10 inspiring British women who changed the world

It’s important to appreciate that there are so many inspiring and iconic women all around the world who have contributed to making the world a better place – and we must never forget that! No blog post will ever be long enough to praise these women and give them recognition for the work they have done, so below find a brief list of 10 British women who have truly changed the course of history and left their legacy on the world.

Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst is a very important figure in helping women achieve the right to vote, which they did on February 6th 1918. She lead the British Suffragette movement and in 1903 she began the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and members resorted to more extreme methods, such as hunger strikes, to get their message across that women deserve equality and the right to vote.  One member of this group, Emily Davison, threw herself under the Kings Horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913. Her funeral drew 55,000 attendees along the streets and at the funeral, which gave significant publicity to the movement.

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale is known as the pioneer of modern nursing. She became known for her work during the Crimean War where she led a team of nurses and eventually became an icon of Victorian culture and gave nursing a positive reputation. During her life, she helped to improve healthcare across the UK, advocate for better hunger relief in India, helped abolish harsh prostitution laws for women and helped to expand the acceptable forms of female participation in the workplace. After the war in 1856, she established the first ever secular nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. The Florence Nightingale Medal is the highest international distinction a nurse can receive.

Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole was a Jamaican businesswoman who provided sustenance and care for British soldiers at the battlefront during the Crimean War. She was in London in 1854 when reports of the lack of necessities and breakdown of nursing care for soldiers in the Crimean War began to be made public. Despite her experience, her offers to serve as an army nurse were refused, and she attributed her rejection to racial prejudice. In 1855, with the help of a relative of her husband, she went to Crimea and set up the British Hotel to sell food, supplies, and medicines to the soldiers. She helped the wounded men at the military hospitals and was a familiar figure at the transfer points for casualties from the front. When the war ended, she returned to England with nothing and was declared bankrupt.

Marie Stopes

Marie Stopes made significant contributions to plant palaeontology and coal classification and she was also the first woman on the faculty of the University of Manchester and founded the first birth control clinic in the UK. The clinic, based in north London, was run by midwives and doctors and offered mothers birth control advice and taught them birth control methods.

Helen Sharman

Helen Sharman was an astronaut and chemist. In 1991, she became the first British Astronaut. Having received a degree in Chemistry at University and then a PhD, she worked as a chemist until one day she responded to a radio advertisement asking for volunteers to be the first British Astronaut. Out of the 13,000 people who applied, Sharman was chosen and was just 27 years old when she went into space to visit Mir space station.

Dorothy Lawrence

Dorothy Lawrence was a journalist who secretly pretended to be a man to become a soldier during World War I in order to write the story she wanted, which made her the only known English woman on the frontline during the First World War. On her way she met Tom Dunn, a Lancashire coalminer who feared what might happen to a woman on her own among men so he found her an abandoned cottage where she returned to each night. She later handed herself in and was taken back the UK for questioning.

Ada Lovelace

During Ada Lovelace’s upbringing, her education was limited to just science and mathematics. She formed a love for machines at a young age and in her teenage years she began working with Charles Babbage in her late teens. Babbage is regarded by some as the ‘father of computers’ since he is credited as inventing the first mechanical computer known as the Analytical Engine. Together they worked on this machine together and wrote an algorithm for the Engine to carry out, which many consider to be the first instance of computer programming. Lovelace was also the first person on record to acknowledge the capability of what computers could do, knowing they could go further than just number crunching.

Charlotte Cooper

Charlotte Cooper was an English female tennis player who won five singles titles at the Wimbledon Championships and in 1900 became Olympic champion. In winning in Paris on 11 July 1900, she became the first female Olympic tennis champion as well as the first individual female Olympic champion.

Viscountess Nancy Astor

After women won the vote in 1918, Viscountess Nancy Astor became the first female MP to sit in the House of Commons in 1919.

Bibi Hughes, Studio 3 intern from the UK