Five Yorkshire female icons who deserved a place on the new passport

Amy Johnson in full flying gear at London Aeroplane Club. AMY Johnson 3
Amy Johnson in full flying gear at London Aeroplane Club. AMY Johnson 3
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What? Just two women on the new-look passport? You could have filled the entire 34 page document with inspiring female role models from Yorkshire says Sarah Freeman.

A few years ago, this paper ran a poll to find Yorkshire’s greatest ever man or woman. The categories, which included campaigners, trailblazers, sporting heroes, singers and musicians, stretched back centuries and were inevitably dominated by men. However, even we managed to include a significant number of women who had made their mark in an often male-dominated world.

Sadly, the Passport Office wasn’t so imaginative. Its latest passport design, which will be valid for the next five years, was unveiled this week to much criticism. Inspired by the theme Creative United Kingdom, the new look passport features just two women. The rest of the 34 pages are devoted to men and their achievements.

In the end our own search ended in victory for John Barry - even the most influential female thinker, politician or writer couldn’t beat a man who composed the James Bond theme tune - but the next time the Passport Office goes back to the drawing board, here’s a few home-grown icons which might just help close the gender divide

Barbara Hepworth

Leeds School of Art is fortunate to count Henry Moore among its alumni. It’s doubly blessed to have had Hepworth there are the same time. In fact it was she who carved the first of the pierced figures which became the pair’s distinctive style. Born in Wakefield, Hepworth won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, led a collective of artists in St Ives and while her legacy has often been overshadowed by Moore, the opening of the Hepworth Wakefield has helped put this remarkable woman back in the spotlight.

The Bronte Sisters

The Passport Office could have had three for the price of one had they chosen to include Yorskhire’s literary sisters. It’s not just a gripping story line which has won Charlotte’s Jane Eyre so many fans, it’s also the fact that here is a heroine who was ahead of her time - an independent, free-thinking young woman who was determined to have a marriage based on love not convenience.

Add in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, which has inspired countless plays, books and even a song by Kate Bush and their creative legacy is hard to argue with.

Sue Ryder

Not many people celebrate their silver wedding at a special mass with the Pope, but then Sue Ryder was always different. During the Second World War, having doctored her birth certificate to be accepted under-age, she joined an arm of the Special Operations Executive, which carried out espionage and reconnaissance across Poland. Later, as the Iron Curtain fell, she organised relief convoys carrying food and medical aid. However, it’s her eponymous charity which she is best-remembered for. Providing long-term palliative care, it now boasts more than 8,000 volunteers and 80 homes worldwide.

Amy Johnson

The Hull-born aviator did more for women’s rights than any number of political campaigners. Determined to show that women were the match of men, she completed her first solo flight to Australia in 1930 and record after record followed. During the Second World War, Johnson joined the newly formed Air Transport Auxiliary, but was sadly killed while delivering a plane which crashed in adverse weather conditions.

St Hilda

Arguably one of the greatest figures of early Christianity in the country. In 657 she founded Whitby Abbey. Two saints and five bishops were trained there, she encouraged our earliest poet the herdsman Caedmon and staged the Synod of Whitby at which the two branches of Christianity in the country were reconciled and accepted the same date for Easter. Not bad girl for a girl born just east of Leeds.