Women in History

Women in History

From great medieval queens to nurses in the First World War, the role of women throughout English history has often been overlooked. Here we highlight some of their stories – not only the women who achieved high status and success, but also those who remain largely unnamed in history, and who have quietly shaped our way of life today.    

Join the discussion and learn more on Twitter @englishheritage #WomensHistoryMonth

 

 

 

Untold Stories

  • Women and Garden Design

    We discover some of the women who played a key role in designing the gardens in our care.

  • Experiments in Gender

    Exploring the women who adopted masculine styles of dress and the increasingly fluid ideas about gender identity and sexuality in the early 20th century.

  • Groundbreaking Female Archaeologists

    Read about some of the groundbreaking female archaeologists who worked on sites now cared for by English Heritage.

  • Weeding Women: Shaping England's Gardens

    Explore the unsung role of ‘weeding women’ in the history of English gardens, and the difficulties of tracing their stories.

  • The Wrest Park Nurses

    Find out about the lives of some of the women who worked as nurses at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire when the house was transformed into a hospital.

  • A Journey into Witchcraft Beliefs

    Step into the world of early modern England as Professor Diane Purkiss describes popular and intellectual beliefs about witchcraft in the 16th and 17th centuries.

NEW BLUE PLAQUES FOR WOMEN

The cystallographer and peace campaigner, Kathleen Lonsdale received the first blue plaque of 2021 on the 50th anniversary of her death. This year, half of all new blue plaques will be dedicated to women. Figures commemorated will include Diana, Princess of Wales, designer Jean Muir and anti-slavery campaigner Ellen Craft.

Our ongoing ‘plaques for women’ campaign has seen a dramatic rise in the number of public nominations for women since it launched in 2016. Learn more about the women who are being celebrated this year.

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Women in history

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.

Christabel Pankhurst (second left) and her mother, Emmeline (centre),  who led the militant campaign for women’s right to vote in the early 20th century
Christabel Pankhurst (second left) and her mother, Emmeline (centre), who led the militant campaign for women’s right to vote in the early 20th century
© Hulton Archive/Getty Images

London Pioneers

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

Queens of the Past

  • Cartimandua – Queen of the Brigantes

    Ruler of the Brigantes, an Iron Age people of northern Britain, Cartimandua was an important ally of the Roman Empire during the conquest.

     

  • The Eleanor Crosses: A Journey Set in Stone

    Discover the story of the beautiful stone crosses erected by King Edward I in memory of his beloved first wife, Eleanor of Castile.

  • Mary Queen of Scots at Carlisle Castle

    In 1568, Mary Queen of Scots fled conflict and turmoil in Scotland for England. Find out how and why her two-month stay at Carlisle Castle began 19 years of captivity.

  • Queen Bertha

    In 597, St Augustine arrived in England to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. How important was Queen Bertha of Kent, who was already a Christian, in his mission’s success? 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Joan of Navarre

    Read about Joan of Navarre, who was imprisoned at Pevensey Castle in 1420 accused of witchcraft and plotting to kill the king.

  • Mary Tudor, England’s First Queen

    Discover the story of how Mary Tudor was proclaimed the first woman ruler of England while she was at Framlingham Castle in Suffolk in 1553.

  • Elizabeth I

    Tracy Borman examines what the accession of Elizabeth I – who famously remained unmarried – meant for women in positions of power.

  • 1066: The Power behind the Throne

    Find out about the roles of three queens in the period around the Norman Conquest who helped shape the events of 1066.

History on Stage: Gertrude Bell and Mount Grace Priory

In this specially filmed historical play, hear the story of Gertrude Bell through the letters which the explorer sent home to her mother.

Gertrude Bell was an extraordinary woman: a scholar, mountaineer, explorer, travel writer, translator, archaeologist, spy and diplomat. She travelled the far east and documented her experiences there. But Gertrude also had an interest in flowers and the beauty of the natural world, and a particular fondness for the gardens of her grandfather’s house, Mount Grace Priory. 

Explore more

  • Eight Myths About Witchcraft

    Professor Diane Purkiss tackles the common misconceptions about witchcraft and the witch trials of the 16th and 17th centuries.

  • LGBTQ History

    LGBTQ history has often been hidden from view. Find out more about the lives of some LGBTQ individuals and their place in the stories of English Heritage sites.

  • Listen to Speaking with Shadows

    The podcast that listens to the people that history forgot. From castles on the south coast to Hadrian’s Wall in the far north, join presenter Josie Long as she seeks out six stories from the hidden corners of England’s history.

  • Below Stairs at Audley End

    What were Victorian servants’ lives really like? Discover the stories of the men, women and children who worked at Audley End House in the 1880s.

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