The unknown women who shaped Jersey's history

  • Part One of ITV Channel's Alex Spiceley's series for Women's History Month

Jersey Archive is the home to the island's history, holding thousands accounts of remarkable islanders - many of those who are women.

However, many of the names and faces of these historic figures haven't been seen or celebrated.

As part of Women's History Month, Jersey Heritage are teaching islander's about the important women who were responsible for creating Jersey's history.

From politics, to women's aid, Jersey residents paved the way for future generations.

Marie Gruchy was the honorary treasurer of the island's first women's refuge in the 1890's.

Lucy Layton, Outreach Curator at Jersey Heritage said: "There were a lot of vulnerable women who had perhaps had a difficult start in life.

Lucy Layton, Outreach Curator at Jersey Heritage Credit: ITV Channel

"Perhaps they had a child out of wedlock or come from broken homes and so they wanted to be there to support these women when there was no other welfare support. So a lot of them gave up time sitting on committees or perhaps even going to the magistrate's court and pleading the case of these women and offering to take them into the refuge and care for them rather than being sent to prison."

Marie Gruchy was seen as a key figure for women's rights in the late 1800's. Credit: ITV Channel

As well as being the face fronting women's rights in the island, Marie Gruchy also advocated for women in politics.

"So it's interesting a lot of these women who had these wide ranging philanthropic concerns were also involved in the campaign for female suffrage.

"So both Marie Gruchy and her daughter signed a petition in 1924 asking for equal rights for women, by then they had the vote but they also wanted the right for women to stand for elections and influence the island."

Charlotte Wilson also signed the petition alongside Marie Gruchy, but she also campaigned for the rights of our smaller islanders too.

Charlotte Wilson advocated for both women's and animal rights in Jersey. Credit: ITV Channel

"Charlotte Wilson, along with her sister, was one of the founders of the Animal Shelter and they were really concerned with how animals were treated at the time.

"There was no shelter for animals, sometimes people took their animals and very sadly drowned them in the sea if they couldn't care for them any longer.

"They were just horrified by this - so wanted to provide a shelter so animals could be brought to be cared for."

Constance Brown is one islander who risked her life running from her café at St Brelade, into the sea to save lives.

"Over the course of 30 of 40 years of voluntary lifesaving she actually rescued about 22 people from the sea.

"But not only that, she also was a campaigner for beach safety."

Constance Brown is responsible for saving many islanders' lives when getting into difficulty in the water. Credit: ITV Channel

Constance organised regular beach patrols and access to life saving equipment at beaches around the island.

She was also one of the founding members of the Jersey Lifeguard Association.

But one issue with Jersey's history is that the stories of these inspirational women are often hidden, leaving islander's unaware of the trailblazers who lived before them.

"I mean someone like Constance Brown, her brave acts of rescuing people are recognised by a plaque in St Brelade's Bay, but the other women were really only through research at the archive uncovering their stories and I'm sure there are many more stories of women to be uncovered."