Some women pioneers

Boudicca (d AD 63)

Following the death of her husband, Prasutagus, Boudicca became queen of the Iceni, a wealthy Celtic tribe living in eastern Britain. The Romans, who had invaded Britain in AD43, took advantage of Prasutagus's death to bring the Iceni under their control. Boudicca led a massive rebellion in AD60-61; her armies destroyed the Roman towns of Colchester, London and St Alban's. But the revolt was put down by the Roman governor, Suetonius Paullinus. Boudicca committed suicide.

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Find out more about the Iceni and Boudicca

Saint Paula, or Paulina (347-404)

Widowed in 379, Paula, who was a wealthy Roman, went to the Holy Land and settled finally in Bethlehem.Here she built churches, and a convent. She served as its first abbess. She is regarded in orthodox Christian churches as the patron saint of widows.

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Matilda (1102-1167)

Matilda, daughter of Henry I of England, was identified by him as his heir. Despite his barons swearing to recognise her as their queen, she was never given the English crown. On her father's death in 1135, her cousin Stephen was crowned. Civil war followed and peace was not achieved finally until 1153 when, at the Treaty of Winchester, Matilda's son, Henry, was accepted as the successor to Stephen. He became Henry II of England.

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Aphra Behn (1640-1689)

Aphra Behn, dramatist and novelist, was the first professional woman writer in English.Her first play, The Forced Marriage, was staged in 1670. She holds a significant position as a pioneer of the novel.

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Mary Somerville (1780-1872)

Mary Somerville was the first woman to be regarded as a scientist in her own right. Her interests lay in astronomy, mathematics, and physics; the combination led to her book, On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (1834). Only a few years after her death, in 1879, Somerville College, Oxford, was named in her honour.

Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910)

Mary Baker Eddy has been described as 'one of the most remarkable religious figures of modern times'. As a child and young woman, she suffered from ill-health and pain. Her experience under the care of a Doctor Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, who believed in healing without medicine, convinced her of the strength of Jesus's words, 'Thy faith hath made thee whole'. In 1879 she founded the Church of Christ, Scientist. The Christian Science movement remains strong.

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Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917)

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson faced many obstacles and considerable prejudice in her efforts to become a doctor. Finally she succeeded and was the first woman in Britain to enter the profession. Later she founded the New Hospital for Women, in London, which was staffed entirely by women. She also founded the London School of Medicine for Women. And she was a pioneer in quite a different field! Following her retirement she became the Mayor of Aldeburgh - the first woman mayor in England.

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Nancy Astor (1879-1964)

When her husband succeeded his father to a peerage, the American-born Nancy Astor stood for his old parliamentary constituency and in 1919 became the first woman member of the British parliament. Strongly in favour of temperance, she was responsible for the 1923 Act of Parliament forbidding the sale of alcohol to anyone under the age of eighteen.

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Helena Normanton (1882-1957)

Helena Normanton was the first woman to become a barrister and was called to the bar in 1922. Prior to that she had read Modern History at London University and trained as a teacher at Edge Hill College, Liverpool. She then went on to the University of Dijon where she gained a diploma in French language, literature and history. She was admitted to Middle Temple in 1919.

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Kitty Lloyd Jones (1898-1978)

Kitty Lloyd Jones was one of the first women to take a degree in horticulture and then work professionally as a landscape-garden consultant. Among the gardens she influenced are those of The Court House, Chipping Warden, Upton House in Warwickshire, Little Paddocks on the Sunninghill estate in Berkshire, and Achamore on the island of Gigha, Scotland.

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Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003)

American-botn Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to swim the English channel, completing the crossing on 6 August 1926 in 14 hours 39 minutes.

The first English woman to swim the channel was Sunny Lowry (b1911) which she did at her third attempt, on 28 August 1933, taking 15 hours 41 minutes.(You may have seen her on a BBC Restoration series programme in 2003 at the Victoria Baths in Manchester.)

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Odaline de la Martinez

The Cuban-born conductor, Odaline de la Martinez, who was educated in the United States, and at the Royal Academy of music in London, was the first woman to conduct one of the BBC promenade concerts in the Royal Albert Hall.

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Pauline Clare

Pauline Clare is the first woman in Britain to have become a chief constable. She headed the Lancashire county police force from 1995 to 2002.

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