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Bodnant Garden honours 'forgotten' suffragette

Credit: National Trust

Behind the manicured lawns and flower-filled terraces of Bodnant Garden is a history of powerful, politically driven women. At the forefront was Laura McLaren, who inherited the garden and estate in 1895.

Laura was a force of nature, not just an acclaimed gardener achieving the prestigious RHS Victoria Medal of Honour, but a formidable businesswoman, political campaigner and founder of the Liberal Women's Suffrage Union.

Despite writing the seminal Women’s Charter of Rights and Liberties, the thousands of letters she wrote, speeches she gave, meetings and rallies she attended, the extent of Laura’s role in the suffrage movement has faded over time and only been recently come to light during archive work at Bodnant Garden.

An open-air exhibition starts today at the garden celebrating her life.

Exotic and native trees surround the lake at Bodnant Gardens. Credit: National Trust

Unsurprisingly, we have always focused on telling the history of our beautiful garden, but when working in the archives we uncovered boxes and boxes of pamphlets, letters and newspaper articles from Laura, and we just had to tell her story.

A lot of her work was behind the scenes or ‘spade work’ as she called it. She was forward-thinking on a number of issues that are still relevant today; equal pay, slavery and child custody rights. It’s such a privilege to have access to the extensive McLaren family archive to tell Laura’s story.

– Becky Hitchens, Visitor Experience Manager at Bodnant Garden