The Project

The Women’s Community Activism Project was hosted at the University of Portsmouth and was funded by the Heritage Fund.

The project examined how women in Portsmouth and the surrounding areas were involved in local and national activism – inspired by the fight for equality for all women in all walks of life.

You can see a video of some of the women featured in the project here

The project included recorded first person testimony of

The start of Women’s Activism in Portsmouth

Fighting to be liberated

Protests against warfare and nuclear armaments

Local politics and improvements to the community

Activist artists

Women and health

Protests for equality of pay and employment

Women and the Navy

Women, Diversity and the Fight Against Racism

Protests against environmental pollution

Support for women who have experienced sexual and domestic violence

Women and faith

Equality of sexual identity

Click on the above descriptions to find out more.


Our Talking Table travelling exhibit has now finished its travels but it can still be seen at Portsmouth Central Library (Norrish Library), Guildhall Walk, PO1 2DX.

From Thursday November 28th 2019 it will be in the foyer at the University of Portsmouth Eldon Building in Winston Churchill Avenue, Portsmouth. Do drop by and have a look.

Contact Dr Laurel Forster for more information.


SUE BRULEY was born in 1951 in London to working class parents. The family moved to Surrey in 1954 as part of the post-war relocation policy.
At seventeen she left secondary school to study A Levels at a further education college and from there she went on to study at the London School of Economics in 1970. At this time, it was very unusual for working class girls to attend university.

Eventually Sue gained a PhD and went on to a career in teaching, researching and writing history. She became a lecturer in History at Portsmouth Polytechnic in 1988, with a focus on social and cultural history. Sue introduced several gender-based history courses, including Gender, Sexuality and War in Britain 1922-1982. She also introduced courses in community oral history.

In the 1990s Sue sat on joint management–union panels created to produce a series of short booklets to educate staff and students in line with new policies on promoting equality. Booklets were produced on racial diversity, sexual harassment and equality across the university.

“Throughout my career, from the late 1970s my main interests have been women’s history, gender history and oral history in twentieth century Britain. I have had a particular interest in working class women and women’s movements. Teaching at the University of Portsmouth made me aware that women’s movements in the city have been neglected due to the emphasis on naval history.

When I started looking into this I realised, whilst we have numerous publications relating to women’s movements in many large cities, there were no publications relating to research on women’s movements in naval communities.

This became the focus for the research project on Women’s Community Activism in Portsmouth since 1960 – The Hidden History of a Naval Town. Due to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund we have been able to carry out this important research and give women activists in Portsmouth the recognition they deserve.”