Perhaps I have been extremely fortunate, but I have experienced very little opposition from anyone as I have progressed in ringing. I was
taught when I was still at school, with a mixed group of other teenagers. We learned at a tower where the summit of achievement was to ring call changes well from cards on the floor. It sounds very basic, but I believe we did achieve reasonable striking and we enjoyed it very much. The fact that I was at boarding school and we didn’t get out much for anything else could have been a factor! One of our number, a girl, found out during a holiday that things were different in the big wide world. She had rung her first quarter peal while she was away and came back with sufficient knowledge to be able to call quarters for the rest of us.
When I left school I moved away to college. Here there was a much higher standard of ringing, with Surprise Major regularly on the menu. I was encouraged to learn this and was soon invited into various peals on different numbers of bells. The man who was to become my husband showed me how to conduct Surprise Major and I called my first as conductor for my 21st birthday. After that I was encouraged to call more and more methods. The first peal I called was Middleton’s Cambridge, from the 4th. Soon I was calling other methods and many years later I became the first woman to call 500 peals. I circled many towers and called peals on all numbers from Minimus to Maximus.
I was also tower captain at Derby Cathedral for eleven years, building the band up from barely 8 turning up for practice to a band that was capable of ringing 8-Spliced S Royal. I encouraged other ringers to conduct, including one young man who arrived in Derby able to ring Plain Bob Doubles, who called Middleton’s Cambridge himself before he left college. I served my Association as General Secretary for several years and as President for several more, including co-ordinating the arrangements there for a Central Council meeting. During this time I have had much encouragement from ringers of both genders. The only time when I felt this was not so was when I was first elected Cathedral ringing master and one of the older male ringers, a former Cathedral ringing master, was not very happy. But following my
election I never experienced any adverse reactions from him.
I was very surprised and delighted to be offered a rope in a peal at Westminster Abbey about seven years ago.
I feel that this letter is very boastful, but you did ask for women’s experiences, and those are mine. I feel very fortunate.
Best of luck with your project.