True blue! The women who deserve plaques

  • English Heritage last week revealed that just 13 per cent of blue plaques in London are dedicated to women.

Out of the 47 blue plaques in ELL’s four boroughs, only six honour women.

With International Women’s Day on the horizon, we have listed notable local women who we think should be honoured with a blue plaque.

Hackney boasts 20 blue plaques, of which only two honour local women; Maria Dickin, founder of PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) and Music Hall singer Miss Marie Lloyd. Our nominees are:

Jessica Alice Tandy (1909- 1994) was born on Geldeston Rd, Hackney, and was the oldest woman to receive an Academy Award for best actress, in Driving Miss Daisy. Tandy had a career that spanned six-decades on both screen and stage. Her contributions to art and acting have made her receive several honours and awards including a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Athere Seyler CBE (1889 – 1990) was born at 18 Goulton Rd, Hackney, and was not only an influential actress, but also an activist against anti-blood sports, such as foxhunting. Seyler was also the president for Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) during the 1950s. In 1959 she was appointed CBE. At the age of 101 she took to the stage one last time at the National Theatre, discussinglife long career.

Joanna Vassa (1795 – 1857) was the only surviving child of anti-slavery campaigner Olaudah Equiano. She resided at 21 Benyan Terrace, Buckingham Road, Hackney. In 2007 a book was published in honour of her life called; Equiano's Daughter: The Life and Times of Joanna Vassa.

Tower Hamlets has a total of 20 blue plaques, of which three are for women, Edith Cavell, a celebrated nurse who aided soldiers on both sides of the battle in World War I as well as helping. 200 allied soldiers escape German occupied Belgium; Anna Maria Garthwaite, a textile designer famous for her vivid floral design and Mary Hughes a social worker who founded The Dewdrop Inn: For Education and Joy, which was a rest and refugee shelter for those who needed respite from the world. Our nominations are:

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1794) was born on Primrose Street, Spitalfields and was an author and advocate of women’s rights; she is regarded as a founder of feminist philosophy. She is also the mother of renowned author Mary Shelly.

Jane Randolph Jefferson (1721 – 1776) was born in Shadwell Parish and was the mother of President Thomas Jefferson, if it was not for her giving birth to President Jefferson then the US constitution may never have been made.

Jennifer Worth (1935 – 2011) worked at London Hospital, Whitechapel, and was a famous nurse, midwife and author of Call the Midwife. She should be awarded a blue plaque for her efforts and contributions to the NHS and practices in midwifery.

Lewisham remembers 10 people with blue plaques with only one honouring female, Eleanor Marx, socialist campaigner and daughter of Karl Marx. Eastlondonlines feel these three remarkable women are also due recognition for their efforts:

Rosa Mary Billinghurst (1875 – 1953) born and raised at 35 Granville Park Lewisham and was a paraplegic suffragette and women’s rights activist. During her fight for women’s rights she was arrested several times in her wheelchair, and was sentenced to eight months in prison in total , however she served none of this sentence. Billinghurst went on hunger strike in her efforts for women’s rights however was forced fed alongside other suffragettes. She was also the first secretary and founder of Greenwich WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union).

Edith Nesbit (1858 – 1924) lived on Elswick Road, Lewisham and was a children’s poet and novelist, her notable work includes the iconic novel, The Railway Children. Nesbit was also a strong follower of Marxism and fellow founder of The Fabian Society. The Fabian Society founded the London School of Economics and Politics. Nesbit was often a guest speaker at lectures there. Several of Nesbit’s books were turned into films and TV mini series.

Dame Cicely Saunders (1918 – 2005) worked at St Josephs Hospice, on Mare Street, Hackney for seven years. She was a nurse, social worker, physician and writer. She is best known for her role in the birth of the Hospice care movement. In 1967 the world’s first purpose built hospice hospital was erected with the efforts of Saunders 11 year comprehensive plan.

Despite being one of London’s biggest boroughs, Croydon has no blue plaques dedicated to women. It  has 10 in honour of men. Here are three women who we believe should be nominated:

Dame Jane Drew (1911 -1996) lived in Thornton Heath between 1911-1928 and was a leading pioneer in modern architecture. Her years of expertise lead to her designing many schools and universities across Western Africa. Dame Drew also designed buildings in Ghana, Nigeria, Iran and Sri Lanka. During the World Wars Dame Drew worked mainly alone in a male dominated profession but chose to only employ females as her colleagues, although eventually, this changed. After she retired, Dame Drew travelled the world writing books on what she had learnt about architecture in the countries she designed in.

Cicely Mary Barker (1895 – 1973) was born at 66 Waddon Road in Croydon and was an English illustrator who depicted fantasy imagery of fairies and flowers. She designed a stain glass window for St Edmund’s Church and had one of her paintings, Christ Child, The Darling of the World Has Come, purchased by Queen Mary, (Mary of Teck).

Jacqueline du Pré (1945 – 1987) attended Croydon High School, a day school for girls in South Croydon, from the age of eight and was an English cellist. She is regarded as one of the most talented cellists of the second half of the 20th century. Despite her short career her take on Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor has been hailed “legendary” and “definitive” and won her a BRIT Award in 1977 for best classical soloist album. She was also appointed OBE in 1976.

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