International Women’s Day: Rosemary Henderson, Hatherleigh’s Resident Engineer: The Journey from Sewing Machines to Naval Helicopters

Sunday, 8th March is International Women’s Day; a day to celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness against bias and promote gender equality. Rosemary Henderson, a member of the Hatherleigh family is one of many amazing women who live at the home, her story is shared below.  

Life for women in the 1950’s was very different to that of the one we know today. Women were largely seen as housewives. Dreams and aspirations of higher education and careers were never realised for many. In the 1960’s this began to change, as the oppressed challenged gender inequalities within society. The resultant was a boom in jobs for young single women and more pursuing education at a higher level.

Introducing Rosemary…

One of these determined and remarkable women who made her career during this time was Hatherleigh Nursing Home family member Rosemary Henderson. Having joined the Royal Navy in her early 20’s, Rosemary worked as an engineer, working on Rolls Royce helicopter engines. 

In an era when sexism was rife and female employment was still relatively low, Rosemary was responsible for keeping Britain’s naval force of helicopters safely in the air!

Based in Gosport, Hampshire during her naval service, while working in her highly skilled and challenging profession, she also met her love and future husband Bill.

Rosemary’s Naval career came to an end when the couple moved back to Bideford, where Rosemary spent most of her life, to raise the first of their two daughter’s Laura.

Sewing beginnings…

She first moved to the town as a child with her family, who ran the local sewing machine business ‘Weeks,’ which supplied local schools and businesses with their machines.

Growing up amongst so many sewing machines during her childhood left a lasting impression on Rosemary who continued to enjoy cross stitch and tapestry as a pastime many years later.

Now, Rosemary has been living at Hatherleigh for almost two years and is living with a dementia. Sadly, she is no longer able to enjoy needlework as she used too, due to the progression of her dementia. Despite this, at the home, magazines, fabric, and other textile materials are always available for Rosemary to connect with.

Having these personal and meaningful occupational items around the home creates an opportunity for positive feelings or memories of previous pastimes enjoyed. These can be sparked at the feel of the cotton in between her fingers or at the sight of a beautifully woven tapestry.

Rosemary Henderson is a loved and valued member of the Hatherleigh family who is respected for her impressive engineering career, challenging of the status quo and aspiring to achieve more than many of her contemporaries.

This International Women’s Day, Hatherleigh Nursing Home honour not only Rosemary, but all the incredible women who call Hatherleigh their home and the continual impact they have on society and on their local community.

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