Over the Summer, we launched a creative writing competition for young people, based on our 2020-21 exhibition, Man Up! Participants were tasked with creating a poem or short story inspired by women who stepped into male roles. Thank you to all the writers who took part.

The image below shows the reach of the competition – participant countries are coloured in pink – and we are overwhelmed to have had so many entries from all over the world.

Winners will receive a Man Up! bundle of merchandise, 2 House & Gardens Annual Tickets (for UK-based winners) or 2 tickets to an online talk of their choice (international winners), and publication in the next issue of The Female Spectator. Highly commended poetry entries will also be published in the magazine. The winning, highly commended, and shortlisted writers are as follows, and we’ve included a brief summary of our own thoughts on each too: 


Poetry (15-17)


  • Kayla Chan, ‘Drowned Out’ (China)

Sensational – this poem really gets to the heart of what Man Up was trying to capture, and we loved the use of quotation here, drawing a feminist connection between Charlotte Charke and Simone de Beauvoir

Highly commended:

  • Liana Tang, ‘Walking Patch-Up’ (Hong Kong)

A powerfully feminist piece inspired by the remarkable Hannah Snell, who became a soldier by taking on her brother-in-law’s identity.


  • Alaro Basit, ‘Daughters of Eve’ (Nigeria)

Captured the defiant spirit of the exhibition

  • Constance Hayward, ‘Jack’ (UK)

We loved the repeated motif of Lister’s triple cipher, which was cleverly employed

  • Aarti Anugona, ‘Literature cannot be’ (USA)

Fun, lively, sassy: relatable to every women who has been told ‘No’, and replied, ‘I don’t care’


Poetry (18-25)


  • Ellora Sutton, ‘all of this is true’ (UK)

We enjoyed this beautifully romantic piece, which has a very distinct style, and cleverly incorporates Mary Ann Talbot’s own words into the poem

Highly commended:

  • Jenny Recaldin, ‘The Flight Path of Élisabeth Thible’ (UK)

Beautiful – we loved the reference to the French Revolution hidden amongst more whimsical lines, and the idea of the sky as a free space for women


  • Corinne Clark, ‘flourishing’ (UK)

Visceral and unapologetic with some powerful and memorable lines – this is writing the female body, and we loved it!

  • Olivia Todd, ‘To the Scathing Journalist Men’ (UK)

A fantastic Balloonist inspired poem, which we found empowering – ‘You are but mere specks from my grand viewpoint’ –  Letitia Ann Sage would be proud!

  • Caitlin Palmer, ‘who wears the pants’ (UK

The final line of the poem reads ‘The least we can do is remember their names’, which captures one of the main objectives of Chawton House!


Short Story (15-17)


  • Christina Stavrides , ‘Friday, February 21st, 1721’ (Cyprus)

A compelling and stylish piece written from the point of view of Mary Read in her prison cell which demonstrates skill in capturing Read’s wandering mind as she reflects on her life.


  • Maia Simona Keiller, ‘A Scrape in the Tea Room’ (UK)

A gory and surprising tale of a female doctor and murderess, filled with delicious detail and dark humour.

  • Matthew Buttner, ‘Stagecoach Mary’ (USA)

A fascinating, important, and very fluidly written story celebrating ‘Stagecoach’ Mary Fields, the first African-American woman to be a star-route mail carrier.

  • Andrea Javier, ‘The grief of a wife’ (UK)

The characterisation was strong here, and we enjoyed the depiction of a female duellist in disguise.

  •  Astrid Zollinger, ‘Ditch Jumping is not for Girls’ (The Netherlands)

Wonderfully captures being in the mind of Dutch physician and women’s rights advocate Aletta Jacobs. We liked the use of Jane Austen’s ‘obstinate, headstrong girl’ too!


Short Story (18-25)


  • Katherine Bennett, ‘The Fate of Archimedes’ (UK)

A brilliant rendering of the true story of Sophie Germain, which demonstrated an effortless ability to characterise the German mathematician Gauss as a man more interested in the figures than in the person who wrote them. We admired this very much.


  • Margaut Tisseuil, ‘A Fortnight at Chawton House’ (France)

A wonderful imagining of the courtship between Elizabeth Knight and William Woodward, that demonstrates a real knowledge of the history of Chawton House. We loved the practical, understated nature of the courtship, and the reference to Darcy’s proposal to his own Elizabeth!

  • Mel Groot, ‘When Needs Make Musts Make Men’ (UK)

A playful piece which we found charming and unaffected – we loved the flirtation between the disguised heroine and Mary Robinson!

  • Florence Osborne, ‘Evelina’ (UK)

We enjoyed this story about a fierce female duellist, and certainly didn’t see the ending coming – well played, Evelina!

  • Sarah Stook, ‘The Esteemed Mr. Edwin Gilwirth’ (UK)

The dialogue was superb here in this vivid back and forth between journalist and writer – witty ripostes galore! The comment on Jane Austen felt very Bronte-esque too.


Many congratulations to all who took part!