Women of Abney

Women of Abney Trailer (1min)

Women of Abney - feature (1h)

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Women of Abney' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Women of Abney' page

Voices from Hackney's history

Based on ‘Women from Hackney’s History

A Hackney Society and Tower Theatre co-production in association with Abney Park Cemetery Trust.

The women of Abney fought for the right to vote and the right to say no, they transformed the ways we heal and learn, they shattered convention and they thrilled an adoring public. These are their voices and their stories.

Some have prominent graves and grand memorials, some have no headstone or share a common grave. Many turbulent lives came to rest in Abney Park and this project lets us hear from twelve women who left their mark on Victorian England and reshaped our world.

Produced as both an hour-long film and twelve separate short audio stories, drawing from the 113 profiles in Women from Hackney’s History, now in its second printing, the project includes the first female balloonist, the nursing pioneer for whom the Welsh health service is named and a tortured poet. It tells the rags to riches stories of music hall stars – and the men who reduced them back to rags. We hear from the former prostitute who scandalised polite society, exposed its hypocrisy, changed the consent laws and was rewarded with a prison sentence.

Women of Abney gives voice to two women who are buried, overshadowed by their husbands, under Abney’s largest and best known memorials. The huge and international impact of the Booth family relies on the refusal of its women to be constrained by traditional roles. The splendour of the Bostock lion and the glamour of the circus obscures a history of abuse and its survival.

The Film

The hour-long film has played to three sold-out houses. It premiered on 17th September 2022 at the Tower Theatre and was screened again on 12th December 2022 at Newington Green Meeting House. It was also screened at the Rio Cinema, Dalston on Saturday 11th March 2023, to celebrate International Women's Day.

We will also show it in the newly restored Chapel at Abney Park later in 2023.

You can view the film online via YouTube, complete with subtitles, if required. Click here to be taken to the YouTube page.

The Audio Stories and Self-guided Walk

A self-guided walk is available in print from Abney Park (£1.50) and is available to download or view on your phone. It takes you close to the twelve final resting places depicted in the film. Bear in mind many of the graves are unmarked or are inaccessible so please stay to the paths. You can listen to the relevant stories at each location by clicking on the appropriate link below on your phone or tablet, or visiting our Soundcloud Playlist.

  1. Katty King 1851-1891 Won hearts performing burlesque, Hamlet and The Shoreditch Toff.

  2. Emily Gosse 1806-1857 Poet, religious writer, illustrator.

  3. Mary Hays 1759-1843 Early feminist writer and campaigner for women's education.
  4. Catherine Booth 1829-1890 First of a female dynasty leading the Salvation Army.
  5. Joanna Vassa 1795-1857 Abolitionist daughter of Olaudah Equiano.
  6. Susannah Bostock 1865-1929 Proprietor of a global circus empire, survivor of abuse.
  7. Harriet Delph 1862-1944Frances Garlick 1880-1947 Education pioneers who transformed schooling for the blind.
  8. Rebecca Jarret 1846-1928 Ex-prostitute jailed for exposing the child sex trade.
  9. Betsi Cadwaladr 1789-1860 Crimean nurse, Welsh hero, spinner of tales.
  10. Ethel Haslam 1881-1961 Suffragette who relished the dangers and delights of militancy.
  11. Margaret Graham 1804-1864 Aeronaut who first claimed the Victorian skies for women.
  12. Nelly Power 1854-1888 Music hall legend, principal boy, rags to riches and back again.


Catherine Booth : Tyan Jones
Susannah Bostock : Emilia Teglia
Betsy Cadwaladr : Joanna Nevin
Harriet Delph : Angelika Michitsch
Frances Garlick : Angelika Michitsch
Emily Gosse : Joanna Nevin
Margaret Graham : Selina Cadell
Ethel Haslam : Lucianne Regan
Mary Hays : Ruth Sullivan
Rebecca Jarrett : Lucianne Regan
Katty King : Ruth Sullivan
Nelly Power : Letty Thomas
Joanna Vassa : Tyan Jones

Production Team

Director : Nick Perry
Writers : Rosie Barker, Sue Doe, Wendy Forrest, Lucy Madison
Wardrobe : Kathleen Morrison
Studio Recording : Colin Guthrie
Music by : Luc Vanlaere
End Title Theme by : Amir Dotan
Location Services : Haydn for Abney Park Trust
Art Department : "Magic Garden" by Ella Doran


Women of Abney Walk (1182k)
A self-guided walk

This page was added on 12/09/2022.