This month is Women’s History Month, and I’m reminded of the Virginia Woolf line “For most of history, anonymous was a woman”.
For much of our history women have toiled in the background while men filled the history books with their deeds.
So in honour of International Women’s Day, here are some of my top historical women.
Ada Lovelace – daughter of the ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ Lord Byron, Ada’s passions were for science not poetry. She wrote some of the first computer code while working with Charles Babbage, the father of computers.
Rosalind Franklin – the only woman in the team that first sequenced DNA, she missed out on the Nobel Prize won by her colleagues as she had died of cancer and it’s not rewarded posthumously. Then she was pretty much written out of scientific history. Which is really bad. Watson and Crick failed to thank her when they received their prize and she doesn’t feature in many textbooks.
Boudicca (Boudicea) – queen of the Iceni tribe, scourge of the Romans, fierce and fabulous. Her statue stands at one end of Westminster Bridge to remind Parliament of the wrath of angry women. Or what happens when you try to crush the spirit of these isles.
Marie Stopes – a controversial figure, Stopes pioneered safe abortions and taught women about contraception. Her work saved lives and continues to through the organisation named after her.
Elizabeth I – my favourite of the small group of women to have held the British throne. She was the last female monarch to hold absolute power, famously never married and is thought to be the hand behind several anonymous poems (some to the French ambassador! Scandal!). Good Queen Bess was a tough cookie, seeing off claims to her throne, Spanish armadas and amorous attempts to control her through marriage. The last Tudor monarch was also famous for her incredibly pale skin – created by wearing lead based paint, which ate at her skin. Beauty was definitely painful.
Which historical women inspire you?