Event to celebrate slavery abolitionists

The achievements of two 19th century Leicestershire women who championed a fight against slavery are to be celebrated at a free event at the Attenborough Arts Centre on Saturday 26 September between 2-3pm.

Susanna Watts and Elizabeth Heyrick were outspoken advocates for the campaign to end slavery and played an active role in swaying public opinion in campaigns.

Dr Felicity James, from the School of English, said: “These women contributed to many of the major debates concerning human - and indeed animal- rights in the late 18th and early 19th centuries: organising a boycott of slave-grown sugar in Leicester in 1824, composing bold feminist poetry, campaigning against bull-baiting, and writing the first guidebook to Leicester.

“On a local level, Susanna Watts and Elizabeth Heyrick worked and wrote together within their community for the rights of workers in the hosiery industry and prisoners, as well as the poor and aged. Individually, they also produced many literary works, including the first guidebook for Leicester.”

Dr James is currently supervising a PhD by Rebecca Shuttleworth under the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award scheme, investigating 'Susanna Watts and Elizabeth Heyrick: Women's Writing in the Midlands, 1750-1850'. The PhD aims to reconstruct and understand the larger social circle of Heyrick and Watts, through their friendships, correspondence, and religious affiliations, with a particular focus on their abolitionist activities.  

Dr James and Rebecca Shuttleworth are also featured speaking about the women and their achievements in a film about Rothley and abolitionism which is being made by a local organisation, Candy Arts, called ‘Rothley, Slavery and Me’ which is led by volunteers from the local community and focuses on the role Rothley, a village in Leicestershire, played in the abolition of the slave trade across the British Empire, as well as discovering more about key players in the movement such as Heyrick, Watts, Babington and Wilberforce.