London Needs More Blue Plaques For Women

By Zoe Craig Last edited 26 months ago
London Needs More Blue Plaques For Women
Virginia Woolf and her plaque. Plaque photo by Diane Griffiths

English Heritage has totted up the numbers and they're not good: only 13% of London's blue plaques are dedicated to women.

It's the 150th year of the blue plaque scheme (the first plaque was to Lord Byron at 24 Holles Street, Cavendish Square — unfortunately demolished in 1867), and the first day of Women's History Month, leading English Heritage to call for more female nominations.

Do you know of a local London heroine who should be given a plaque?

According to a survey by EH, 4 in 10 people think women had a lesser impact on history than men.

Many notable women do have plaques in the capital, including writers like Virginia Woolf and Agatha Christie; Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole; the co-discoverer of DNA Rosalind Franklin; computing pioneer Ada Lovelace; and aviator Amy Johnson.

Rosalind Franklin and her plaque, which is located in Fulham. Photo of the plaque by Spudgun67

The scheme relies on nominations from the public, and so English Heritage are reluctant to give a list of women they think have been overlooked.

"The scheme relies on public nominations. We want people to get in touch and tell us who they think deserves a plaque," said Anna Eavis, curatorial director for English Heritage.

"Is the person a significant figure who made a positive and lasting public impact? Does the London building where the person lived or worked still stand? And has the person been dead for more than 20 years?"

We don't know about you, but here in the Londonist office, we'd like to see plaques for the following: actress and singer Judy Garland; creator of Mary Poppins PL Travers; Pre-Raphaelite poet Christina Rossetti; cryptanalyst and Bletchley Park codebreaker Joan Clarke.

PL Travers and Judy Garland: could their plaques be the next to be unveiled in London?

Any other ideas? Let us know the comments below.

Last Updated 01 March 2016

Continued below.


Yes, let's award plaques based on gender only. That sounds completely fair and not sexist at all.

Steve Roffey

Good point. Greater equality needed. Christina Rossetti has one - it's not blue, but it is in the English Heritage scheme: www http://www.english-heritage.or...

Bermondsey James
Tube Geek

I think everyone at Londonist deserves to have a plaque, be it a male or female writer!

Carisbrooke Charlie

Rosalind Franklin definitely deserves more recognition, especially as Francis Crick and James Watson cheated her out of recognition for the discovery of DNA.

Patrick Lefevre

It is extraordinary that there is no blue plaque for Angela Burdett-Coutts in London. She was one of the greatest Victorian philanthropists/social reformers of either sex and recognised by Queen Victoria as such. She had a huge impact on Dartmouth Park (mostly NW5) part of which was built over her Holly Lodge estate. The Estate, her Summer home, was the venue of parties attended by the great and the good including Queen Victoria. The explanation sometimes offered for this failure is that her home, Holly Lodge, no longer exists. Buildings exist which relate to her and the Estate eg the listed Holly Village but this now privately owned and not open to the public. After she was disinherited from the Coutts fortune for marrying her America born Secretary her Estate was mortgaged to finance a Stud for her husband and he was made Executor of it. During the last few years of her life arrangements where made to dispose of a small plot of land from the Estate for the purposes of establishing St Pancras's first public library. The cost of freeing the land from the mortgage being met by the Duke of Bedford. The deeds include covenants to the effect that the land should only be used for the purposes of a library. Carneigie financed the actual construction etc which was completed in 1906. Highgate Library is now also listed. Local public sentiment is this would be the perfect place for blue plaque for one of the UK's greatest woman. The building is 'owned' by Camden who we are assured would be delighted to have the plaque. The Friends of Highgate Library along with Dartmouth Park Conservation Area Advisory Committee would be most willing to promote the project as, no doubt, would other groups in our community.