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Britain’s history is laden with contributions from outstanding women who helped to shape the world we live in today. From suffragette struggles in Manchester to ground-breaking sculpture in Cornwall and an era-defining voice in London, their vast and wide-ranging achievements can be celebrated on International Women’s Day, on 8 March, and during a future trip to Britain. Discover exhibitions that delve into the nations’ heritage and see the locations that inspired famed artistic and literary works, as you experience Britain through women’s history….
If you’re dreaming of London, you can plan a future trip to Newington Green, Islington, to pay tribute to Mary Wollstonecraft. Often called the ‘mother of feminism’, Wollstonecraft fought for equal rights in education and to enhance the status of women in the 18th century. 2020 marked the 200th anniversary of her death and saw the unveiling of a commemorative statue created by artist Maggi Hambling, which honours the writer of the revolutionary A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) and mother of renowned author, Mary Shelley. You can add to your itinerary and plan a trip to London’s cool East End to walk the cobbled streets of Wollstonecraft’s place of birth, Spitalfields, which is home to historic houses and the renowned open market.
The Tate Modern’s 2022 programme is packed with renowned female artists. Maria Bartuszová’s rarely exhibited abstract sculptures come to the capital this September, while from November, you can surround yourself in Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz’s striking woven works as they hang from the ceiling. Look out for Carnegie Prize winner Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Fly in League with the Night too, which returns to Tate Britain from November, after the previous exhibition was sadly cut short in 2020.
Over a decade since Amy Winehouse’s death shocked the world, the British icon’s songs heavily influenced the music scene of the 2000s, with Back to Black ranking as one of the UK’s best-selling albums of the 21st century. You can plan to pay homage to the smoky-voiced ‘Queen of Camden’ with a trip to the singer’s local pub, The Hawley Arms, outside her former home at 30 Camden Square, or with a visit to the life-size bronze statue of the star at Camden Stables Market.
Southern England was home to Virginia Woolf, a writer who championed equality, educational reform and new writing styles and techniques. Woolf penned many of her finest works at Monk’s House in Sussex, a 16th-century countryside bolthole complete with a writing lodge, serene cottage garden, orchards and ponds. A walk and picnic across the sweeping South Downs National Park or a trip to the nearby coastal city of Brighton, Britain’s unofficial LGBTQI+ capital, are both activities within easy reach.
Barbara Hepworth broke the boundaries of natural form in sculpture and was one of the most influential modernist artists of the 20th century, making the Barbara Hepworth Museum in St Ives, Cornwall, another must-see for culture buffs. You can discover her vision as you explore her home, garden and her carving and plaster studios, which house the largest collection of her works on permanent display. You can also follow the trail of the sculptor in northern England, with a visit to the Hepworth Wakefield gallery, in the Yorkshire city of Wakefield where she was born.
In 1903 Manchester saw the birth of the Suffragette movement, an organisation that was integral in gaining voting rights for women. If you’re planning a future trip to Manchester, you can celebrate this momentous event at the Pankhurst Centre. Once home to the movement’s founder, Emmeline Pankhurst, the Centre’s permanent exhibition offers a glimpse into the life of the Pankhurst family and their political struggle.
You can also explore the history of women in Manchester on a walking tour with Invisible Cities. The social enterprise trains guides affected by homelessness to provide unique tours of their city, enabling you to discover more while giving back to the local community.
Future travellers to Britain can head to the West Midlands to see one of Britain’s most famous cultural spots, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. The theatre was Britain’s first major building to be designed by a woman, Elisabeth Scott, when it was constructed in 1932. Scott championed gender balance during the project, working with the Fawcett Society to promote women in male-dominated roles. You can check the Royal Shakespeare Company for the latest information on rearrangements for their postponed productions, including The Winter’s Tale, The Comedy of Errors and more.
As well as being home to impressive medical collections, Surgeon’s Hall Museums tells the story of the ‘Edinburgh Seven’ who, in 1869, were among the first women to be enrolled at a British university. In 1870, this group of medical students was immortalised by a riot that sparked outside the Surgeon’s Hall, when an angry crowd of their male peers prevented them from taking a scheduled exam. The venue’s WOHL Pathology Museum gives insight into these trailblazing female students, who gathered much support for their cause from both men and women and were posthumously awarded their degrees in 2019.
You can even pay homage to this group from home, with a virtual tour of the Surgeon’s Hall Museums.
You are encouraged to always check individual attraction websites for the latest information, as events and details are subject to change.