Dorchester Sheroes final six

After 48 submissions from across the county, the Dorchester Sheroes Committee had the difficult task of whittling it down to six.

Because of the amazing women who were nominated, they intend to publish a book celebrating them all.


The Dorset Button Makers (1622 to 1850)
The Dorset Button Makers played a crucial role in the lives of women throughout Dorset for over two centuries, from 1622 to 1850. This cottage industry had a significant impact on various communities, including Bere Regis, Milborne St Andrew, Wool, and Piddletrenthide, amongst others.

The industry provided a means of economic empowerment for countless women, allowing them to attain financial independence and provide for their families. The art of button-making offered women a valuable skillset that they could utilise within their own homes, enabling them to generate income while attending to household responsibilities.

The Dorset Button industry not only provided economic freedom but also fostered a sense of community amongst the women involved. Their dedication and craftsmanship in creating these intricate buttons became a source of pride and a testament to their resourcefulness and resilience.

The enduring legacy of the Dorset Button Makers stands as a testament to the determination and ingenuity of women in Dorset who, for over two centuries, were able to thrive and support their families through this vital industry.

Aileen Chevallier Preston (1889- 1974)
Aileen was an extraordinary individual, leaving an indelible mark on various domains throughout her life. Notably, she achieved the distinction of being the first woman to acquire a Royal Automobile Certificate and became Mrs Pankhurst’s first “lady chauffeuse,” signifying her significant role in the suffragette movement.

During World War I, she displayed courage and compassion by organising and leading the first women’s ambulance service in northern France, earning a commendation and being mentioned in dispatches for her service. Her dedication to public safety continued during World War II when she joined the Air Raid Precautions (ARP).

Aileen was also known for her pioneering work as a motoring journalist. Writing for various publications and becoming a respected voice in the automotive industry, breaking barriers as a woman in a predominantly male- dominated field. Her multifaceted accomplishments as a trailblazer in driving, women’s rights, wartime service, and journalism make Aileen Chevallier Preston an exceptional and inspiring figure in history.

Aileen lived and worked for over 35 years in the village of Higher Bockhampton.

Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893- 1978)
Sylvia was a truly remarkable figure in the literary world. Known for her distinctive and innovative writing style, she produced a remarkable body of work that left an indelible mark on literature. Some of her greatest works include “Lolly Willowes,” a feminist novel that challenged societal norms, and “The Corner That Held Them,” a historical fiction masterpiece.

Beyond her literary accomplishments, Townsend Warner was a trailblazer in LGBTQ+ representation and visibility, as she embraced her own identity as a lesbian and had a profound and enduring love for writer Valentine Ackland. Her personal life and relationships defied the societal expectations of her time, and her openness and authenticity paved the way for greater acceptance and understanding. Sylvia Townsend Warner’s literary genius, LGBTQ+ significance, and unconventional love story make her a truly extraordinary and influential figure in the realm of literature and human experience.

Sylvia Townsend Warner and her partner Valentine Ackland lived in Frome Vauchurch and Chaldon Herring for 39 years, leaving a lasting impact on Dorset’s literary history.

Ann Keates/ Winzer (1791 -1873)
Ann was from a humble working – class background and lived in Fordington in Dorset. She was an unsung hero whose nursing contributions during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 were remarkable.
In the chaos of the battle, Ann fearlessly tended to the wounded, providing essential medical care and comfort to the soldiers in their time of need. Her actions displayed not only bravery but also a deep sense of empathy and compassion. Ann endured many hardships, following the British army from Brussels to Paris. From Paris to Dunney, she returned to England and then to the rock of Gibraltar, where she remained for four years.

It is worth noting that Ann’s outstanding nursing efforts occurred four decades before Florence Nightingale gained recognition for her work during the Crimean War.

Despite the significance of Ann’s role as a nursing Shero, her story and contributions have been overlooked in historical narratives. Ann’s selflessness and dedication to alleviating suffering during a time of war exemplify the countless individuals who have made invaluable contributions to healthcare and the well-being of others, often without receiving the recognition they deserve.

Ann’s grave and memorial can be visited today in the church yard of St Mary ‘ s Church, Piddlehinton.

Mary Mullet Moule (1801-1877)
Mary was a radical reformer and fearless advocate for the poor. Her unwavering dedication and early environmentalist beliefs made her a local hero. Mary, alongside her husband Henry Moule, played a pivotal role in improving the lives of the community they lived in.

They opened schoolhouses in Dorchester and personally financed various projects. During the cholera outbreaks in 1849 and 1854, Mary fearlessly visited affected households in Fordington, organising initiatives such as burning infected clothing and utilizing sluices to flush out the disease from impoverished housing.

The Moules’ commitment to green practices extended to their vicarage, where they ran a self- supporting commune, cultivating vegetables, maintaining a hothouse, and raising cows.
Mary’s remarkable contributions, often overlooked in historical accounts, shine a light on her significant impact and inspiring legacy.

Truly a Dorchester Shero and worthy of the spotlight and addition to the shortlist.

Sarah Eldridge (1791 -1873)
Sarah, one of the founders of Eldridge Pope & Co. brewery in Dorchester, holds immense significance as a trailblazing woman in a male-dominated business world.

In 1837, alongside her husband Charles, Sarah established a prosperous brewery that thrived under their joint leadership. However, when Charles passed away in 1846, Sarah defied societal expectations by assuming full control of the business independently—a truly remarkable feat for a woman in that era. Her determination, business acumen, and leadership skills allowed her to successfully navigate and expand the brewery, solidifying her legacy as a pioneering female entrepreneur.

Beyond her achievements in the brewing industry, Sarah’s impact extended to the community as well. She played a pivotal role in the establishment of Dorchester’s first hospital, showcasing her philanthropic nature and dedication to enhancing public welfare. Sarah’s involvement in creating a healthcare institution further underscored her commitment to the betterment of society, leaving an enduring mark on Dorchester.

As a remarkable businesswoman with visionary leadership skills that challenge gender norms in a traditionally male- dominated domain, Sarah is well and truly a Dorchester Shero.


Vote for your favourite now. Voting closes 1 July.