She’s a role model for women across the world and, in her 70-year reign, has inspired women of all ages.
As we approach Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee, we take a look at eight women who have made their mark throughout the decades of the second Elizabethan age.
1950s: Edith Summerskill
During the year of the Queen’s coronation, Edith Summerskill had already been at the forefront of UK politics for years. Educated at Kings College, London, Summerskill served as a Councillor for Middlesex County Council from 1934 to 1941. She then served as the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Food from 1945 to 1950, and then as Minister of National Insurance from 1950 to 1951. In 1961, she was made a life peer as Baroness Summerskill of Ken Wood in the County of London. Summerskill is well known now as an iconic feminist figure, as she was heavily involved in the promotion of women’s causes such as the Clean Milk Act in 1949.
1960s: Audrey Hepburn
An icon of old Hollywood and humanitarian, Hepburn was one of the most influential women of her time. Born in Brussels, Belgium, she had embraced her talents by the age of 16, enrolling at ballet school in Amsterdam. Known for her role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Hepburn became the ultimate role model for women around the world. In 1989, Hepburn was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF.
1970s: Meriel Tufnell
In the 1970s, many events took place to shape the feminist movement, most notably the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975. One event that doesn’t get attention though, is the introduction of female jockeys in 1972. Meriel Tufnell, born in 1948, was the first female jockey in the UK to compete and win a race for the London based horse racing organisation The Jockey Club.
1980s: Lady Diana Spencer
Diana’s influence has remained even after her death in 1997. Born in 1961, throughout her 36 years she inspired and challenged not only the nation, but the world. A beloved figure in the public eye, Diana proved true to her title as the People’s Princess when she began working with AIDS patients in the 1980s. Breaking the mould and de-stigmatising typically taboo topics, Diana encouraged women across the world to stand up for what they believe in.
1990s: Betty Boothroyd
Born in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, Betty Boothroyd made her mark on the country by running for the Parliament in 1957. In 1974, Boothroyd was appointed as assistant Government Whip, and then became the first female Speaker in the House of Commons in 1992, motivating women of all ages. When you think of the 90s, you think of the Spice Girls, not politicians – but we should not forget their role in empowering future generations.
2000s: Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse, a modern-day musical legend and style icon. Amy holds a place in the hearts of many for her soulful singing and haunting lyrics. Although Amy sadly passed away at the age of 27, her stamp on the industry still lives on. Winning two Brit Awards, six Grammys and a World Music Award in her short career. Despite her battles, her authenticity, rock’n’roll lifestyle and unforgettable voice makes her a female icon
2010s: Emma Watson
When you think of Emma Watson, you think of Hermione Granger, leading role in the Harry Potter film franchise. What some of us forget are the countless times she has stood up for and empowered women. At only 32 years of age, Watson has done an abundance of work for the feminist movement, helping to launch the UN Women campaign HeForShe and a legal helpline for those that have suffered sexual harassment in the workplace. Though she shies away from being referred to as a role model, Watson is nothing short of one.
2020s: The Queen
No list of iconic women is complete without mentioning the Queen. From ascending to the throne in the 1950s to now, Her Majesty has been a staple of female empowerment. She became the first female member of the Royal Family to join the Armed services full-time. Olivia Colman, who played the Queen in Netflix’s series The Crown described the monarch as the ultimate feminist, and a breadwinner – she is the one on our coins and banknotes after all. God save the Queen!