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Women and innovation in Cornwall – Kresen Kernow exhibitions

This year at Kresen Kernow, there has been a series of exhibitions about Women and Innovation in Cornwall. The current exhibition is ‘She Cares: Women and Health in Cornwall’. 08 Jul 2023 – 04 Nov 2023.

This current exhibition is inspired by 75 years of the NHS, and features a wide range of themes exploring health in Cornwall with a focus on women’s wellbeing, and the roles women played in healthcare.

From witches, healers and midwives to nurses during war, district nurses, mental health and workhouses – discover more about how people accessed healthcare before the creation of the NHS, as well as some inspiring women from the field of health and medicine.

This free exhibition is part of the series celebrating women’s history, that features original documents from the collections at Kresen Kernow, as well as items kindly on loan or used with permission from the following: the Museum of Cornish Life in Helston, Cassandra and Laetitia Latham-Jones, the Royal Institution of Cornwall and Dr Jean Golding.

Earlier in the year, we went to see Alice and Amanda from the Kresen Kernow Archive centre and see their new Women of Cornwall Exhibition. We chatted to Alice & Amanda about their favourite Cornish women from the exhibition, here’s what they had to say…

Amanda tells us about Mary Kelynack: “Mary was an interesting character, quite a strong character, I think quite a lot of women in Cornwall are strong characters. Mary was born in Newlyn in the late 1700’s and lived her life in Newlyn; she was part of a fishing family and married a Naval man. Towards the end of her life, in the 1850’s, after her husband had passed away she decided she wanted to walk all the way up to London to visit the Great Exhibition and as an aside, to get her late husband’s pension. She rounded up assistance and a lot of people gave her money to travel up, we don’t know exactly the route she took but it did take her 5 weeks. She was quite good at self-promotion and a lot of people helped her along the way and the press picked up her story, she got to the Great Exhibition and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert gave her the sum of £7.00, she met the Mayor of London and had tea with his wife. In the collection, we have a postcard, she became so famous gift items were made of her, we have a miniature doll of her with a fishing basket, she was featured in newspapers and even Tatler magazine! Four years later and her death was reported in newspapers all across the country, she really was quite famous.”

Alice wanted to tell us about Barbara Hosking:

“Barbara grew up in Penzance in 1926, she died only a few years ago. She left school at 16 to work in typing pools and support her family, at 21 with no contacts in London she moved there and had an amazing career. In her memoir, she described it as snakes and ladders because she started again at the bottom. She worked in the civil service and as a press officer to Harold Wilson and Ted Heath, her memoir is amazing as it gives a glimpse into what it was like to be a woman in politics at that time, in such a male dominated world. There’s a photo of her in the book that shows her in Tanzania when she was roughly about 30; one of her school friends invited her to work on a mine in Tanzania, she went out there and worked there for 2 years and said that was the point that she grew up and it wasn’t until she moved back to London that her career really started to take off. It wasn’t until she was almost 40 that she really started to forge her way, which I think is really inspiring that you can always start again and it’s never too late. It shows that you never know what’s going to happen if you say yes to an opportunity. In her memoir, she came out as gay which is really interesting that she worked in such a male dominated world and at a time when homosexuality was illegal. She says she was really blessed in her life to have so many amazing friends and support around her.”

Kresen Kernow is located next to Tesco, Redruth on Little Vauxhall Road, it is open on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9.30am – 4pm. The site is home to the worlds largest collection of Cornish history, find out more at:


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