupert the Bear in 1920 for The Daily Express, to rival the comic strips of the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror. She created a character that brings joy to millions of children past and present, with the legacy of Rupert the Bear remaining forever playful. 

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn is probably most well known for being King Henry VIII’s second wife, sentenced to execution by decapitation only three years into their marriage (now that’s one heck of a breakup)! But, she was also one of the most famous queen consorts the country has ever had, played a key part in the English Reformation and was mother to none other than Queen Elizabeth I. She spent much of her childhood at Hever Castle, where today we can still visit and see the landscape that would have inspired and motivated her in her life's journey. 

West Cliff, Whitstable

Keepers Cottages

Ready to celebrate yourself and the women around you in style? Across Kent, your next relaxing getaway is waiting (let’s embrace this year’s POW theme!), all thanks to Keepers Cottages. Whitstable’s West Cliff brings with it social spaces for those nights of chatting over a fantastic meal, overlooking stunning seascapes. While a scenic countryside escape is all ready for you in The Old Cherry Barn, where family and friends gather amidst rolling hills, with the City of Canterbury just down the road. Or, how about a charming cottage for those Insta-worthy shots at Beach Tree Cottage? ‘Tis the year to relax!

Visit the official International Women's Day website here to see how you can make a difference.