Visible Women

How to nominate an inspiring woman from history for her own blue plaque

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Moya Crockett
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Just 14% of London’s blue plaques celebrate women – but you could change that. 

Walk around any London neighbourhood and you’re likely to spot at least one blue plaque, commemorating the fact that a notable person from history once lived or worked in that building. What you are relatively unlikely to see is a blue plaque honouring a woman. Out of more than 900 plaques across the capital, a whopping 86% are dedicated to men – yet another sign of how women’s achievements have historically been erased.

Now, English Heritage is calling on the public to nominate women from history who they think deserve to be recognised with a plaque.

“The London blue plaques scheme is over 150 years old and the dominance of plaques to men reflects a historic blindness to both the role women have played in our society and the type of roles deemed worthy of celebration,” says Anna Eavis, curatorial director and secretary of the English Heritage Blue Plaques Panel.

A plaque commemorating actor Diana Dors in Chelsea 

In the centenary year of the first women in Britain getting the right to vote, increased attention has been paid to the issue of women’s achievements being airbrushed from history – including Stylist’s Visible Women campaign and Forgotten Women column.

Eavis says that the centenary has prompted a heightened sense of “urgency to rebalance the record of women’s contribution to history.

“We really hope this enthusiasm will be translated into lots more nominations and ultimately more blue plaques for women.”

The call for nominations from the public comes two years after English Heritage first launched its ‘plaques for women’ campaign.

Since 2016, more than half of the people awarded plaques by its panel of experts have been women – including the botanist Agnes Arber (1879-1960), whose blue plaque will be unveiled on Thursday (1 November) in Primrose Hill. 

Born in 1879, Arber was the first female botanist to be elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1946 and the first woman to be awarded the Linnean Gold Medal in 1948 for her contributions to botanical science. 

However, of the 119 nominations English Heritage has received since 2016, just a third were for women. While this is an improvement on previous years, the charity says it still wants more suggestions of which women deserve a blue plaque.

It is asking for nominations of women who worked in all fields, but especially in the fields of science, sport and fine arts, areas where women are particularly poorly represented by London’s current blue plaques.

A plaque for writer Dorothy Sayers on Great James St, Holborn 

English Heritage is also interested in receiving suggestions for plaques commemorating particular events, organisations and social movements associated with women’s history.

To propose a new plaque for an overlooked woman from history, first check out English Heritage’s interactive ‘Find a Plaque’ tool to ensure the woman in question doesn’t already have one.

If she doesn’t, email a brief outline of your idea to plaques@english-heritage.org.uk. Your suggested woman must have been dead for 20 years, and at least one building associated with her must survive within Greater London.

To find out more, visit english-heritage.org.uk.

Throughout 2018, Stylist is raising the profiles of brilliant women past and present – and empowering future generations to follow their lead – with our Visible Women campaign. See more from Visible Women here.  

Images: Getty Images 

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk, where she is currently overseeing the Visible Women campaign. As well as writing about inspiring women and feminism, she also covers subjects including careers, podcasts and politics. Carrying a tiny bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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