Women’s history timeline

630 – 612 BCE – Sappho the ancient Greek poet was born on the island of Lesbos. Sappho’s poetry, which was greatly admired, centred on love and passion for people of both genders. The word lesbian is derived from the name of her island of birth.

69 BCE – Cleopatra was born. She was the last person to rule Egypt as a pharoe. After her death Egypt became a Roman province.

60-61 BCE – Boudica, Queen of the Iceni (a Celti tribe in Norfolk) led an uprising against the Roman governor, burning Colchester and London before being defeated in battle.  Boudica and her daughters kill themselves after the defeat.

240 BCE – Zenobia was a 3rd Century Syrian queen who led a famous revolt against the Roman Empire. By 269 she had conquered Egypt which she ruled for five years before being overthrown and put to death.

912 CE – King Alfred the Great’s eldest daughter Aethelflaed became a political and military leader after her husband died in battle with the Vikings. After her father’s death she went on to rule the area of the midlands then known as Mercia. Aethelflaed was known as a formidable military tactician.

960 CE – Gudit was an African queen who rampaged through Ethiopia, destroying monuments and churches. After wiping out the ruling dynasty and killing the emporor, she took his throne and reigned for 40 years.

1141 – disputed reign of Matilda, Holy Roman Empress and daughter of Henry I of England.  Matilda was declared heir by her father and accepted by the English Barons, but the throne was seized by her cousin Stephen.  In the war which followed, Matilda is best known for escaping from her prison by running across the snow in a white dress.  In 1153 Stephen agreed to make Matilda’s son Henry his heir.

1412 – On January 6th 1412 Joan of Arc (saint, military leader, mystic) was born. She was burnt at the stake just 19 years later on May 30th 1431 after she helped restore the King of France to his throne in the Hundred Years War.

1480 – It was around this time that the medieval witch hunts began. From between 1480 and 1700 it is believed an estimated 40,000 – 100,000 women were executed as a result of witchcraft trials in Europe and Northern America.

1553 (10-19 July) – The nine day reign of Lady Jane Grey, who was placed on the throne by enemies of the Catholic Princess Mary.  Jane Grey was executed at the age of 16 or 17.

1553-1558 – reign of Mary I

1558-1604 – reign of Elizabeth I

1625 – On February 3rd 1625 La Liberazione di  Ruggiero – the first known opera to be composed by a woman – had it’s debut performance in Florence, Italy. It’s composer was 38-year-old Francesca Caccini, an Italian composer, singer, lute player, poet and music teacher. She was one of the best known and most influencial European female composers of the era, and wrote or co-wrote 16 staged works in her lifetime.

1645 – Matthew Hopkins, better known as the infamous ‘Witchfinder General’ began his career by finding Elizabeth Clarke, an 80-year-old woman with only one leg, guilty of witchcraft. She was excuted by hanging in Manningtree, Essex.

1689-1694 – joint reign of Mary II and William of Orange

1702-1714 – reign of Anne.  The 1707 Act of Union made Anne the first ruler of Great Britain.

1792 – Mary Wollstonecraft publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

1805 – Mary Seacole was born. Born in Jamaica, Mary’s mother was a Jamaican nurse who kept a boarding house for invalid soldiers. Mary’s father in fact was a Scottish soldier himself. After learning nursing skills from her mother, Mary opened her own hotel for sick soldiers in Jamaica. But when the Crimean war began around the Black Sea in Europe in 1854, Mary was determined to offer her services. The British War Office turned down her services so Seacole went by herself and set up her own ‘hotel’, providing a resting place for sick and convalescing soldiers. She also visited the battlefields, often under fire, to nurse the wounded and became known as ‘Mother Seacole’. Her reputation rivaled Florence Nightingale.

1816 – On January 8th Sophie Germain was awarded a grand prize by the French Academy of Sciences for work on the mathematics of vibration, foundational to the construction of skyscrapers today.

1837-1901 – reign of Victoria

1867 – John Stuart Mill called for the inclusion of women’s suffrage in the Reform Act of 1867 in a petition that he presented to Parliament.

1873 – Margaret Bondfield born. Campaigned for pensions and was member of the National Pensions Committee which helped bring  about the 1908 Old Age Pension Act – the world’s first act on pensions.

1879 – On May 30th 1879 Vanessa Bell, who is considered to be one of the major contributors to 20th Century British portrait drawing and landscape was born.

1880 – Mary Macarthur born. Campaigned tirelessly for women of all classes through union and suffrage movements and was also an anti war campaigner.

1882 – On January 25th 1882 English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories Virginia Woolf was born. Woolf is regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the 20th century.

1903 – Marie Curie wins the Nobel Prize for her work on radioactivity and the discovery of radium.

1903 – The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) is founded by Emmeline Pankhurst, along with her daughters Sylvia and Christabel.

1905 – On October 10th Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney are the first women to be arrested in the fight for women’s votes.

1906 – Mary Macarthur founds the National Federation of Women Workers (NFWW).

1908Suffragettes chain themselves to the railings of Number 10 Downing Street.

1913 – Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison is killed after throwing herself in front of the Kings horse at the Epsom Derby.

1918 – Women over the age of 30 given the vote (UK)

1919 – Nancy Astor becomes first female MP to take her seat in parliament.
– Sex Discrimination (Removal) Act rules that women cannot be barred from any profession on grounds of sex or marital status.

1928 – Women given the vote on the same terms as men (UK)

1928 – Radcliffe Hall’s controversial novel about a lesbian relationship ‘The Well of Loneliness’ was published. Within weeks it was declared obscene and withdrawn from the shelves, leaving the author facing an obscenity trial.

1938 – Virginia Woolf’s groundbreaking feminist anti militarist essay, The Three Guineas is published.  Woolf wrote the essay to answer three questions, each from a different society: From an anti-war society: “How should war be prevented?” From a women’s college building fund: “Why does the government not support education for women?” (Actually, the fund was a metaphor for family private funds to send the “boys of the family” to college and not the women. Woolf questioned this practice, but it was never about government supported schooling for women, but for all people) From a society promoting employment of professional women: “Why are women not allowed to engage in professional work?”1941 – The National Service act was passed which introduced conscription for unmarried women between the age of 20 and 30.

1945 – On June 19th Burma’s pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi is born.

1947 – Newly independent India decrees there should be no discrimination against women on basis of gender alone.

1949 – Simone De Beauvoir publishes The Second Sex.

1952 – The coronation of Elizabeth II.

1955 – Rosa Parks unwitting sparked the black civil rights movement in the USA when she refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white man in Montgomery, Alabama.

1959 – The Tibetan Women’s Uprising. It was March 12, 1959 a day after the NationalUprising Day, thousands of women gathered infront of the PotalaPalace in Lhasa to peacefully protest against the illegal occupationof Tibet. Chinese authorities responded by restoring to brute forceand arrested the leaders of the movement and many other innocent women. They were sentenced to indefinite prison terms, and manyof them were mercilessly beaten to death. However, these repressivemeasures did not dampen the women’s courage. They did not let themselves be cowered by the Chinese. The historical event was the spark thatinitiated the Tibetan women’s movement for Freedom. The Tibetan Women’s Uprising Day on March 12 was memorialized by all the regional branches of the Tibetan Women’sAssociation in India, Nepal and overseas. The commemoration is observedevery year with the prayers for those who sacrificed their livesfor the national cause. TWA statements are released and variousactivities such as candle vigils, peaceful demonstrations, peacemarches, hunger strikes, shouting slogans, showing banners, distributionsof pamphlets and press conferences are organised at different venues. The appeal letter to the United Nations,UN Human Rights Commission, and also to the President of People’sRepublic of China is also submitted

1961 – Marie Stopes Clinic starts sessions for unmarried women to gain advice and access to birth control – something which was previously taboo.

1963 – Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space when the Vostok 6 orbits the earth 38 times.

1963 – Betty Friedan publishes the feminist classic The Feminine Mystique.

1967 – Dame Cicely Saunders founds the worlds first hospice, St Christophers in Sydenham, South London.

1967 – The Abortion Act became law, legalising abortion under certain conditions.

1969 – No marital fault required – breakdown of marriage made grounds for divorce.

1970 – Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch is published.

1975 – The Sex Discrimination Act and The Equal Pay Act were introduced in Britain.

1976 – Jayaben Desai becomes the main voice of a group of workers striking against racist work practices at Grunwick film processing factory in North West London. It was the first strike of BME workers that garnered mainstream union support. However once heavy policing tactics were used on the strikers union support started to evaporate. The struggle continued for another two years and in the end the strike was lost but Desai had become a national figure and a vocal opponent of sexism and racism in the work place.

1977 – Jacqueline Means ordained After an “irregular” ordination, Jacqueline Means was formally and officially ordained by the Episcopal Church (USA), making her the first woman ordained in the Episcopal Church with official sanction.

1979 – On May 4th Margaret Thatcher was elected Conservative Prime Minister

1981 – On September 5th the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp was born. On the 5th September 1981, the Welsh group “Women for Life on Earth” arrived on Greenham Common, Berkshire, England. They marched from Cardiff with the intention of challenging, by debate, the decision to site 96 Cruise nuclear missiles there. On arrival they delivered a letter to the Base Commander which among other things stated ‘We fear for the future of all our children and for the future of the living world which is the basis of all life’.

1991 – Rape within marriage is finally made illegal.

1997 – Labour election victory doubles the amount of female MPs, doubling the number of female MPs from 9% to 18% – a historic first.

2007 – Jacqui Smith becomes the first female home secretary.

2009- in February 2009 the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Campaigners won the right to continue their legal protest.

2010 – First female Muslim MPs elected to parliament. Rushanara Ali, Shabana Mahmood and Yasmin Qureshi are all labour MPs.