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Inspirational Women of Pembrokeshire

What is your version of "Inspirational"?

Inspirational Women of Pembrokeshire

Each year, the 8th March is International Women’s Day - a day dedicated to championing women and their incredible achievements. In 2019, we decided to get involved with our own celebrations.

For a whole week, we honoured women from Pembrokeshire who we think are inspiring in some way. Before taking a look at our list, it’s important to remember that the word “inspiring” is one of those terms which means different things to different people. It’s a term which can be applied to any number of people and their achievements; what is inspiring to you might not be inspiring to be.

That being said, we’ve put together a list of women who we think cover a broad range of inspiring accomplishments. Some are historical figures, some are contemporary. Some wear protective kit, and some don’t. Either way, we think they’ve done something pretty amazing.

Jemina Nicholas played by Yvonne Fox

Jemima Nicholas, played by Yvonne Fox, with costume designer David Emanuel

1) Jemima Nicholas

This Fishguard cobbler is remembered for being a heroine of the harbour-side town during the Last Invasion of Britain. In 1797, a French army led by Captain William Tate landed approximately three miles up the coast from Britain. In the town’s defence, Jemima Nicholas grabbed only a pitchfork and headed out into the Welsh countryside to do her bit.

Leading a collection of women each dressed in the traditional Welsh dress of red shawls and tall black hats, she somehow managed to round up twelve enemy soldiers. Once detained, she marched the Frenchmen down to St Mary’s Church where she held them captive overnight until Lord Cawdor met with William Tate and signed a peace treaty in The Royal Oak.

What makes her inspiring? Her absolute fearlessness. She marched out with no protective clothing defensive shields, merely a farmhand pitchfork and defeated twelve soldiers.

Jemima Nicholas, a Fishguard Heroine
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 Jemima Nicholas, Last Invasion TapestryJemima Nicholas stitched in the Last Invasion Tapestry

2) Rt Revd Joanna Penberthy
The Church has been for many centuries, an institution where only men were permitted to be elected as authority figures such as priests. In 1996, the rules were relaxed to recognise that women could fulfil such roles and Joanna Penberthy was one of the first few women to be ordained as priests the following year.

In 2016, as the Church celebrated twenty years of women being able to become priests, Joanna Penberthy was once again involved in a momentous piece of history in Wales. She became the very first female Bishop in Wales when she was inducted as Bishop of the Diocese of St Davids.

What makes her inspiring? Joanna became the 129th Bishop of St Davids, following a succession of 128 men taking on the role.

Rt Revd Joanna Penberthy, Bishop of St Davids
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Bishop Penberthy at St Davids Cathedral

Bishop Penberthy at St Davids Cathedral

3) Tania (and Jerry) Rees
Having a passion for protecting our shores from single-use plastic, Tania Rees and husband Jerry set up their own plastic free store to help people work towards a zero waste lifestyle. At Happy Planet Green Store, you can take along your own reusable containers and fill them up with cereals, nuts, washing liquid and more.

You can also buy items such as natural toiletries, ponchos made out of potatoes, recycled stationary and beeswax wraps.

What makes her inspiring? As well as offering the opportunity for visitors to shop plastic free, Happy Planet has created a real sense of community and are educating locals with talks to local cub groups and similar.

Tania (and Jerry) Rees, Happy Planet Green Store
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Tania and Jerry Rees Happy Planet Green Store Narberth

Tania and Jerry Rees in their Narberth shop, Happy Planet Green Store

4) Lottie Chant
She is the only female firefighter stationed in Pembroke Dock meaning she works day in day out with a workforce of men, but that makes absolutely no difference to Lottie Chant. There may be a stereotype that firefighters have to be big, strong men but Lottie paid no attention – and we shouldn’t either.

She persevered with this career path even when she experienced a number of knock backs from unsuccessful applications. Years after she first applied, she made it through the three-month long application process undertaking written, aptitude and physical tests along with an interview and a medical.

What makes her inspiring? Fighting fires is a dangerous and demanding career path to choose, but Lottie thinks nothing of it. She’s passionate about her role and clearly absolutely loves what she does. That’s the kind of person I want helping me in a time of need.

Lottie Chant, A Pembrokeshire Firefighter
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Pembroke Dock's only female firefighter Lottie Chant

Pembroke Dock’s only female firefighter, Lottie Chant

5) Saint Non
Famous for being the mother of Saint David, this last one might be seen as a little controversial seeing that there are many rumours and myths surrounding Saint Non, meaning we aren’t really sure as to what the truth is. That being said, there is one main story which many seem to agree on and that’s the birth of her son, Saint David.

Yes Saint Non is famous for being the mother of the Patron Saint of Wales, and the tale of the birth has become legendary across the country. It is said that she was all alone out on the cliffside near Caerfai when she gave birth to David. The 1st March 550 AD (approximately) was an awful thundery day with vicious winds and rain creating an almighty storm. However, the solo Non was basked in beautiful sunshine during childbirth and a healthy baby boy was born.

What makes her inspiring? Giving birth is a strenuous task without taking into account the dreadful blustery winter weather and the deserted cliff-top location where Non delivered David.

Saint Non, Mother of Saint David
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Shrine Holy well and Chapel at Saint Non

Nearby to St Davids, you can visit a shrine, holy well and chapel dedicated to Saint Non

As you can see, our collection of Inspirational Women in Pembrokeshire is a diverse mix of women from past and present. In their own ways, each of these five women have been inspiring to us.

Lucy Hancock
Part of Coastal's Concierge team, I'm always on the lookout for new and exciting things Pembrokeshire has to offer, whether that be delicious local produce, new attractions or fun events!
The Last Invasion of Britain, 1797
The Last Invasion of Britain, 1797

The famous last British invasion involved French soldiers attempt to conquer Fishguard. Find out what happened here.

Rt Revd Joanna Penberthy, Bishop of St Davids
Rt Revd Joanna Penberthy, Bishop of St Davids

Read the journey of how Joanna Penberthy became the first female Bishop of Wales.

Discover Narberth
Discover Narberth

Narberth has built up its reputation for being a unique quirky small town in the heart of Pembrokeshire.

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