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50 incredible things British women have achieved over the past 100 years

Edwina Langley, Kate Moore, Laura Hampson
Evening Standard

During the year that marks 100 years since women got the vote, this year's International Women's Day feels more empowering than ever.

In the century since women were finally allowed to vote for their own Prime Minister, women across Britain have made large strides towards equality. Today, we have a female Prime Minister, a female Home Secretary, a female Met Police Commissioner... and our monarch, the longest reigning in British history, is a woman.

But the gender pay gap remains a pressing issue. That Equal Pay Day exists is evidence enough of how men and women are still not considered equals, even in the workplace. There is still much work to do.

Nonetheless, today is a day of celebration. And here we celebrate 50 incredible achievements for women over the past 100 years.

1. In 1918, women in the UK got the vote – 85 years after voters were described as ‘male persons’. Women were still restricted as only women aged over 30 who met certain property rights could vote. At the same time the men’s voting age was lowered to 21 and property rights removed.

2. In 1918, Constance Markievicz became the first woman to be elected to the Commons – but she didn’t take her seat in protest.

3. In 1919, Viscountess Nancy Astor became the first women to take her seat in the House of Commons.

4. In 1928 all women aged over 21 were given voting rights.

5. In 1979 Margaret Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister of the UK. She held this post for 11 years and was the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th Century.

6. In 1952, Queen Elizabeth became the Queen of England after her father’s untimely death.

7. In 2015, Queen Elizabeth became the UK’s longest-reigning monarch after 65 years on the throne.

8. Upon her death in 1943, author and conservationist Beatrix Potter left the land she owned to the National Trust, this would later make the majority of the Lake District National Park.

9. In 1921, Marie Stopes opened the UK’s first birth control clinic.

10. In 2017, Cressida Dick was appointed as the first female Met Police Commisioner.

11. In 2017, the Right Reverend Sarah Mullally was named as the first female Bishop of London.

12. In 2015, Adele’s song ‘Hello’ became the fastest video ever to reach one billion views on YouTube.

13. In 2012, Adele’s sophomore album ‘21’ became the first album in UK chart history to reach sales of three million in less than a calendar year.

14. In 2011, Adele became the first female singer to have two singles and two albums in the UK Top 5 simultaneously – a feat only previously achieved by The Beatles in 1963.

15. In 1961 the contraceptive pill became available through the NHS – but only to married women.

16. In 1967 the contraceptive pill was available to single women through the NHS.

17. In 2013, before the birth of Prince George, the royal succession law was changed to state that the first born would succeed to the throne, be they a boy or a girl.

18. In 2017, it was announced that Jodie Whittaker would be Dr Who, making her the first female Dr Who.

19. In 1991, Helen Sharman became the first British Astronaut.

20. In 1951, Rosalind Franklin became notable for her work on X-ray diffraction images of DNA which would eventually lead to the discovery of the DNA double helix.

21. Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time, having sold over two billion copies of her books.

22. In 2007, Jacqui Smith became the first female Home Secretary.

23. In 2006, Margaret Beckett became the first female Foreign Secretary.

24. In 2018, Sarah Clarke became the first female Black Rod in the 650 years of the role.

25. In 2017, Karen Pierce became the first UK ambassador to the UN.

26. In 1982, Josephine Reynolds became the UK’s first female firefighter.

27. In 2017, Maria Balshaw was appointed as the first woman director of the Tate.

28. In 2007, Clare Smyth became the first female chef to run (and later retain) a restaurant with three Michelin Stars.

29. In 2017, an unnamed woman became the first female British Army officer bound for frontline combat job.

30. In 1922, Carrie Morrison became the first female solicitor in the UK.

31. In 1962, Elizabeth Lane was appointed the first female judge in a County Court.

32. In 1965, Lane became the first female judge of the High Court.

33. In 1972, Rose Heilbron was the first female judge to sit at the Old Bailey.

34. In 1973, Muriel Wood, Susan Shaw, Hilary Root, Anthea Gaukroger, Audrey Geddes and Elisabeth Rivers-Bulkeley became the first female members of the London Stock Exchange.

35. In 1977, Karen Harrison became Britain’s first female train driver.

36. In 1991, Stella Rimington became the first female director of the MI5.

37. In 1997, Marjorie Scardino became the first female Chief Executive of a FTSE 100 company when she was appointed CEO of Pearson.

38. In 1995, Alison Hargreaves became the first female and third person to reach the top of Mount Everest without a partner or extra oxygen.

39. Mary Perkins, founder of Specsavers, is Britain’s first female self-made billionaire.

40. J.K Rowling is the first-ever billion-dollar author.

41. In 1936, Elizabeth Cowell became the first women television announcer for the BBC in 1936.

42. In 2017, BBC China Editor Carrie Gracie resigned from her post citing a pay discrimination over gender for the BBC’s international editors.

43. In 2017, over 100,000 Londoners took to the streets for the London Women’s March.

44. In 1998, the Spice Girls received the highest annual earning ever for a girl band with £29.6million.

45. In 1939, Vivien Leigh became the first British Actress to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Gone with the Wind.

46. In 1999, a new law meant women were entitled to 18 weeks unpaid maternity leave.

47. When she was just 20-years-old, Helen Bamber entered the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to help victims after the end of the Second World War and later became the first female chairman of Amnesty International UK.

48. In 19972, Betty Boothroyd became the first female Speaker of the House of Commons – a position she held for eight years.

49. Carol Ann Duffy is the first woman and first openly bisexual person to be poet laureate.

50. In 2018, a bronze statue of Millicent Fawcett will be the first female statue in Parliament Square. Millicent was the leader of the constitutional faction of the British women's suffrage movement and fought for women's access to higher education by establishing Newnham College at Cambridge.

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