Remarkable women in history
Throughout history many women have refused to be defined by convention, helping to shape the modern world. From the political player who helped make Charles II king, to archaeologists, writers and social campaigners, learn more about these remarkable women and the places that inspired them.
- Elizabeth Murray
- Ham House was largely the vision of the remarkable Duchess of Lauderdale, Elizabeth Murray. Unusually for a woman in the 17th century, she played a significant role in the politics of the English Civil War and the restoration of the monarchy. She was an important supporter of Charles II while he was in exile and a member of the secret Royalist society, The Sealed Knot.Discover more at Ham House
- Mary Prince
- The first black woman to publish her experience of slavery, Mary Prince helped bring the realities of slavery in the Caribbean to English audiences. Her book, The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave, played an important role in the abolitionist movement. An art installation at Runnymede in Surrey marks her significant achievement.Discover more at Runnymede
- Clementine Churchill
- Clementine Churchill was much more than just Winston Churchill’s loving wife. She was a keen promoter of social and humanitarian causes, including women’s rights, often in defiance of her husband. Unafraid of Winston’s powerful allies or enemies, she espoused liberal values, and served as a cross-bench life peeress in her own right.Discover more at Chartwell
- Beatrix Potter
- Beloved children's author, sheep farmer and champion of the Lake District, Beatrix Potter was a woman ahead of her time. In addition to her lasting influence on children’s literature, she was a fierce campaigner for nature conservation and passionate protector of Herdwick sheep. She worked closely with the National Trust, helping acquire land with a view to long-term preservation.Discover more at Hill Top
- Alice Dryden
- Historian and photographer Alice Dryden – known affectionately as ‘Miss Alice’ – lived at Canons Ashby in the late 19th century. Her photographs of villages and village life are a fascinating glimpse at Northamptonshire in the 1880s and 90s. Alice also helped set up the Home Arts and Industries Association, which promoted the revival of country crafts, and campaigned to improve the lives of rural people.Discover more at Canon’s Ashby
- Edith May Pretty
- An English landowner with a passion for archaeology, Pretty paid for excavations on her land in 1938–39, which led to the discovery of the Sutton Hoo ship burial. This 7th-century Saxon vessel was most likely the last resting-place of King Raedwald of East Anglia. Edith also donated the burial goods found on the site to the British Museum and was offered a CBE by Winston Churchill (although she refused it).Discover more at Sutton Hoo
- Charlotte Payne-Townshend
- Champion of women's rights, Charlotte Payne-Townshend was a committed political activist, member of the Fabian Society and suffragette. She married George Bernard Shaw and they lived together at Shaw’s Corner. It is believed that his play, A Village Wooing, is based on their early relationship.Discover more at Shaw’s Corner
- Imogen Clare Holst
- An artistic polymath, Imogen Clare Holst CBE was an English author, composer, arranger, conductor, teacher, and festival administrator. Daughter of composer Gustav Holst, she was famous for her progressive educational work, and her role as joint artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival. She stayed at Paycocke’s House in 1923 and wrote: 'This house is a dream. And it is great fun living in a dream'.Discover more at Paycocke’s House
- Bess of Hardwick
- Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire stands thanks to the drive and determination of Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury. A political power of the Tudor age she was known to many simply as ‘Bess of Hardwick’. A shrewd figure, she rose to become a great power within Elizabethan society thanks to four well-placed marriages.Discover more at Hardwick Hall
- Catherine, Countess of Stamford
- A strong and ambitious woman, the Countess of Stamford was a former circus bareback rider, who defied Victorian society by marrying the Earl of Stamford and Warrington. When he died, she took over the running of the household and racing stables. She is remembered as a much-loved hostess and for her work in the local community.Discover more at Dunham Massey
Throughout history women artists have had many obstacles to overcome in order to pursue careers in the fine arts. Discover great women artists and their artworks in the National Trust collections.
Many of the places we care for were home to impassioned people who campaigned both for and against women’s suffrage. Find out about these campaigners, from Laura McLaren and George Bernard Shaw in favour, to Lord Curzon who was against it.
Discover the places and collections we care for that have connections to black histories. Learn more about the people behind these connections, including the lady of the house at Dyrham Park and a Kenyan-born poet, novelist and civil servant at 575 Wandsworth Road.
Learn more about the people with LGBTQ+ connections at the places we care for and why highlighting these stories is so important.