Pageant of Womanhood

Pageant type

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Place: Guildhall (Southampton) (Southampton, Hampshire, England)

Year: 1951

Indoors/outdoors: Indoors

Number of performances: 3


6-8 June 1951

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Producer [Pageant Master]: Black, Arthur
  • Business and Publicity Manager: Reginald Shearing
  • Programmes Sales Organisation: Alice E. Holt, Kathleen D. Turner
  • Prologue Choreography: Ethel M. Moore
  • Ballet Costumes Designer: Margaret Goolden
  • Pianists: Doris Pearce and Gwladys Doswell
  • Stage Manager: A.W. Nobbs
  • Assistant State Manager: Roy Pickering
  • Electrician: Gordon Mitchell
  • Wardrobe: Marie Harris, Mrs Vincent and Daisy Tomalin
  • Décor: Southern College of Art
  • Scenic Artist: G.L. Bulford
  • Properties: Vivian Ellis
  • Music and Effects: Ewart Grist
  • Make-up: Henry Vincent, Helen Goodson, Jimmy Reader, Mrs. F.T. West
  • Dressing Room Supervision: Babs Musselwhite
  • Prompter: Elizabeth Lilley, Lena Cook
  • Call Boy: Daphne Hurley
  • Production Secretary: Freda King 

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Southampton Festival of Britain 1951 Committee

  • President: The Worshipful the Mayor of Southampton

 Southampton Festival of Britain 1951 Committee (Women’s Section)

  • Chairman: Councillor Mrs. M.E. Tidbold
  • Secretary: Councillor Mrs. M.R. Stonehouse

Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

Sandel, Elsie M.


Sandel had previously written the Southampton Quincentenary Pageant (1947)

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information


Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

Part of the 1951 Festival of Britain Celebrations

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events


Pageant outline

Prologue: Ballet of Womanhood

(Arr. Ethel M. Moore) symbolising youth, marriage, motherhood and sacrifice. 

Episode 1. The Founding of the Church of St. Mary, 1110

Queen Matilda visits Hampton to find the old Saxon church is ruined. She visualises the new Church of St Mary, which—so it is presented here—will reconcile Saxon and Norman races.

Episode 2. Margaret of Anjou, 1445.

A French Princess arrives at Hampton as the fifteen year-old bride of Henry VI, where she stands uncertain in the quadrangle of God’s House about to meet her husband at the castle.

Episode 3. A New Husband for Widow Coward, 1517.

A gathering of Matilda Cowart and her friends is interrupted by noise of the Sisterhood of Woolworkers baling wool for the merchants. The noisy workers are reproofed and we discover that the Widow has an admirer. A letter arrives from Henry VIII with an intriguing proposition.

Episode 4. September 7th, 1591.

Queen Elizabeth, on her departure after visiting the town, displays her temper against the townspeople for persecuting a witch. Later, the French Protestant refugees see a kinder aspect of the queen.

Episode 5. The Sailing of the Mayflower, 1620.

This shows women waiting on the West Quay to depart, and talking amongst themselves.

Interval 10 minutes.

Dance Interlude—Pavane

Episode 6. The Katherine Wulfris Gift, 1665 [year of the great plague]

This episode deals with the gift of Katherine Wulfris in 1665. The gift in question was an orchard’s rent of 40s a year, which built into a sizeable charity over the years.

Episode 7. The Spa Period in Southampton, 23 September 1773.

Southampton as a fashionable watering-place. The scene is set in the drawing room of the Duchess of Gloucester’s house.

Episode 8. Jane Austen, Autumn 1808.

Jane Austen, a resident of the town, in conversation with friends and family.

Episod 9. The Princess Victoria, 27 October 1831.

Victoria visits the town, age 12. The young princess is shown preparing to meet the Mayor and Corporation; she is presented as not having learnt to take her duties seriously yet.

Epilogue. 1939-1945

The Spirit of Womanhood is beset by the horrors of war, experiencing the bombing of Southampton. Various women, some in the Nurses, Red Cross, WRNS, WRAC, St John’s Ambulance, are shown assisting in the aftermath of a raid.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Matilda [Matilda of England] (1102–1167) empress, consort of Heinrich V
  • Margaret [Margaret of Anjou] (1430–1482) queen of England, consort of Henry VI
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • Austen, Jane (1775–1817) novelist
  • Victoria (1819–1901) queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and empress of India

Musical production


Newspaper coverage of pageant


Book of words

None known

Other primary published materials

  • Pageant of Womanhood [Programme]. Southampton, 1951.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Copy of Programme in Hull History Centre, Reference U DCW/8/4/f

Sources used in preparation of pageant



A great many pageants were held across Britain in connection with the 1951 Festival of Britain (see entries on Boston, Dudley, and Rushden). The Southampton Pageant of Womanhood was part of that city’s Festival celebrations, which included a visit by the travelling exhibition ship HMS Campania. In a letter, published in the programme, the Mayor declared that ‘I am sure everyone will agree it is one of the highlights of a very fine town programme.’1 The foreword to the programme described the event in the following terms:

From the vast panorama of the history of our town, scenes are portrayed, both grave and gay, in which women played the major roles. We conjure back from the past a few of the multitude of women who have lived within our stout grey battlemented walls, who loved, laughed and feared as they trod our streets, who knelt in our churches and knew both weal and woe, the workers, the housewives and mothers, the wives of our rich merchants, the lay sisters of God’s House, the Puritan women no less than the queens and princesses, all help to weave the pattern of our Pageant.  And through it all runs a thread of traditional and historic dances which women have enjoyed, led by a single figure symbolising the Spirit of Womanhood.2


1. ^ Pageant of Womanhood [Programme], (Southampton, 1951), unpaginated
2. ^ Ibid.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Pageant of Womanhood’, The Redress of the Past,