Where Are All The Women? The Curious Case of London's Street Names - RightsInfo

Where Are All The Women? The Curious Case of London’s Street Names

Most of Londoners are familiar with Russell Square, a beautiful garden in the centre of Bloomsbury. However, for one day only it’s taken on a new name – Pankhurst Square.

The new campaign, launched by the human rights lawyers at Doughty Street, aims to rectify that the majority of the capital’s street names commemorate men – despite the fact our city has come up with some pretty inspiring female figures across the ages.

As well as Russell Street, familiar haunts such as Grey’s Inn Road, Guildford Street and Lamb’s Conduit Street also got a makeover.

‘Too Often Forgotten’

Image Credit: Doughty Street Chambers / RightsInfo

Explaining the reasoning behind the campaign, the team said: “Doughty Street Chambers – and the #DoughtyStWomen – are proud to be based in Bloomsbury, with its rich history of inspirational women leaders from politics, law, journalism, and art.”

Within a few hundred metres of our chambers are buildings where the suffragettes built their campaigns, as well as the home of the first women barrister in England and Wales

“Within a few hundred metres of our chambers are buildings where the suffragettes built their campaigns, as well as the former home of the first women barrister in England and Wales.”

Helena Normanton QC, who lived in Mecklenburgh Square, had always aspired to be a barrister, however, her initial application to become a student in 1918 failed.

She reapplied in 1919, within hours of the Sex Disqualification Act coming into force, going on to become the first woman barrister, and the first British woman to be issued a passport in her maiden name.

Professionally, she was also the first woman to lead a prosecution in a murder trial, and obtain a divorce for her client. She was undeniably a trailblazer – yet there is little recognition in the area of her existence.

The Doughty Street team have also recently applied for a blue commemorative plaque in Helena’s name.

‘Not Profiled in Their Own Right’

Image Credit: Doughty Street Chambers / RightsInfo

“Yet, the streets we walk every day, are named instead for men,” the team continues.

“Many of them wealthy landowners or benefactors whose public contribution stemmed principally from their wealth.

“Of the women honoured on our street signs now, many are profiled not in their own right but simply as the wives of historically high-profile men.”

A previous analysis found that less than 30 percent of the street names in London were named after women, with a similar situation in other cities such as Mumbai, Paris and San Francisco.

Featured Image: Doughty Street Chambers

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About the Author

Jem Collins

Strategic Impact Director
Jem is the Strategic Impact Director for RightsInfo, working on increasing our reach across the UK and measuring our impact. Previously she was the News and Social Media Editor. She is also passionate about helping young people into the media and runs Journo Resources, a start-up which helps young people into the media, as well as serving as a trustee of the Student Publication Association. She is also one of the co-founders of The Second Source, a group to help end harassment in the media. Email Jem View all posts by Jem Collins.
Where Are All The Women? The Curious Case of London’s Street Names
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