There is no shortage of iconic Yorkshire women. From athletes and aviators breaking world records to authors and aid-givers challenging society stereotypes, we are celebrating the incredible Yorkshire women who have created change and are paving the way for young girls across the globe.
In this blog, discover where to go to follow in the footsteps of iconic Yorkshire women. You will find sensational stories of female success in each corner of the county, narratives old and new that will leave you feeling empowered and hungry for more. Let’s celebrate some of the amazing women of Yorkshire!
5 places to visit to follow the footsteps of iconic Yorkshire women
Yorkshire’s largest city is the birthplace of several notable names, including Alice Bacon, the first female MP from Yorkshire. Elected in 1945, Alice devoted her political career to improving the lives of working-class children by fighting for equal rights to education. Another Leeds lady committed to helping those less fortunate was Sue Ryder. When she was just a girl, Sue set off to Europe during WWII so she could rescue people whose lives had been ruined by the war. Her humanitarian work both abroad and in the UK continued until her death in 2000, which she said was a ‘living memorial to all those who died for freedom’.
Visit the Leeds Corn Exchange to see a blue plaque dedicated to Baroness Alice Bacon.
Another famous 20th-century Yorkshire woman is Amy Johnson, pioneering aviation addict born in Hull and educated in Sheffield. By the time she was 27, Amy was a qualified pilot and the first woman to qualify in Britain as a ground engineer. Following a solo flight to Australia in 1930, an 11,000-mile trip which no other woman had achieved and earned her the name ‘Queen of the air’, Amy spent a decade criss-crossing the globe in aircraft both accompanied and alone. She broke the records of several male aviators including her husband Jim Mollison, and when WWII began Amy flew machines and men to wherever they were needed. Tragically Amy’s plane went down in London in 1941 and she was presumed dead.
Discover all about Amy Johnson’s incredible achievements at Sewerby Hall & Gardens.
Probably the most famous Yorkshire women are the Bronte sisters. Charlotte, Emily and Anne spent their tragically short lives in the village of Haworth in West Yorkshire. Blessed with insatiable creativity from childhood, the three sisters all wrote and published novels that are now regarded as some of the most important pieces of English literature. In everything they did, from their determination to become published authors to the content of their novels, the Bronte sisters challenged patriarchal stereotypes and female oppression and are deservedly some of the most important feminist figures in British history.
Learn all about the Brontes at the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth before taking a stroll through the surrounding moors which influenced Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
At the same time as the Bronte sisters were penning their novels, in nearby Halifax another Yorkshire woman was pushing against the boundaries of the male-dominated Victorian society. Anne Lister, also known as Gentleman Jack, point-blank refused to live the limited life of a lady. Through the wealth she earned as a landowner and businesswoman, Anne led a remarkable life, travelling widely and undertaking some of the first mountain climbing attempts in Europe in the 1830s. Anne also refused to conform to the norm of marriage to a man, instead being honest about her same-sex attraction and joining herself to a female partner.
Anne wrote detailed diaries which have been digitised by Calderdale Museums, and you can view items directly related to Anne at Shibden Hall. A bronze statue of ‘Gentleman Jack, erected in 2019, can be viewed in the courtyard of the Piece Hall in Halifax.
In more recent times, we have seen women from Sheffield paving the way for girls everywhere. Helen Sharman OBE is a British chemist and astronaut who became the first British person and first Western European woman in space when she undertook an 8-day mission to the Mir space station in 1991. Another celebrated Sheffield woman is world-renowned heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill who is decorated with Olympic medals and still resides in the city where she was raised.
Go to the Sheffield Walk of Fame to celebrate both of these iconic women from Sheffield.