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Female British Icons Defining History and The Future

The United Kingdom has produced female icons, from data scientists to artists to business people. Check out some of the most inspiring Bristish women from history and the present day.

Gender & Equality
  • Release Date: 01 December 2022
  • Update Date: 06 December 2023
  • Author: Speaker Agency
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History and the present time are full of iconic British women who have achieved great breakthroughs, broke barriers and inspired generations of people. From the world of art and music to politics and business, there are so many incredible women to look up to and observe to try and work out their secret to success.

If you are looking for inspirational women and female icons in history and the present day, take a look at this list.

Queen Elizabeth II

Princess Elizabeth was born on 21 April 1926 in London. She ascended to the throne following the death of King George VI. She has been the longest serving British monarch. She celebrated her Platinum Jubilee in June 2022. 

During her 70 years of service, Queen Elixabeth has worked with 15 prime ministers including Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. 

Known for her unwavering dedication to duty, our late Queen has many official residences including The Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Sandrignham and Balmoral.

The late Queen Elizabeth II has been instrumental in cementing the role and image of the royal family as they are globally known today. 

She has always been a symbol of stability having steered the royal family through ups and downs. She had 4 children including King Charles III and Princess Anne and 8 grandchildren including Prince William and Prince Harry.

Forever admired for her grace, composure as well as her keen sense of humour &  love for nature and animals.

Jane Austen

Jane Austen is widely regarded as one of the best English authors of all time. Her novels have been adapted into TV shows and movies many times. Including 'Pride and Prejudice' adaptation with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth to 'Clueless' (which is based on the novel 'Emma'). 

Her novels depicted and satirised the lives of people in the Regency period. Although romance was the overriding theme throughout her books, she opted never to marry-which is a brave stance given norms of the society in which she lived.

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Elizabeth Fry

Elizabeth Fry is another trailblazing British icon whose face was immortalised on paper money in recognition of her work in prison reform. Like many people in history who have fought for social justice and reform, Fry (who was born Elizabeth Gurney in 1780) was a Quaker. She was heavily involved in charity and social advocacy, campaigning for better prison conditions after a visit to Newgate jail.

Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole, just like Florence Nightingale, was a health hero in the 19th century. Mary Seacole was born in Jamaica in 1805 and has a mixed race heritage-a Jamaican mum and Scottish father. As a child, Mary helped her mum run a boarding house to help wounded soldiers. 

Mother Seacole is famous for setting up the British Hotel during the Crimean War. The British Hotel offered food and accommodation to sick and recovering soldiers. She was an entrepreneur, doctress, humanitarian and world traveller. 

Mary is also the author of Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in many Lands. She has helped patients with cholera, dysentery and yellow fever. Some have argued that Mary Seacole was the first nurse practitioner, using her advanced medical skills and independently offering her help after being rejected by the War Office.

Emmeline Pankhurst

Deeds not Words was the famous motto and one of the symbols of the suffragette movement.  Emmeline Pankhurst, at times viewed as a divisive figure among historians, left an indelible mark and a profound legacy. 

Along with her daughter, Christabel, Emmeline established the Women's Social and Political Union. WSPU used civil disobedience to draw attention to their cause. In one instance she led a march of 200 women to Buckingham Palace where the protesters were met with 2000 police officers. 

Their activism worked as women over 30 were eventually granted the vote in 1918, reduced to 21 to match men's votes later.

Emmeline Pankhurst and her suffragettes continue to inspire the gender debate, Equality,  Diversity and Inclusion and Gender Pay gap debates. 

Dame Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews is one of the most iconic, graceful and best loved British actresses in Hollywood. The star of stage and screen is perhaps best remembered for her starring role as Maria in 'The Sound of Music' and as the title role in 'Mary Poppins'. She has had one of the longest careers in acting, active to this day and is involved in multiple charities and initiatives supporting children.

Barbara Windsor

Barbara Windsor was one of the biggest soap stars to live, known for her role of Peggy Mitchell on Eastenders for more than 20 years. Previous to her memorable role, she was also known for her parts in the Carry On films, and many other roles

Michaela Coel

The British women of today are continuing to make excellent TV, not just starring in it but also writing and directing. Michaela Coel gained recognition for her comedy series 'Chewing Gum' and, more recently, wrote, produced, co-directed, and starred in 'I May Destroy You', which won four BAFTAs and multiple other awards. 

She was named one of Time's most influential people in 2020 and was included on the list of British Vogue's most influential women in the same year. She also turned down $1 million from Netflix because it would mean losing intellectual property rights to her show.

Meera Syal

Meera Syal has been writing and creating novels, TV, and movies detailing the experiences of British-Indian women for decades. Syal is an author, writer, comedian, actor, playwright, journalist, and even singer. 

She is best known for being part of the team behind the sketch show 'Goodness Gracious Me' and her semi-autobiographical debut novel (later adapted into a film) 'Anita and Me'.

Tanni Grey-Thompson

Tanni Grey-Thompson is one of the most decorated and best Paralympic athletes. She is also vocal about disability rights and gender equality, especially in sports.

 During her athletic career, she won 11 gold medals, four silver medals, and one bronze as a wheelchair racer. Now a crossbench member of the House of Lords, she is co-chair for the all-party parliamentary group on women's sports.

Nicola Adams

Boxer Nicola Adams was the first woman to win an Olympic boxing gold during 2012 London Olympics. In the same year, she also featured at the top of The Independent Pink List of influential LGBTQIA+ figures. Nicola won almost all of her professional fights, apart from one, which ended in a draw. She continues to be a role model and popular after dinner speaker.

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Christine Ohuruogu

Another successful British athlete, Christine Ohuruogu won multiple international titles in the 400m and 400m relay. She holds multiple gold, silver, and bronze medals, totalling 27 across the Olympics, World Championships, and other competitions. 

As a retired athlete, she has made it her mission to continue the Olympic legacy in London. Born close to the Olympic Stadium, she has visited many local schools to encourage today's students to get involved in sports.

Nadiya Hussein

Nadiya Hussein was one of the winners of the highly popular Great British Bake Off and she has since gone on to create a career out of what she loves. Nadia has since gone on to present a series of TV shows, books.

Adele

Adele is one of the most prolific singer-songwriters in Britain. She is also one of the best-selling singers in the world, with more than 120 million records sold to date.

Adele won the prestigious  Grammy Awards & Brit Awards. Adele has been named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine multiple times.

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Kate Bush

She might have had a recent resurgence in popularity due to 'Stranger Things', but Kate Bush has long been an icon to many in the UK. Kate Bush began songwriting when she was 13.  “'The Man with the Child in His Eyes'' is one of her earliest works. She wrote 'Wuthering Heights when she was only 19.

Karren Brady

Many people recognise Karren Brady from her role as Sir Alan Sugar's assistant on 'The Apprentice', but her business prowess isn't merely a TV role. She is a prominent entrepreneur who has become one of the most popular British business women. 

She is currently the Vice Chair at West Ham United and has been involved in multiple other business ventures. She is a strong champion for women in business and was awarded a CBE for her services to entrepreneurship and women in business.

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