Cornwall’s Four Best … Women for International Women’s Day

 

“We have evolved but it seems our idea of gender hasn’t.” (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

Daphne du Maurier, writer (1907 – 1989)

Strictly not Cornish born but her name and works are written into the landscape and the sea around Fowey where she lived and wrote most of her fiction. The dream of writing and living by the sea was her reality and not always a happy or successful one. From secret liaisons with pirates (Frenchman’s Creek) to repression and new-found identity (Rebecca), a disabled General’s lover and nurse in the English Civil War (The King’s General), to victims of angry birds and forbidden love (The Birds and My Cousin Rachel), du Maurier’s women are always complex, often compulsive, sometimes confused but never conventional.

Kneehigh’s excellent adaptation of Rebecca is currently touring.

Ann Glanville (1796 – 1880), gig rower

During Ann Glanville’s lifetime, gig racing was big business dominated by men. Regattas meant a lot of money for the supporters and sponsors who bet on the races, but little of this was seen by the competitors. Famous in her home town of Saltash and across the country for someone who was rarely beaten, even by male crews, Ann was considered ‘champion female rower of the world.’ And after an ostensibly (and probably exaggerated) “thoroughly sound thrashing” of the male French crews at a regatta in Havre who were, “a little indignant in their own peculiarly irritable way that women should be matched against them”, Ann’s reputation became legendary and she was even recognised for her achievements by the Queen and Prince Philip.

Read more on Ann Glanville.

Tamara

The Legend of Tamara tells the story of a beautiful sea nymph born in a cavern who loved sunlight and wanted to visit the ‘upper’ world. Her parents warned her against such temptation, but she took every opportunity to get a glimpse of the daylight. She was eventually targeted by two giants, Tavy and Tawrage, who both desired her and persuaded her to to leave the cavern. Her father eventually found her seated between her two lovers and when she refused to return, he was so angry that he turned her into a river that would forever flow into the sea. Tavy was so distraught that he requested his father to turn him into a stream so that he could follow Tamara into the sea. Tawrage too, turned into a stream but took the wrong direction, away from Tamara and so we have today the rivers Tamar, Tavy and Taw.

Rowena Cade

Visit the Minack Theatre and you might assume that a hand of antiquity had shaped the circular stone amphitheatre where the sea, the horizon and an occasional basking shark are as much a part of the scenery as the actors. But you would be wrong. Rowena Cade was born in 1893 in Derbyshire and after the First World War, she moved to Lamorna with her mother. She bought the Minack headland for £100 and built a house there where her family and friends staged their own theatrical productions and Rowena designed and made the costumes.

Planning for a production of The Tempest one year, she realised that there wasn’t enough seating in her own garden, and with the help of two Cornish craftsmen, built a simple stage with rough seating overlooking the sea. The initial prototype developed into granite seating and staging, hewn from nearby boulders and after the Second World War, she became ‘Master Builder’ of the project, adding a car park, an access road and a flight of 90 steps leading up from the beach. Rumour has it that she also dragged up twelve 15 ft wooden beams singlehandedly from a shipwreck on the beach to make the dressing rooms.

Read more about Rowena Cade.

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