To mark the centenary of the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) in 2017 the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, is hosting a special exhibition ‘Pioneers to Professionals. Women and the Royal Navy’. Opening in February 2017 within Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the exhibition charts the history of women and the Royal Navy from the age of sail to the present day.
Women have played an important role throughout naval history but their contribution was rarely recorded and little celebrated. This exhibition, which draws on the collections of the National Museum of the Navy together with loans from other museums and private individuals, brings together many surprising and lesser-known stories of naval women stretching back centuries.
Featuring pioneering women like Hannah Snell who disguised herself as a man to serve in the Royal Marines and naval wives like Ann Hopping (later Ann Perriam), who lived and worked on board warships in the eighteenth century. Through to today’s female personnel who make up 10% of the Navy.
As well as highlighting the inspirational stories of some ground breakers and gallantry medal winners the exhibition celebrates the contribution of all women who have served whether in Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service QARNNS, VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachment) WRNS or in the Royal Navy, giving an insight into the realities of everyday life for a women in the Royal Navy.
As part of the exhibition we are also asking visitors to share their own experiences of living and working at sea or onshore to the sporting and social activities. Enabling us to more fully reflect the myriad of ways in which women have contributed to the navy as well as showing the impact the service had on their lives.