Women who have shaped history: from left, Rosalind Franklin, Lee Miller, Ada Lovelace and Elisabeth Welch

Women Who Made History

The role of women in shaping the course of English history has often been overlooked. Their stories need to be told.

Below we highlight the stories of some of the women who played a key part in historical events, left their mark on society and shaped our way of life – from an Anglo-Saxon abbess who ruled over a monastery of men and women to the world’s first computer programmer.

Join the discussion and learn more about the remarkable women who shaped history on Twitter @englishheritage #WomensHistoryMonth

Who inspires you?

Women in history were movers and shakers, creators, innovators, and more. Let us introduce you to a few of them.

We challenged a group of students to think about their future. We asked them if there were any historical women who might be role models ... Here’s what they discovered. 

Inspirational Women

Click on the images below to find out more about some inspiring women from history. All of them are closely linked with places looked after by English Heritage, or are commemorated in London by our blue plaques scheme.

Mary Macarthur Honoured

A black and white photograph of a woman in a long white dress addressing a large, mostly male, crowd from a platform.

Mary Macarthur speaking in Trafalgar Square about the boxmakers’ strike, August 1908 © TUC Library Collections at London Metropolitan University

English Heritage unveiled a new blue plaque to Mary Macarthur on Tuesday 7 March. Macarthur was a trade unionist and activist who inspired women across the country to join the unions, increasing female membership from 142,000 in 1892 to 1,342,000 by 1920. Her blue plaque marks her former London home at 42 Woodstock Road in Golders Green where she lived from 1919 until her death in 1921.

Find out more about Mary Macarthur

London Pioneers

Black and white photograph of woman wearing steel helmet and US military unform with label 'WAR CORRESPONDENT'.

The photographer Lee Miller is one of the pioneering women commemorated by the London blue plaques scheme © Courtesy of the Lee Miller Archives, England

The English Heritage blue plaques scheme commemorates some of the most inspirational women from London’s past. From the very first female medical professionals to the photographer who ventured into enemy territory during the Second World War, women from all walks of life have helped pave the way for female emancipation. Read about their stories and track down the blue plaques marking their former London homes. 

If you know of more inspiring women from London’s past who haven’t yet been honoured by the English Heritage scheme, find out how to propose them for a plaque.

Discover London’s pioneering women

More Stories

Find out more about some of the most significant women in English history.

  • Eleanor of Aquitaine

    Eleanor of Aquitaine

    Eleanor of Aquitaine was queen in turn of two great medieval European powers, France and England. Read more about her life and the very active role she played in the politics of her day.

  • Margaret Cavendish

    Margaret Cavendish

    Discover the story of Margaret Cavendish, one of the most prolific writers of the 17th century, and how her works of philosophy and science inspired future generations of writers.

  • Victoria

    Queen Victoria

    Find out about Queen Victoria and how her reign of over 63 years shaped England during a period of immense political, social and cultural change which saw a great expansion of the British Empire.

  • Detail from a stone carving at Christchurch Priory, Dorset, thought to depict Countess Isabella de Fortibus

    Isabella de Fortibus

    Countess Isabella de Fortibus was one of the greatest heiresses in 13th-century England. Her life story illustrates how powerful women of noble birth could become in the Middle Ages.

  • Henrietta Howard, 9th Countess of Suffolk

    Henrietta Howard

    Read about the remarkable life of Henrietta Howard, owner of Marble Hill House, and how she overcame personal adversity to become an extraordinary figure in Georgian court society.

From our blog

'step into englands story