Here at the Percy and Reed HQ we are proud to have an all female senior management team, including our CEO and CFO. Therefore, as we enter Women’s History month, we felt it only right to celebrate female achievements from the history books and this year we want to celebrate 4 inspirational British women, who you may not have heard of, and give them the praise and recognition they rightfully deserve. Here we shed light on the amazing accomplishments of these heroines, whilst giving you all the girl power feels!
Helen Sharman – first British Astronaut
One day on her way from work, Helen Sharman heard an advertisement on the radio about a job for the first ever British astronaut. She fit all the necessary criteria for the role, yet Helen’s first instinct was to not bother applying, as she surely wouldn’t be chosen. However, by the time she got home, Helen realised that she definitely couldn’t be chosen if she didn’t even apply!
With this can-do attitude, Helen applied for the job and was selected from more than 13,000 applicants from across the country. After 18 months of gruelling training at the Yury Gagarian Cosmonaut Training Centre in Russia, she took part in a mission to the Soviet space station Mir in 1991, going down in history as not only the first British woman in space but as the first ever British astronaut! Move on over, Tim Peake!
Dorothy Lawrence – only female WWI soldier
In June 1915, 19-year-old Dorothy Lawrence boarded a boat for France with the aim of becoming the first female war correspondent. After just six weeks, she got tired of the monotonous reality of being behind the war lines and decided she wanted to experience it first-hand.
However, a big obstacle stood in her way – the army at the time did not allow women to fight on the front line. Not seeing any other way and having managed to get a soldier uniform from a friend, Dorothy disguised herself as a man, named Dennis Smith, and joined the British Army. She served for ten whole days before her real identity was discovered by the army officials. They then detained her in a French convent until Dorothy agreed to swear an affidavit promising not to tell the public how she had deceived the army authorities.
After returning to London, Dorothy wrote a book about her time on the front line of the war, despite numerous official orders against her doing so - the war was over, and she could finally tell her story. The book was published by mid-1919 but, unfortunately, received mediocre reviews and by the mid-1920s the book and this extremely brave heroine herself had been all but forgotten. Nevertheless, to this day, Dorothy is the only woman to be known to have fought in World War I!
Charlotte Cooper – first female athlete to win an individual Olympic gold medal
An amazing British tennis player, Charlotte Cooper won five Ladies Singles Wimbledon Championships and reached eight consecutive finals between the years 1895-1902 (take that, Andy Murray), while playing in ankle-length tennis dresses that were the appropriate Victorian attire (can we just take a second to appreciate this?!).
If you’re already amazed how the apparel did not stop Charlotte, you will be even more surprised to learn that she achieved four out of five Wimbledon titles after she lost her hearing and became totally deaf at the age of 26. Charlotte played without the benefit of sound, which is paramount in tennis, as it helps to recognize the pace of the opponent’s shot.
Not only did Charlotte master the tennis scene in the UK, in 1900, at the Summer Olympics in Paris, she became the first woman in history to win the Gold Medal.
Marie Stopes – opened the first UK family planning clinic
After her first marriage ended, Marie started reading up on family planning and wrote her first book on the topic 'Married Love' in 1918. Whilst the book was widely condemned by churches, the press and medical professionals, it became very popular, selling more than 2,000 copies within the first two weeks alone. Thousands of women started writing to Marie for advice on family planning. Marie became famous overnight and used her newly found fame and publicity to advance her cause.
In 1921, she opened a family planning clinic in North London, the first of its kind in the UK. The clinic offered a free service to married women, whilst also gathering data on contraception. Due to the clinic’s success and demand for its services, by 1925, it moved to central London and several others opened across the country. By 1930, more family planning organisations had been set up in the country and they joined forces with Marie to form the National Birth Control Council – later to be known as the Family Planning Association.
In 1976, Marie Stopes International was established and exists to this day, as the largest non-profit organisation that providing contraception and safe abortion to women and girls around the world.
In celebration of Women’s History month, we launched our ‘Women On The Go’ kit, featuring the essential on-the-go classics, to keep your locks looking fabulous whilst you keep on inspiring the world!