International Women's Day: Canon Sue Wallace

Today (8 March 2024) is International Women’s Day; a day where we join with others, around the world, to celebrate and recognise all women’s achievements, raise awareness for women’s equality and call for positive change.

March 2024 also commemorates the 30th anniversary of the ordination of women in the church. We’d like to use this day to remember, celebrate and advocate for the women of the church and Truro Cathedral’s female clergy.

Firstly, we feature Canon Sue Wallace.

Canon Sue has been a chaplain at Truro Cathedral for 18 months. Prior to this, she’s held positions at Winchester Cathedral, Leeds Minster and York Minster.

Sue has been involved in leading church worship since she was a young child when she used to sing in the church choir. After attending the Bar Convent School, where she sang in the chapel choir, she went to Canterbury to study music teaching. After graduating she worked as Music and Arts Coordinator and later “vicar” of Visions in York for eighteen years. Along the way she found herself doing multimedia Eucharists in cathedrals and writing a set of best-selling multi-sensory prayer books. Sue trained part-time at Mirfield and continued to study at the College of The Resurrection, Mirfield afterwards for an MA in liturgy.

When asked about the progress that she’s seen in equality in her life and work, Canon Sue answered,

“I originally trained as a music teacher for 7-12 year olds. Singing was my first instrument but in those days no Anglican cathedrals had women or girls in their choirs. Now, almost all of them do. It was wonderful when synod passed the vote to allow women to be ordained as priests. In more recent years it has been wonderful to watch some of these pioneers moving into senior posts (as Canons, Archdeacons and Bishops), maybe one day we’ll see an Archbishop of York or Canterbury.  

There was some pressure on the first generation of women priests to dress very plainly and not wear make-up but now many women priests have found ways to look professional as well as feminine. I now find it strange looking back at old photos of clergy conferences. They look strange without any women present.”

Sue was then asked to share a moment of women’s empowerment that inspired her.

“A few years ago, I was interviewed for a book about creative worship, and I had an email conversation with bishop Mary Gray-Reeves from the episcopal diocese of El Camino Real in the USA.  It was really inspiring conversing with Bishop Mary at a time when women weren’t allowed to be bishops in England. I am reminded that we have come such a long way. My school (the Bar Convent) was founded in 1686 and I believe it was only the second girls’ school in England. It is amazing to think that only 340 years ago even educating women at secondary level was an unusual thing. Mary Ward who founded those early schools was a brave and inspirational woman; she even walked across Europe to Rome to see the pope and get his support.”

As a final thought, Canon Sue was asked to share an International Women’s Day message:

“I think my message would be that if you have a dream or sense a calling to something (a job, or a hobby, a role, or a sport, or a new academic field); don’t give up if things seem a bit difficult at first, or if you get rejected.  You don’t have to be the same as everyone else. You’re unique and awesome!”

Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women's equality. Collectively we can all #InspireInclusion.