From the Brontes to Betty Boothroyd – the women from Yorkshire who have made history

For most of history, Anonymous was a woman – so the saying goes.

Yorkshire's female icons:(Left to right) Leonora Cohen, Nicola Adams, Amy Johnson

This International Women's Day, The Yorkshire Post is focusing on some of the women who have made a difference and whose contributions and achievements deserve to be celebrated.

As well as a list of some of the region's lesser-known women who have educated, campaigned and inspired, here are some of the most prolific female figures associated with Yorkshire who have made history, whether that is by writing world-celebrated novels, flying planes across the globe, fighting for the vote or winning gold medals on the Olympic stage.

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Here are just a few of the women from Yorkshire who made history.

The Bronte sisters

Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte

People across the world know the names of the Bronte sisters, responsible for some of the most celebrated works of literature of all time. The writers' names are synonymous with the rugged landscapes and cobbled streets of Yorkshire. Under the pseudonyms Acton, Ellis and Currer Bell, the three sisters from Haworth penned works that included Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which have gone on to be published in at least 67 languages and produced for both the big and small screens.

Amy Johnson

Hull's Amy Johnson was the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia, gaining worldwide recognition. After gaining her pilot's licence, she purchased her first aircraft - a Gipsy Moth named Jason after her father's business trademark - which would become the same one she would use to fly across the planet in 1930. Two years later, she would set another record for flying solo from London to Cape Town, and in 1933 a plane she was flying alongside husband Jim Mollison crash landed in Connecticut while the pair were flying to Brooklyn, New York. Both survived with just cuts and bruises. The following year, Johnson and Mollison broke another record for the time flying from Britain to India, and later that year she became the youngest President of the Women's Engineering Society. Johnson served in WWII as part of the Air Transport Auxiliary before disappearing in 1941 when the Airspeed Oxford she was flying flew off course and crashed into the Thames Estuary.

Record-breaking pilot Amy Johnson. Picture: Getty

Leonora Cohen

It is difficult to cherry-pick just one of the many notable suffragette figures from Yorkshire whose collective fight culminated in women being granted the right to vote, but perhaps one of the most well-known is Leonora Cohen – most famous for smashing a glass cabinet in the Tower of London's Jewel House. Cohen was born in Leeds and raised by a single, working class mother after her father died when she was just five. Her upbringing played a large role in her career as an activist, later claiming it had been her mother's "lack of empowerment that radicalised her". She later became a prominent figure in the women's movement and was also part of The Bodyguard – a collective of Women's Social and Political Union members acting as bodyguard for Emmeline Pankhurst and other well-known suffragettes. Cohen was arrested several times during the fight for the vote, and went on hunger strike while at Armley Gaol. Later in life, she became the first female president of the Yorkshire Federation of Trades Councils and one of the first women to be appointed to the bench as a magistrate. She lived to the impressive age of 105.

Alice Bacon

The daughter of a miner, Yorkshire's first female MP Alice Bacon would go on to bring comprehensive schools to children across the country, providing education to working class children. Bacon was born in Normanton, near Wakefield, and was just 16 when she joined the Labour Party - a decision which she later described as being "as natural as breathing" - and was elected as an MP for Leeds North East in 1945. Passionate about education, she spoke more than any other colleagues on the subject of comprehensive education while in Westminster. She served as the Labour Party's Chair between 1950 and 1951 and was later appointed CBE. Under Harold Wilson's Government, Bacon oversaw the creation of comprehensive schools and was later, on her retirement from the House of Commons in 1970, was named Baroness Bacon of Leeds.

Leeds suffragette Leonora Cohen

Barbara Hepworth

The name Barbara Hepworth is synonymous with sculpture. The sculptor was born in Wakefield and, although associated with living in St Ives, her work is displayed across West Yorkshire while the Hepworth Wakefield gallery was named in her honour. Dame Barbara's work is part of the modernist movement of sculpture, internationally renowned and displayed across the planet.

Betty Boothroyd

Another political force, Dewsbury's Betty Boothroyd is most well-known for becoming the first female Speaker of the House of Commons. A popular figure in Parliament, Baroness Boothroyd's predecessors and successors have been most well-known for yelling "order" while presiding over the Prime Minister's Questions, but her catchphrase of "right, time's up" quickly caught on. Since 1999, she has been an Honorary Fellow of St Hugh's College, Oxford, while in January 2001 she was appointed a life peer. In 2005, she was appointed the Order of Merit by the Queen for her service to politics.

Olympic champion boxer Nicola Adams

Nicola Adams

Leeds lass Nicola Adams put women's boxing on the map when she swiped a gold medal in the ring at London 2012, which was the first games to host female contestants. Known for her warmth and humbleness, Adams said winning the first gold as a female boxer "really made my day". She went on to compete again in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 games where she took another gold, and has also won gold in the 2016 AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships in Kazakhstan. Adams announced her retirement from the sport exclusively to her local paper, the Yorkshire Evening Post, in 2019. Last year, she made history again after it was announced Adams would be paired in the first same sex couple on Strictly Come Dancing, although sadly had to drop out of the contest in November after her partner, Katya Jones, tested positive for Covid-19.