Helen Mirren shoes in Snapping the Stiletto ‘Essex girl’ display

Helen Mirren with shoes Image copyright Epping Forest District Museum
Image caption The Southend-raised actor has donated her teal heels to a project showcasing strong Essex women

Dame Helen Mirren has stepped up to help an exhibition dispel the negative stereotype of “Essex girls” and their white stilettos.

A pair of her high-heeled teal blue shoes will feature alongside a display showcasing female social reformers, suffragettes and law enforcers from Essex.

The Southend-raised actress said she was “delighted” to donate her footwear.

The Snapping the Stiletto exhibition is on show at Epping Forest Museum.

Alongside the TV and film star’s strappy sandals are a pair of Penny Lancaster’s heels, and BBC presenter Kate Silverton’s shoes worn for the Rumba in Strictly Come Dancing.

Image copyright Getty/Epping Forest District Museum
Image caption Penny Lancaster is one of a number of women with Essex connections who have donated their shoes

The Snapping the Stiletto project aims to challenge the tired cliché of the “Essex girl” by uncovering the tales of females who blazed a trail through the county decades ago.

Image copyright Epping Forest District Museum
Image caption The main exhibition highlights the achievements of women from Essex
Image copyright Peggy Ditton
Image caption The story of Rosina Sky, far right, a working-class suffragette from Southend is one of a number told through the display

About 150 volunteers have helped museum staff research and write the stories showing how women’s roles and opportunities have changed in the county and highlighting the lives and achievements of Essex women since gaining the right to vote in 1918.

The core exhibition will travel to five other museums, each of which will put their own stamp on the subject.

At Epping Forest District Museum, a selection of shoes from Essex women will be on display alongside a banner quoting Marilyn Monroe, who is widely-reported as saying: “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.”

Museum assistant Natalie Cole contacted a number of women with Essex connections, including Helen Mirren, who put her best foot forward with her towering teal heels.

“She got back to us and said she’d be delighted to help,” Miss Cole said.

Also on show for footwear fans are trainers donated by athlete Sally Gunnell and swimmer Emma Hollis.

Image copyright Epping Forest District Museum
Image caption Olympian Sally Gunnell – from Epping – has donated a pair of her trainers

Snapping the Stiletto opens at Epping Forest District Museum on 12 January


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