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Special International Women’s Day Event 16 March Knebworth House

Kate Belinis, SI London Chilterns Region President, arranged this special Soroptimist London Chilterns Region Event at Knebworth House on Sat 16th March to celebrate International Women’s Day. Kate’s theme for the year is “Celebrating Inspirational Women”. We also celebrated the 100th Anniversary of  SI Greater London‘s Charter on 14 February 1924 – CONGRATULATIONS! A great achievement and milestone for the oldest Club in our Federation. The photo here is of 7 Members of the SI Greater London with Regional President Kate Belinis third from the right.

What a wonderful way to celebrate International Women’s Day. There were 60 people attending, mostly Soroptimists, including Members from Clubs far away – Jill Ogley from SI Brixham,  Ayushi Kundu from SI Calcutta and Pepsie Ogechi Adiukwu from SI Nigeria! We had guests who were friends of Soroptimists, including 2 ladies from Dorking Museum who are women’s suffrage historians. Our VIP guest was Councillor  Myla Arceno. Myla is the first Filipino Mayor of Stevenage – you can read more about her here .

The group all met at the Lytton Mausoleum where a casket holds the ashes of the suffragette Lady Constance Georgina Bulwer-Lytton, known as Constance Lytton. She was an influential British suffragette activist, writer, speaker and campaigner. If you scroll down you can read a bit more about her, her relatives and the house. Constance is the reason we are celebrating International Women’s Day at Knebworth, the Lytton family stately home. Constance was most certainly an inspirational woman and all British women owe her a debt of gratitude for our freedoms today. Lady Martha Lytton Cobbold (the châtelaine of Knebworth House) greeted us at The Mausoleum and delivered a short speech. She had opened the house especially for us and she generously authorised all our guests to receive a free Guide Book.

Next on the itinerary was a wonderful guided tour of the house for most attendees, although some guests chose to do a self-guided tour of the garden – and the weather was kind to us thank goodness! During the tour of the house we saw more of the artifacts from Constance Lytton’s women’s suffrage activities.

A delicious afternoon tea was served in the Lodge Barn – with 6 tables of 10 guests there was no let-up in the conversation for the rest of the afternoon!

SI London Chilterns President Kate Belinis, DL of Hertfordshire, welcomed everyone. She introduced the Mayor of Stevenage, Councillor Myla Arceno. As Mayor of Stevenage Myla is also a Trustee of Knebworth House so she was delighted to be our special guest. Myla gave a great speech about herself and her work – you can read more here She is another inspirational woman to mark International Women’s Day! Myla is pictured below with Pam Robertson – Programme Action Officer for SI London Chilterns.

Kate spoke about SI Greater London’s centenary – what an achievement! (see the photo above). You can click here to read all about the history of the Club SIGL History for IWD at Knebworth. We hope to hear more of both the women involved in the Club and the Programme Action they undertook at a later date, culminating in a Centenary Party which we are working on with the Club. It’s going to be an exciting part of the Regional AGM on Sat 12th October at the Lancaster Hall Hotel in London so please put the date in your diary.

This year President Kate’s theme is “Celebrating Inspirational Women” and she is encouraging all Soroptimist Clubs in the Region to celebrate our inspiring projects, history and Members – so please send to and we will create a publication that we can share. We have been asked to create a poster for the SIGBI Conference in Edinburgh about projects in our Region – so the best contributions will be included on the poster (more info will be sent to Clubs soon).

Our speaker was Craig Angus, Knebworth House Archivist and historian. Craig delivered a really interesting presentation about the life of Constance Lytton. If you scroll down the page there is more information about her, and Craig provided us with more details and insight into her motivation for women’s suffrage which she campaigned for from 1903. When she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) her family felt they had lost her to the union. When she was first imprisoned she thought she was given special privileges because of her name, so after that she used the name Jane Warton, and said she was a seamstress, to give herself anonymity so she would be treated equally with other campaigners. When she was imprisoned again she went on hunger strike and was force fed 8 times. She had a weak heart anyway and this treatment will have shortened her life. She had a stroke in 1912, and after this she wrote a book called “Prisons and Prisoners” and supported resisters financially. In 1918 some women were granted the vote. She died in 1923 age 54 and her ashes are in the Mausoleum at Knebworth House, where we had started our visit.

At the end Kate Belinis thanked everyone for coming and wished everyone safe journeys home. Jane Slatter thanked Kate for organising such a special International Women’s Day event – Kate had delivered something wonderful – far from a regular Regional Meeting!

We received lots of positive feedback – filled with praise and thanks for this International Women’s Day event. There was opportunity for lots of networking and new connections were made thinking of ways to work together to improve the lives of women and girls – a special day indeed!

This year’s International Women’s Day 2024 campaign theme was #InspireInclusion

The aim of the IWD 2024 #InspireInclusion campaign is to collectively forge a more inclusive world for women. This year we are asked to make a shape of a heart with our hands in photos. See the photo of everyone after their afternoon tea – guests were asked to wear women’s suffrage colours of violet, white and green – many were wearing silk scarves – click here for details of how to buy one other colours are available.

The next dates in the Region’s calendar are:

Sat 15 Jun SILC Region Conference – hosted by SI Milton Keynes. The plan is for a face to face event with hybrid capability for those who need to join on Zoom – more details to follow…

Sat 12 Oct – SILC Region AGM/Conference – Lancaster Hall Hotel London – when we plan to continue with SI Greater London’s centenary celebrations – more details to follow…

Lady Constance Georgina Bulwer-Lytton, usually known as Constance Lytton, was an influential British suffragette activist, writer, speaker and campaigner for prison reform, votes for women, and birth control. She used the name Jane Warton to avoid receiving special treatment when imprisoned for suffragist protests. She is pictured in the centre of this photograph.

For more read the Wikipedia entry:  and the entry in Herts Heroines:

Lady Martha Lytton-Cobbold, châtelaine of Knebworth since 2000, is also an inspirational woman. She is an entrepreneur who has made Knebworth House into a successful business and is currently the President of Historic Houses. For more information please click and