Heritage Gallery Display : ‘DEEDS NOT WORDS’


A special display to honour the life and achievements of prominent North Tyneside suffragette and community activist, Norah Balls, is open at the Old Low Light Heritage Centre.

Organised by volunteers, the display is called ‘Deeds not Words’ the motto of the suffragette movement.

It sets out how Norah, the daughter of a North Shields mariner, became an active member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), led nationally by Emmeline Pankhurst. She later became involved in many other aspects of community life focusing on supporting and improving the lives of girls, women and families. She helped set up the Girl Guides in Northumberland, was a founder member of Tynemouth Business and Professional Women’s Club and served as a councillor and a magistrate.

She spent her retirement in Bamburgh, living for many years in an apartment in the castle and continuing her love of travelling, which often provided topics for talks to local groups. She later moved into a cottage in the village and died in 1980 aged 94.

Alongside the display is ‘The Walking Coat of Significant Stories’, a project led  by North Tyneside Women’s Voices in 2018 to celebrate the centenary of women’s voting rights.

The black vintage, silk, swing 1950s coat has a tapestry of Mrs Pankhurst on the back. The front is bordered with bows in the suffragette colours, violet, green and white.  Each bow is individually crafted to represent the variety of women involved in the suffragette movement. The interior is a detachable cream lining including pockets embroidered with messages and affirmations for women today. Women working on the coat were from across the community and identified the names of women whose stories they admired, including well known figures and mams, aunts and grans. Among them is Norah Balls.

Nina Brown, a volunteer and trustee at the Old Low Light, who has researched the life of Norah Balls and curated the display said: “Women today stand on the shoulders of women like Norah Balls. During my research, I discovered a champion for women, with great courage for a cause, adventurous and with a strong belief in service to her community.

“During a recent conversation with her great nieces and great nephew, they described her as having a humble presence, just getting on and accomplishing things, one of life’s great givers.”

She added: “We are also delighted to have on loan the wonderful coat made by North Tyneside Women’s Voices and are sure that visitors to our display will be fascinated by all of the intricate sewing work celebrating the contributions of so many women.”

The production of the display boards was made possible following a donation from North Tyneside Council.


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