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Nina Frances Layard

Nina Frances Layard (1853-1935) was an archaeologist who carried out many significant excavations in the Ipswich and Suffolk area. This was remarkable at the time, due to it being a male dominated field, with few known female archaeologists working at the time. She was one of the first women to be admitted to the Society of Antiquaries of London and was the first female president of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia. She worked closely with Ipswich Museum and contributed many artefacts from her digs, much of which is still in the collection. To recognise her contributions, her portrait is still displayed within the Museum.

The 1901 census records Nina living with Mary F Outram as a boarder ‘living on independent means’. From then on, they lived together in various locations, travelling around for different excavations. Their collaborative work has been frequently documented; Mary often illustrated and assisted Nina’s archaeological excavations, and transcribed much of her significant work. Suffolk Archives holds examples of Nina’s work notes and personal diaries. Nina always credited Mary and her valuable contributions in her writing.

Although there is no conclusive evidence that they were in a relationship, neither married, they lived and worked together for the rest of their lives, and are buried in the same grave in Kelvedon Churchyard. Therefore, it is widely understood that they were in a same-sex relationship. Unfortunately due to the prejudice and beliefs of their time, they could not live openly as queer women, however their courage to still spend their lives together both personally and professionally is inspiring.

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