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Mon, 07 Nov


Unitarian Meeting Hall

"Uncontrollable & Infidel Women" - marking Emma Martin's legacy, with Nan Sloane

Celebrating Emma Martin - Bristol’s least known, most important radical woman. Campaigning atheist, feminist, & midwife TICKETS MUST BE PURCHASED VIA EVENTBRITE - RSVP ALONE WILL NOT GUARANTEE YOU A PLACE. MEMBERS CAN CLAIM FREE TICKET BY EMAILING

"Uncontrollable & Infidel Women" - marking Emma Martin's legacy, with Nan Sloane
"Uncontrollable & Infidel Women" - marking Emma Martin's legacy, with Nan Sloane

Time & Location

07 Nov 2022, 19:30

Unitarian Meeting Hall, Brunswick Square, St Paul's, Bristol BS2 8PE, UK

About the event

Please note this is a ticketed event. Tickets are available in advance from Full price tickets are just £3, concessions £1. It is FREE for Bristol Humanists members - contact for your ticket, or to join

All proceeds will go towards the cost of funding a Blue Plaque to celebrate Emma Martin.

Emma Martin is Bristol's least-known, but most important freethinker, feminist and atheist. The fact that so few people have heard of her is testament to the way in which important woman have been ignored by history. She was a fearless campaigner, speechmaker and writer on freedom of speech, atheism, women’s rights, and later childbirth.

To celebrate Emma’s life Nan Sloane (above) will talk about her, and many other radical women, their role, impact and especially their legacy in the C21st. She will explore Emma Martin’s free-thinker predecessors, like Jane Carlile and Susannah Wright, and their influence on both her and the wider free-thinker movement. She will look at:

  • what impact these women had on free speech more generally and on the developing atheistic and secularist movementsthe
  • debates around marriage (specifically related to religious teaching), both inside and outside the Owenite movement, and how these fed into the development of 'working-class respectability’ and the perceived triumph of Victorian family values.
  • the influence of her rejection of biblical ideas of ‘original sin’ on the view of women and their social roleswhether Emma Martin’s later, brief, midwifery career had an impact on health provision and women’s role in it.
  • last – but most important – Emma Martin's legacy in how contemporary Britain has been shaped by her ideas, those of her contemporaries and her successors

Nan Sloane is a is a writer, political scientist and historian specialising in women’s history. Her new book, Uncontrollable Women: Radicals, Reformers and Revolutionaries, was published earlier this year. It is a history of radical, reformist and revolutionary women between the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 and the passing of the Great Reform Act in 1832. Very few of them are well-known today; some were unknown even in their own times. All of them contributed something positive to the world we now inhabit. The Guardian made Uncontrollable Women their book of the week and said it was ‘A compelling study celebrating the working class pioneers of female emancipation who have been overlooked’.

Nan has delivered workshops and training

More on Emma MartinBorn Emma Bullock in Bristol in 1812, she was brought up a strict Baptist, later becoming an advocate for ‘freethinking’. She wrote numerous pamphlets as part of the Owenite movement of the mid-C19th, and delivered speeches to audiences of up to 3000 people. She lived at Bridewell Bridge from 1835 -1839 before becoming a 'social missionary' in London. She later gave up her campaigning work and retrained as a midwife, but as an atheist she was barred from working in 'public' hospitals. So, as a single parent supporting 3 children, she set up her own private practice from her home & campaigned on reproductive and obstetric rights for women. She published many pamphlets, including 'Baptism - a pagan rite'. She died in 1851 from TB, at the age of 39.

This is the first of a series of planned annual talks, named for Emma Martin, which will examine historic, social and ethical contributions to the humanist movement.

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