And Yorkshire is no exception when it comes to being a birthplace of women who have overcome obstacles, broken down gender barriers and made outstanding contributions.
From the Bronte sisters, to Olympians such as Sheffield's Jessica Ennis and Leeds' Nicola Adams, to Dame Judi Dench from York, the region is home to many women who have led the way and become household names.
But what about the women you may not have heard of? For every well-known female figure from Yorkshire, there are many others whose work as lawyers, scientists, visionaries, educators and grassroots campaigners continues to have an impact on society but for whom the praise is overdue.
Here are some of the women who have campaigned, cycled, coded and cared for the vulnerable whose successes should be celebrated.
A nationally renowned lawyer, the cases that Ruth Bundey has worked on over the years have been some of the most well-known and high profile, from Yorkshire serial killer Peter Sutcliffe to the "Bradford 12". The Leeds lawyer has built a national reputation fighting for vulnerable people and marginalised communities, such as victims of domestic violence and racism. Ms Bundey represented victims of murderer Sutcliffe. She also represented the family of Hull soldier Christopher Alder, who was killed after being taken into police custody. An inquest into Mr Alder's death found he had been unlawfully killed, although no one has ever been criminally convicted over his death.
Claire Throssell has become an unstoppable campaigner fighting for victims of domestic abuse in recent years, after her two sons were killed in a house fire in 2014 started by their father - and her estranged husband - Darren Sykes. Since the tragedy, the Penistone mother has fought for children to be legally recognised as victims of domestic abuse and for more protection for abuse victims going through family court battles. Last year, she was awarded MBE for her unflinching work to give more domestic abuse victims a voice.
When it comes to cycling, Yorkshire is on the world podium. From Otley's Lizzie Armitstead to Huddersfield's Ed Clancy, to the region's continued role in the cycling calendar each year with the Tour de Yorkshire, the region's contribution to the sport is by no means insignificant. But have you heard of Beryl Burton? Born in Leeds and raised in Morley, she became a world cycling champion within a few years of being introduced to the sport by her husband. Burton broke gender boundaries in the 1950s and 60s – a time when female competitive cyclists were practically unheard of.
Very few people have heard of Kathleen Wrasama. Born in Ethiopia and brought to England by Church missionaries in 1917, the community figure endured extreme hardship in the early years of her life in a children's home in Yorkshire, leading her to run away and find work as a farm labourer. Moving to London in the 1930s, she went on to found the Stepney Coloured People's Association, supporting people in the community facing racism by improving relations, education and housing issues. In 2018, she was cited by The Voice newspaper as one of eight Black women who contributed to British history, although there has been little written or documented about her life. Her exact date of death remains unknown.
The campaigning of working class women working in mills was instrumental during women's fight for suffrage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of these was Dora Thewlis, a young mill worker from the Huddersfield village of Honley who became fired up watching Emmeline Pankhurst speak during a visit to the town. Moving to London while still a teenager, she went on to be dubbed as 'The Baby Suffragette'. Thewlis was photographed aged 17 being arrested after storming Parliament – the picture was splashed across the front of the Daily Mirror and turned into a postcard where it wrongly dubbed her as a "Lancashire lass".
Headteacher Claire Birkenshaw is the UK's first transgender teacher to transition while in post after coming out in 2015 during her time at a school in Hull. In an interview last year with The Yorkshire Post, she described the "inner turmoil" of experiencing gender dysphoria from a young age and "not wanting to die not being me". Ms Birkenshaw studied a PGCE at Hull University before going on to teach in the city. She now works at Leeds Beckett University lecturing in childhood and education, and has given talks about her experience of gender dysphoria and transitioning.
Another educator, Gertrude Paul became the first Black headteacher in Leeds when in 1974 she rose to the top job at Elmhurst Middle School in the city. A stalwart community figure in the city's booming West Indian community in Chapeltown, Ms Paul was one of the founders of the Leeds West Indian Carnival which remains the country's longest running to date. She was also a co-founder and President of the city's United Caribbean Association and served on the Government's Commission for Racial Equality. In 2011, Elmhurst School - now known as Bracken Edge Primary - unveiled a blue plaque commemorating Gertrude Paul, who died in 1992 aged 57 in her birthplace of St Kitts.
Karen Spärck Jones
At a time when computer scientists were beginning to understand computers, Karen Spärck Jones was working on ways to get them to understand us. Born in Huddersfield in 1935, the pioneer conceived the concept of inverse document frequency – the technology upon which modern search engines are based. The scientist once famously said "computing is too important to be left to men", and through her research developed a way to combine statistics with linguistics. The concept is considered the basic principle behind internet search engines and was discovered in 1972 – 18 years before the first search engine was created. Ms Spärck Jones died in 2007 but a belated obituary in the New York Times' 2019 Overlooked No More series described her as "a pioneer of computer science" and an "advocate for women in the field".
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