Helen Brooke only met her great-aunt Cynthia once, at a family reunion in the 1950s when she was just seven years old.
What she didn’t realize because of her younger years was the extraordinary life of the woman in front of her, and how much she shaped the world Helen was to grow up in.
Cynthia Maguire was a suffragist who joined the women’s rights movement at the age of 20, in 1909.
It’s also the same year she started her autograph book, a priceless heirloom for Helen, 69, who appears in the repair shop on Wednesday night to get it fixed after it was chewed on by a mouse while that it was in a trunk.
Helen, from Eynsham, Oxon, enlisted the help of barn binding expert Chris Shaw and embroidery specialist Sara Dennis.
Sara was particularly moved by the idea of stitching the cover of the book in the colors of the purple and green suffragettes, with the emblem of the movement as well as Cynthia’s full name.
She said: “It’s really humiliating that someone who fought for women’s suffrage sewed on this, and now I’m allowed to sew on it.”
The suffragettes used civil disobedience to fight for the vote and Helen explains that Cynthia once chained herself to the Downing Street railing.
“The story was that they put the wrenches on their cleavage, which made it harder,” she said. “The police were all male.”
Cynthia began the album when she helped with the Women’s Exhibition in 1909, which was run by the Women’s Social and Political Union, the most militant branch of the suffragette movement.
“The idea of the exhibit was kind of to show people that they weren’t freaks and they were like everyone else’s wives, daughters and sisters,” Helen said.
“So they had stalls and they served people tea and my great-aunt was one of the tea girls. But of course, they then went straight back to their militant campaign.
Cynthia, who died in 1966 at the age of 77, collected many signatures including that of Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the movement. The book was passed down to Helen and her sister by their mother.
Helen herself was part of feminist groups at university.
One of her daughters, Rebecca Brooke Bullard, 39, came to see the autograph book restored to its former glory and the duo were amazed by Sara and Chris’ work.
The album can now be enjoyed by Helen’s daughters as well as her three young granddaughters in the future.
She said: ‘It’s important that people don’t take the vote for granted.
*Repair workshop, Wednesday 8 p.m., BBC1.