A little while back, I wrote a piece for International Women’s Day, celebrating some of the most notable women in Manx history. Here’s a link to it:
It’s by no means a complaint, but there are so many of them, I ran out of space in the article . So here’s another assortment.
Sophia Morrison was born and died in Peel, but in between travelled far and wide, learned six languages, and worked her socks off promoting, supporting and contributing to Manx culture. She collected folklore, wrote books, staged plays, and edited magazines, all championing the Island as a place full of brilliant people being creative. She was an influencer without having a smug Insta account, which is the best way to influence. Her collection of Manx fairy tales, entitled erm…..Manx Fairy Tales is still in print today, over 100 years after her death. It’s perfect if you want to spook the kids silly just before bedtime.
Sophia died aged just 57 in 1917, with a gazillion Manx projects still on the go. The work completed by her is still of huge value and practical use today. Peel Girls are great and in Sophia Morrison, you have one of the greatest ever Peel Girls.
Now, why is Sage Kinvig on this list? Well, for one thing – she’s called SAGE KINVIG for goodness sake, possibly the greatest name ever! Rhythmic and melodious, herbal and Manx.
She’s also here because she was the last female speaker of Manx as a first language. (Sage died in 1962, the very last native speaker, Ned Maddrell, tottered on until 1974.) Realising that Manx Gaelic was in a bit of a pickle, Sage and her husband (sadly, not called Basil) threw themselves into reviving the language, particularly encouraging younger people to learn it. Sage didn’t live long enough to see things like schools with all classes taught in Manx, but as one of the early adopters of the revival, she’s a key part of its current success.
Charlotte Stanley, Countess of Derby is a controversial name in Manx history. She was the wife of the Earl of Derby, the English-appointed Lord of Mann. Her cheeky attempt to hand the Island over to the Roundheads in return for the release of her husband after he’d got himself captured, and her clash with the interestingly-hatted Illiam Dhone mean she’s not exactly Top Girl with Manx nationalists. A recent biography of her has the subtitle, The Great Whore of Babylon. So, maybe not a fan there.
OK, Charli S would hardly be likely to get a pint on the house at Yn Chruinnaght. In fact, you probably wouldn’t want her over your doorstep. But as a woman left, literally holding the fort, after her husband went off to fight in the English Civil War, she gave the conventions of the 17th century a right kicking. From her base in Castle Rushen, she commanded forces holding the Island as one of the last Royalist outposts. Until the news that her hubby’s head and shoulders had decided to spend more time apart, rather took the wind out of her sails. As it would, I suppose.
From somebody who’s a bit of a villain to some people, to an absolute hero – Doctor Dorothy Pantin. Born in Douglas in 1896, she laughed at the idea that women couldn’t become doctors, by doing just that. After qualifying in London, she came back to the Island and became supervisor at the Jane Crookall Maternity Home in Demesne Road. Basically, if you’ve been born in any of the various versions of The Jane, safely and hygienically, you owe it in part to Doctor Pantin.
Before this, having a baby was still pretty much an extreme sport. In Dorothy’s time running The Jane, the rate of women dying in childbirth on the Island halved. Unlike a lot of maternity homes in the UK at the time it opened, The Jane didn’t discriminate against unmarried mothers either.
In 1926 Dorothy carried out the Island’s first blood transfusion, and in 1928 performed only the third Caesarean recorded in the Isle of Man. As the Great Depression hit, she widened her role to make sure people were getting good nutrition, despite growing poverty and food shortages. Doctor Pantin may have saved the life of your grandparent or great-grandparent. You might not exist if it wasn’t for her.
And on that deep and slightly weird thought, I’ll sign off this second selection of the sisters of Ellan Vannin. I’m looking forward to seeing who’ll be joining the list in the future.