English Heritage has announced the addition of six new blue plaques for London, in a drive to address the scheme’s historic gender imbalance. Currently, only 14% of plaques honour the achievements of women or female movements.
The announcement, made ahead of International Women’s Day, named four inspirational British female icons, all of whom are set to be honoured with the iconic permanent signs.
Two of the four commemorated women were secret agents. Christine Granville, the first and longest serving female Special Operations Executive (SEO) in Nazi occupied Europe, has been honoured alongside Noor Inayat Khan; a World War II spy who became the first British female wireless operator to be sent into occupied France to assist the French Resistance.
Granville’s plaque will receive a permanent place outside the west London hotel she most often frequented. While the plaques usually commemorate a link between a famous figure and their home or place of work, Granville never occupied permanent home living quarters due to the perilous nature of her role.
The other two individual accolades go to artist Barbara Hepworth, and First World War leader and botanist Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan.
The final two plaques represent organisations. The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies will be honoured at the group’s former Westminster headquarters, while the militant women’s rights organisation, the Women’s Social and Political Union will also receive a plaque.
Anna Eavis, Curatorial Director and Secretary of the English Heritage Blue Plaques Panel, told of English Heritage’s continued efforts to address historical gender imbalances and recognise pioneering women:
“There are now more women shortlisted than men, and 2020 will see more plaques to women than we have unveiled in 20 years”.
The first plaque for a woman was for the 18th-century actress Sarah Siddons, while the most recent was erected in Chelsea for war correspondent Martha Gellhorn.