Now, we know that International Women’s Day was celebrated on Tuesday but it is a little known fact that March actually signified Women’s History Month especially in the United States as the first International Women’s Day is traced back to 1911 in New York. Of course, every day, week and month is dedicated to women here at 54 St James Street and The Women’s Organisation as this building is the Women’s International Centre for Economic Development (WICED) and is a bustling place of female owned or led businesses and the team behind The Women’s Organisation.
When the building was being built it was decided that all of meeting, conference and event rooms and spaces would be named after inspirational women who we believed achieved great and important things in the lifetime. The Women’s Organisation wanted to honour these women and keep their names on everyone’s lips and their work in the front of everyone’s mind for decades to come.
In this blog, we’d like to introduce you to the women of 54 St James Street, so when you visit our building, you’ll understand when we direct you to the Roddick Rooms or Simey Suite!
Here are The Women of 54 St James Street…
Rita Bebbington - Rita Bebbington, who is sadly no longer with us, but whose commitment to equality and social justice continues to influence our work. As one of the founding members of Train 200, the forerunner to The Women's Organisation, Rita played an instrumental role, not only as a board member but also by dedicating a great deal of time, energy and passion on a voluntary basis. Her memory lives on in all of us as we strive to live up to her goal to change and improve the economic position of women. Read more about Rita here.
Margaret Simey - Margaret Bayne Todd was born in Glasgow and was a political and social campaigner but is usually more associated with Liverpool, settling here in the 1920's and becoming the first woman to achieve a degree in sociology. She married Tom Simey, a political scientist at Liverpool University; he was later awarded a life peerage by Harold Wilson, but she did not use the title "Lady Simey". They had one son. Serving as a magistrate in Liverpool, Margaret was awarded an honorary doctorate of the University of Liverpool for her services to the community and in 2002 was offered the honour of Freeman of the City of Liverpool, but declined. Read more about Margaret here.
Rosa Parks - Rosa Parks was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. Rose’s mother was a schoolteacher and her father was a carpenter. At the age of nineteen Rosa married a man named Raymond Parks who at the time was a barber. Rosa and her husband were both involved in various civil rights causes. She was very influential in all aspects of the Civil Rights movement, but her biggest contribution was the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Read more about Rosa here.
Aung San Suu Kyi - Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese opposition politician and chairperson of the National League for Democracy in Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi has won numerous international awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament and the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom. She has called on people around the world to join the struggle for freedom in Burma, saying ‘Please use your liberty to promote ours.’ Read more about Aung San Suu Kyi here.
Kitty Wilkinson - Catherine Wilkinson was born in Derry, Ireland and was an Irish immigrant 'wife of a labourer' who became known as the Saint of the Slums. In 1832, during a cholera epidemic, Wilkinson took the initiative to offer the use of her house and yard to neighbours to wash their clothes, at a charge of 1 penny per week, and showed them how to use a chloride of lime to get them clean. Read more about Kitty here.
Millicent Fawcett - Millicent also took a keen interest in women's education. She was involved in the organisation of women's lectures at Cambridge that led to the establishment of Newnham College. In 1890 Millicent Fawcett was elected president of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). She believed that it was important that the NUWSS campaigned for a wide variety of causes. Read more about Millicent here.
Eleanor Rathbone - Eleanor Florence Rathbone was born in London and educated at home by a governess and private tutors before entering Somerville College, Oxford in 1893. At university Rathbone became involved in the struggle to obtain women the vote and eventually became a leading figure in the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). Read more about Eleanor here.
Marie Curie - Marie Curie was famous for her pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first person to be honoured with two Nobel prizes in physics and chemistry. Marie Curie developed methods for the separation of radiation from radioactive residues in sufficient quantities to allow for its characterisation and the careful study of its properties, therapeutic properties in particular. Read more about Marie here.
Josephine Butler - Born in Northumberland, Josephine Elizabeth Butler was a Victorian era British Feminist who was especially concerned with the welfare of prostitutes. She led the long campaign for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts both in Britain and internationally from 1869 to 1886. Read more about Josephine here.
Anita Roddick - Born in Sussex, Dame Anita Roddick, DBE was a British businesswoman, human rights activist and environmental campaigner, best known as the founder of The Body Shop, a cosmetics company producing and retailing beauty products that shaped ethical consumerism. The company was one of the first to prohibit the use of ingredients tested on animals and one of the first to promote fair trade with third world countries. Read more about Anita here.
Valerie Amos - Baroness Valerie Amos is the eighth UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. There are many ‘firsts’ in the biography of Baroness Valerie Amos. She was the first black woman to become the Leader of the House of Lords and a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. Read more about Valerie Amos here.
We are very proud to honour these inspirational women at 54 St James Street!