Only 14% Of London's Blue Plaques Are For Women... You Can Help Change That

Only 14% Of London's Blue Plaques Are For Women... You Can Help Change That
Darcey Bussell unveils a plaque for Margot Fonteyn

Since the London blue plaques scheme started in 1866, over 900 of the famous roundels have been affixed to the capital's walls. How many of them remember female talent? An eye-opening, mildly nauseating 14%.

English Heritage — in charge of the scheme since 1986, when there were just 45 blue plaques for women — is now calling for the public to nominate more women, and drastically change that statistic.

A 'plaques for women' campaign launched in 2016 helped raise the number of female blue plaque nominations to a third, but English Heritage is pushing for more, saying: "if we are to see a significant increase in the number of blue plaques for women, we will need more female suggestions."

Emmeline Pankhurst addresses a crowd in Trafalgar Square. She is one of relatively few women to have a blue plaque in London. © National Portrait Gallery

Anna Eavis, Curatorial Director and Secretary of the English Heritage Blue Plaques Panel, adds:

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.

This year's centenary of the first votes for women has brought about an increased 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.

Among the women soon to be honoured with a blue plaque in London are Dame Margaret Lockwood (the actor best known for her role in Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes); Noor Inayat Khan (a heroine of the second world war, who also has a bust in Gordon Square) and traveller, archaeologist and diplomat Gertrude Bell. Those already with blue plaques include suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst (who shares her Kensington memorial with daughter Christabel Pankhurst); crime writer Agatha Christie and ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn.

The first blue plaque dedicated to a woman was for the actor Sarah Siddons. Erected in 1876, it was later lost to demolition.

You can propose a blue plaque on English Heritage's website.

Last Updated 29 October 2018

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