# 13Feb

7 Inspirational, Famous Women from London

London is full of important landmarks and sites where you can learn about British historical figures, with plaques adorning doors, lampposts and buildings all over the city. In celebration of women's history, we've taken a closer look at some of the most famous women from London, including their achievements and where you can visit their commemorative sites.

1. Dorothy Lawrence

Occupation: Journalist and soldier
Lifetime: 4th October 1896 – 4th October 1964
Historic Site: New Southgate Cemetery, Enfield, N11 1JJ

Born in Hendon in northwest London, Dorothy Lawrence was a headstrong journalist during WW1. She managed to obtain a Khaki soldier uniform, forged identification papers, and posed as a man in order to be able to get to the front line from where she reported.

Lawrence was living in France as a journalist when the war broke out, and contacted various British newspapers asking for work as a war correspondent. They all refused because of her gender, so she took matters into her own hands, joining the army as ‘Denis Smith'. She was the only female soldier on the frontlines during WW1.

2. Malorie Blackman

Occupation: Author
Lifetime: 8th February 1962 - present

Author of the award-winning young adult Noughts & Crosses series, Malorie Blackman famously uses dystopian science fiction prose as a way of communicating social issues. Renowned for exploring racism in an accessible way, the writer was appointed an OBE – Order of the British Empire – in 2007. Blackman was also the Children's Laureate between 2013 and 2015

3. Rosalind Franklin

Occupation: Chemist
Lifetime: 25th July 1920 – 16th April 1958
Commemoration: There is no main site as such that commemorates the life of Rosalind Franklin, however the European Space Agency's 2020 Mars rover will be named after the chemist.

Attending King's College London, Newnham College, and the University of Cambridge, Rosalind Franklin was a learned chemist. Gaining her Ph.D. at Cambridge, Franklin went on to learn crystallography and X-ray diffraction. She used her skills to find important insights into human DNA structure, after taking the famous Photograph 51 which became important evidence in DNA science.

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Rosalind Franklin - one of my favourites to talk about! Rosalind Franklin was arguably the first person to discover the double helix structure of DNA. Her drawings of the crystallography were seen by Watson and Crick (they assumed she was a lab assistant) who made a model of the structure and won the Nobel prize for it. Although they deserve their credit for the model, I firmly believe Rosalind Franklin does not get due credit for discovering the structure of DNA. In my GCSE exams we had to learn the name Watson and Crick for our syllabus. My biology teacher told us that about Rosalind Franklin and her discovery, and that stuck with me. When we are taught equally about female scientists, more girls will see themselves represented in a scientific career. ~a

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Sadly, Franklin was not accredited for her work until after her death, as Photograph 51 was shown to James Watson and Francis Crick. The pair used it to build their famous DNA model in 1953, and went on to win the Nobel Prize in 1962 – after Franklin's death.

4. Shirley Thompson

Occupation: Composer

Eminent composer, Shirley Thompson, was the first woman to compose and direct music for a major BBC drama series; South of the Border in the late 1980s. Other achievements include Thompson becoming the first woman in Europe to compose and conduct a symphony in the last 40 years, in 2004.

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Dr Shirley Thompson, Born London England of Jamaican decent is a composer, conductor and violinist. . . She has composed symphonies, ballets, operas, concertos, and other works for ensembles, as well as music for TV, film, and theatre. . . In 2004, she became the first woman in Europe to conduct and compose a symphony within the last 40 years. It was called New Nation Rising, A 21st Century Symphony. The piece of music celebrated London's history and was composed to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002. . . She is currently head reader and Head of Composition and Performance at the University of Westminster. #drshirleythompson #shirleythompson #BlackHistoryMonthUK #blackhistory #blackhistorymonth2019 #britishhistory

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She's also made waves in the philanthropic scene, creating various educational programmes for children that inspired the national ‘Every Child a Musician' initiative in 2010. Her groundbreaking opera, ‘The Woman who Refused to Dance' was created as the opening piece for a UK parliament exhibition; ‘People & Parliament: The Act of the Abolition of the Trade in Enslaved African People 1807.'

5. Charlotte Cooper

Occupation: Tennis player
Lifetime: 22nd September 1870 – 10th October 1966
Commemoration: Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum

Five-time Wimbledon champion Charlotte Cooper is the oldest woman to have won the Wimbledon singles tournament in history; aged 37 years and 282 days. Between 1893 and 1917 she competed in 21 Wimbledon tournaments, and in the year 1900 (the first year women were invited to take part in the Summer Olympics) Cooper competed in the Olympics and won the singles tennis event. This achievement made her the first female Olympic tennis champion and the first individual female Olympic champion.

What’s even more extraordinary is that in the year 1896, when Cooper was just 26, she went completely deaf. This means she managed to achieve the majority of her accolades without the ability to hear the ball.

6. Virginia Woolf

Occupation: Author
Lifetime: 25th January 1882 – 28th March 1941
Commemoration: Virginia Woolf house, Bloomsbury, WC1H 9RG

Author of notable works A Room of One’s Own and Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf is considered to have been hugely influential in modern, 20th century literature. She’s known for her ‘stream of consciousness’ writing technique, which she used to deliver accessible and relatable prose.

Woolf had a troubled life, being afflicted with much hardship and mental ill health. She was institutionalised more than once and made several attempts to commit suicide before succeeding in 1941 when she drowned. Having been vastly successful as a female author, and for her commentary on gender inequality, Woolf is highly commended for inspiring feminism.

7. Ada Lovelace

Occupation: Mathematician
Lifetime: 10th December 1815 – 27th November 1852
Commemoration: Blue Plaque: 12 St James’s Square, SW1Y 5RB

Ada Lovelace is often accredited for seeing the full potential of a computing machine, and as one of the first computer programmers. The daughter of Lord Byron, Lovelace was privately schooled in mathematics and showed a keenness for the subject. Her social circles included the likes of author Charles Dickens and scientists Andrew Crosse and Sir David Brewster. It’s with these contacts that Lovelace was able to push her education and become an acclaimed mathematician.

In the years 1842-43, Lovelace translated a French article about ‘the calculating engine’, and added her own notes. These notes are widely perceived to include the first algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine.

Thanks to the English Heritage’s Blue Plaque initiative, which was started in 1866, there are now more than 900 plaques across London indicating important locations relating notable people. In addition to exploring the historical contributions made by the aforementioned women, keep an eye out for blue plaques on your trip to London to find out more about our country’s most influential women.

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