The last witch to be tried, women aviators taking off in bomber planes from Hatfield, the county’s highwaywoman, an Edwardian ballooning parachutist and WW1 ambulance driving daredevil. How many of these Hertfordshire women have you heard of?

The Trestle Theatre Company have spent a year researching for an exhibition which will open on Monday celebrating the most notorious, inspiring, pioneering and ground-breaking women of Hertfordshire past and present. Including Watford-born explorer Violet Olivia Cressy Marcks, 1895 – 1970, who is attributed to having visited every single country by a variety of means.

She is known to have travelled across the Arctic by sledge, through the Amazon by foot and canoe, took the first motor transport from Addis Ababa to Nairobi during the Italian invasion, visited the Ethiopian and Eritrean war fronts taking cine film and interviewed the Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong in a cave and worked as both a reported and ambulance driver in various wars.

Equally adventurous was Dolly Sheperd, born Elizabeth Sheperd in Potters Bar, 1886 – 1983, who was famed for hanging from hot air balloons on a trapeze before parachuting to the ground. On one occasion both the parachute and the balloon malfunctioned, ascending so high into the air that the cold threatened her grip and the oxygen level quickly diminished; thankfully the balloon descended to earth in time for her to live.

On another occasion the parachute of a girl who joined her failed and left her no choice but to grip onto Dolly, however the weight of both women sent them down far too fast and Dolly was paralysed for several weeks. She wasn’t perturbed, however, and returned to her antics as soon as she was able.

Hatfield Road cemetery in St Albans is the final resting place of Eleanor Anne Ormerod, 1828 – 1901, little known today but in her lifetime a celebrated economic entomologist.

Whilst most young Victorian ladies might have blanched at the very idea of working out the most effective way of despatching a swarm of turnip flies, Eleanor found such challenges fascinating.

“One of them had been much injured and his companions proceeded quite to demolish him. I was exceedingly interested, and when the family came home, gave them the results of my observations, which were entirely disbelieved. Arguing was not permitted, so I said nothing but I had made my first step in entomology.”

As an author, lecturer and, for a period, Britain’s de facto government entomologist, Eleanor played a pivotal role in establishing economic entomology as a science of national value and importance. Hertfordshire Natural History Society has placed a plaque in her honour at Torrington House.

Eleanor was the first woman to be admitted a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, and the first to be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Edinburgh.

The research and subsequent exhibit does not just look to the past but at the women in Hertfordshire’s communities right now, such as Syeda Momotaz Rahim.

Syeda is a community activist and the First British Bangladeshi female Councillor in St Albans from where she set up the First Family Housing and Health Group as Housing and Communities Officer to reduce health and housing inequalities in St Albans.

From April this year she has been the Founder and Director of the Hertfordshire All Women’s Trust specialising in gender equality work between women & men at strategic and grassroots level working with NAWO, her sister organisation affiliated with the UN and the EU. She was Secretary of NAWO between 2007 and 2015.

The Hertfordshire’s Hidden Heroines exhibition will be open to the public at the University of Hertfordshire. This follows two highly successful exhibitions at both The Museum of Hertford and Verulamium Museum earlier this year.

A range of visual arts and drama workshops will accompany the exhibition; visit for more information.