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Derbyshire Women Groundbeaking Pioneers  

Main definitions of pioneer in English​



  • 1A person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area.

    1. 1.1 A person who is among the first to research and develop a new area of knowledge or activity.

  • Source:    

  • A pioneer is a term usually applied to individuals or a group who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others. In our context we are using the word pioneer as an adjective to describe women who are the first or among the earliest in any field of inquiry, enterprise, or progress: pioneers in the arts, politics, education and so on or indeed women in Derby and Derbyshire who were the first to do something nationally, regionally or locally. These amazing women are change-makers who literally broke the ground for the many women who come after them. These women are our heroes, our giants on whose shoulder contemporary and subsequent generations will stand to achieve 'greatness'. In celebration of the upcoming Centenary we have compiled a list and associated biographies of Derby & Derbyshire Groundbreaking Pioneers. 

Parkash Ahluwalia, MBE

Parkash Ahluwalia, MBE - Derbyshire's first Asian Woman Police Officer.

Norah Aiton

Norah Aiton -  (1903–1988) was a British architect who was an early proponent of the modernist style. British architect Norah Aiton founded the architectural practice of Aiton & Scott in conjunction with her business partner Betty Scott in 1930. Norah and Betty designed the building for the Aiton & Company manufacturing business. It was one of the first to exhibit modernist industrial architecture. Scott had a more eclectic style and let Aiton function as the sole pioneer for modernism. Since only a few females worked as architects at the time, this effort still counts as an impressive feat.

Mary Attenborough

Mary Attenborough - 1897 Sawley Derbyshire  was a writer and founding member of Marriage Guidance Council.

Dame Margaret Beckett

Dame Margaret Beckett - Longstanding Member of Parliament; First woman to both lead the Parliamentary Labour Party and serve as Foreign Secretary. Margaret Beckett has been MP for Derby South since 1983. On March 24th 2017 she became longest serving woman MP of all time.

Freda Bedi

- (1911–1977) social worker, writer and Gelongma (Pioneer Western Buddhist Monk)

Catherine Booth

Catherine Booth - nee Mumford, a founder member of the Salvation Army 

Deborah Bull CBE

Deborah Bull CBE -  is an English dancer, writer, and broadcaster and former creative director of the Royal Opera House.?

Eileen Cooper

Eileen Cooper - Major British Figurative Artist (painter and print-maker). First Woman to be appointed Keeper of the Royal Academy in 2011.

Catherine Cook

Catherine Cook - Derby's second Labour Councillor and a Magistrate, Mrs Cook started work aged 11 in The Silk Mill and rose the Co-op and Poor Law Service. She was returned in Rowditch in 1928 and 1931. She was described as a leading light in the Cooperative Movement. Source: Derby Daily Telegraph 26 Oct 1928 and Davies, Sam and Morley Bob (1999) County Borough Elections in England and Wales, 1919–1938: A Comparative Analysis, Volume 2 Chester to East Ham. Routledge.

Rowena Cade

- Architect Designed The Minack Theatre Cornwall Sister of Katharine Burdekin

Barbara Castle

Barbara Castle - This late Labour MP was one of the party's most important figures in the last century. Her many accolades include introducing family planning clinics and free contraception, ensuring child benefits were paid directly to mothers and waging a fierce battle for the Equal Pay Act

Frances Bush

Frances Bush - Pioneering Industrialist, Entrepreneur

Florence Hilda Cross

Florence Hilda Cross - Educator Suffragette, Belper and Derby. Florence  was a Derby Suffragette susected of being involved in the fire at All Saints Chruch Breadsal on June 4th 1914. She is also listed as Hilda Cross in The Roll of Honour of Suffragette Prisoners 1905-1914. Florence died aged 36 inthe The Charfield railway disaster on 13 October 1928

​​​​Derby Duckies

​​Derby Duckies' -  In 1915 6 women, including Grace Lloyd, Gertrude Harris and Florence Dawson became the very first women  women bus Conductors 'Duckies' in Derby Transport Services. 

Kathy Ellis

Kathy Ellis  - was the first woman engineer to join the reactor core design team at Rolls-Royce.

Delia El-Hosayny

Delia El-Hosayny - Believed to be Britain's first woman bouncer from Derby who became a pub door woman in 1985 aged 18

Joanna Ewing

Joanna Ewing, 63 - named in a roll of honour of 500 people to make a Living kidney donation since changes to the law

Squash Falconer

Squash Falconer - Adventurer​ First British woman to climb and paraglide from the summit of Everest

Florence French

Florence French - leading campaigner for women's suffrage in Glossop and one of the founders of Glossop Labour Club

Elisabeth Freeman

Elisabeth Freeman -born Chesterfield, Derbyshire, Sept 12, 1876 (d. 1942). Anglo-American militant suffragist and pacifist who opposed World War I; organised suffrage protests including leading a yellow gypsy wagon in DC; NAACP Anti-Lynching Campaign in Texas 1916; first women’s train on presidential campaign 1916.

Sunita Gamblin

Sunita Gamblin - Highest ranking woman Officer in Derbyshire and first Asian Woman Chief Supt,  Derbyshire Police

Rhoda Garrett

Rhoda Garrett 1841- 1882 - born in Derbyshire was a English Suffragists and Interior Designer. Along with her cousin Agnes Garrett she opened the first Interior design company, Agnes and Rhoda, run by women in Britain in 1875. She decorated the home of her fellow Suffragist and cousin Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (the first woman to qualify as a Dr and a surgeon and first elected woman mayor) and leader of the NUWSS Millicent Garrett Fawcett published several books on interior design. She was member of the Royal Archaeological Society and from its foundations a member of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings.  Leeds and Newark in June 1871. She was an executive member of the Central Committee of the National Society for Women's Suffrage when it formed in 1872. 

​​Marjorie Hamilton

​​Marjorie Hamilton - Suffragette, artist later a Matron of a girls home in Canada she was born in Derbyshire in 1882 'Unknown' Suffrage Artist whose designs graced many bills and the front cover of the Suffragette member of the WSPU. We have no record of her death

Jean Emmeline Hanson

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Jean Emmeline Hanson - 14 November 1919 – 10 August 1973 was born in Newhall Derbyshire. While working at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she, with Hugh Huxley, discovered the mechanism of movement of muscle fibre in 1954, which came to known as "sliding filament theory". This was a groundbreaking research in muscle physiology, and for this BBC nicknamed her "Mrs Muscle" on the 50th anniversary of the discovery. She died in London on 10 August 1973 from a rare brain infection, meningococcal septicaemia. Her biography on the King's College London website lists  Jean as a Bio-medical Hero

Alison Hargreaves

Alison Hargreaves - First woman to scale Mount Everest unassisted. First climber to scale all the great north  faces of the Alps in a single season.

Helen Kathleen Hawkins  OBE

Helen Kathleen Hawkins  OBE- M.A. (London) succeeded Canon Bater to be appointed The first woman principal of the Lichfield and Southwell Diocesan Training College, Derby (later Derby Teacher Training College) Period of tenure 1927-1952. She was later awarded an OBE and was appointed by the government to develop the education system in the West Indies. She died on May 1985, aged 96

Betty Heathfield

Betty Heathfield -  leading figure in the Miners' Wives Support Groups during the UK miners' strike (1984–1985)

Rachel Hopkins

Rachel Hopkins  the first woman to captain a men's team in the Derbyshire County League

Mrs E.J. Hulse

Mrs E.J. Hulse - Derby's First woman Conservative Councillor in 1918. She won Derwent Ward but she retired before the  local elections in 1921. She stood again but lost in 1924.

Mrs Jones

Mrs Jones  - Labours's first woman Councillor in Derby was returned in Pear Tree in 1924 and 1927 and won two further elections for Osmaston Ward.

​Gurmit Kaur MBE

Gurmit Kaur MBE  - of Derby, first Safer Schools officer in Nottingham. In 2006, she became the first Asian woman police inspector in Nottinghamshire.

Dame Laura Knight DBE, RA RWS

Dame Laura Knight DBE, RA RWS  - (4 August 1877 – 7 July 1970) Born in Long Eaton in 1877. Artist working  in oils, watercolours, etching, engraving and drypoint. In 1929 she was created a Dame, and in 1936 became the first woman elected to the Royal Academy since its foundation in 1768.

Sarah Kirkland 1794 - 1880

Sarah Kirkland 1794 - 1880

Sarah Kirkland, born Mercaston, Derbyshire was the first Primitive Methodist female travelling preacher in spite of the fact that she retired from the itinerancy in 1820 so that her name never appeared on the stations.

Libby Lane

Libby Lane - Born Elizabeth Jane Holden in Buckinghamshire, raised in Derbyshire  is the first woman CoE Bishop in England

Edith Lyttelton Gell

Edith Lyttelton Gell - indefatigable writer of devotional poems, hymns, and moralistic tracts; Her book The Happy Warrior, sold over 400,000 copies between 1914 and 1918

Fleur Lombard

Fleur Lombard Queens Gallantry Medal QGM - HERo,  First woman firefighter to die on duty in peacetime Britain

Dame Hilary Mary Mantel

Dame Hilary Mary Mantel - First women to be awarded the Booker Prize Twice

Violet Markham

Violet Markham - First Woman Councillor 1924 and Mayor of Chesterfield 1927. Having been a vocal opponent of women's suffrage and a strong supporter of Women's National Anti-Suffrage League, she stood as an Independent Liberal for the Mansfield Division of Nottinghamshire in the 1918 general election.

Tina Martin

Tina Martin -  Derbyshire Constabulary. Catalyst, founder member and former Chairperson British Association Women Police (BAWP) Tina was also awarded the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) honour of International Officer of the Year for 1987 in recognition of her work to develop membership of the IAWP

​Helen McArthur

Helen McArthur - Sports Woman/Adventurer  Record breaking solo yacthswoman 2005

Janet Elizabeth McFarlane

The Bishop of Repton, The Venerable Janet Elizabeth McFarlane, BMedSci, BA - First Woman Bishop for Derbyshire and East Midlands Consecrated at Canterbury

 Emma Miller

 Emma Miller - pioneer trade union organiser, suffragist, and key role in  founding of the Australian Labour Party ​

Prof Kathryn Mitchell

Prof Kathryn Mitchell - First Woman Chancellor University of Derby

Anne Mozley

Anne Mozley - 17th Sept 1809 in Gainsborough she died in Derby on 27 June 1891. Author of several books and papers Anne also  made a  considerable contribution as an editor. Her inclusion here both recognises her contribution to literature but also addresses the fact that she 'wrote invisibly' for most of her life. 

National Housewives Association Founders

Sandra Brookes - consumer rights activist and co-founder of the National Housewives Association in Derby in 1973 

June Wall/Lower  - Campaigning Journalist and Co-founder founder and vice-chairman of the National Housewife Association 

She came into journalism by accident. Starting her working life as a nurse at Derby Royal Infirmary in her thirties, she decided to gives housewives a voice in a national organisation she co-founded with Sandra Brookes.

As National Housewives Association vice chairman and press officer she went on the offensive to fight injustices and right perceived wrong

Ivy Ryalls - Founder member the National Housewives Association Derby

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale - Nursing/Medical Pioneer and Statistician. She is also Barbara Bodichon's cousin. See listing for Anne Longdon

Lady Madeleine Emma Onslow

Lady Madeleine Emma Onslow - married Alexander Campbell Onslow, former Chief Justice of Western Australia on 2 Mar 1878. Madeleine was an accomplished musician and a prominent worker in the cause of women's suffrage. The Karrakatta Club was founded by her in conjunction with American Dr. Emily Ryder, in 1884. Lady Onslow was the president of the club until she left the State in 1901(due to her husband’s ill health) to return to England.  Alexander Onslow died in Belper Derbyshire on 20th October 1908.  Madeleine continued to work to achieve the franchise for women in  the United Kingdom. 

Hollie  Pearne-Webb

Hollie Webb - Olympic Gold Medal Hockey Player

Elizabeth Petty

Elizabeth Petty -  (1875–1947) She was a former Poor Law Guardian and the second woman elected to Derby City Council winning Dale Ward in 1922. She was a Conservative and was elected the First Woman Mayor of Derby in 1936 (There have been Mayors in Derby since 1835). She was Derby's most successful female politician at that time in terms of her longevity. She returned to the Council 6 times, 4 times unopposed. She was a Councillor at the outbreak of WW II. Reports of her political concerns including her work with Belgian Refugees in 1914 and again with Basque child refugees fleeing Franco's Rebel army in 1937, her concern for women and children are indicative of early 'feminist sympathies' and suggests that she was a liberal Conservative. Source: Derby Daily Telegraph 2 Nov. 1922 and 26 Oct 1928.

Chantelle Reid

Chantelle Reid - YouthWorld and European Championship Boxer

Sheila Rollinson

Sheila Rollinson -  Founder and now club secretary Derby County Ladies. Winner FA Outstanding Contribution to Women's Football Award 2014. Points of Light Award Winner 2015

Jasvinder Sanghera

Jasvinder Sanghera - Pioneer, Activist.​ Forced Marriage and 'Honour Killing'

Beth Seymour

   Beth Seymour - Pioneer Trans Rights Activist

Agnes Elizabeth Slack

Agnes Elizabeth Slack -  (1857–1946) was a British and international temperance organiser.

Rose Smith

Rose Smith (10 May 1891 – 23 July 1985) was a British communist activist, educator and union organiser

Olave St Clair Baden-Powell

Olave St Clair Baden-Powell, Baroness Baden-Powell - Scout and Girl Guide Movements

Elizabeth Talbot

Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (Bess of Hardwick Hall) - a formidable figure, a four times widowed dowager who was one of the wealthiest and most influential women in England after Elizabeth I

Jean Timms

Jean Timms (née Stone) who at the age of 17 in 1941 became the first woman mechanic in the Derbyshire Fire Service Research is ongoing

Joan Waste

Joan Waste - (1534–1556), blind martyr burned to death at age 22. Protestant Martyr Joan Waste, of Derby, who was burned at the stake for heresy in 1556

Helen Wathall

Helen Wathall  - Managing Director G. Wathall & Son Ltd and  the only woman appointed to Golden Charter Board. In 2002, Helen Wathall was honoured to be the first woman to be elected as President of the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors ( which represents over 700 Independent Funeral Directors from all over the UK).

 Jessie Webster

 Jessie Webster - Derbyshire's first warranted Woman Police Officer

Anne Western

Anne Western - Leader Derbyshire Councty Council, Cabinet member for strategic policy and budget since May 2013 and Councillor for Barlborough and Clowne.

Dame Vivienne Westwood

Dame Vivienne Westwood - Fashion Designer, Environmental Activist

Kath Westacott

Kath Westacott  - Communist. Leading peace campaigner, teacher, she was involved in the tenant’s movement and the fight for comprehensive education amd  in Chesterfield, arguably outlining the broad to be followed that was won in the wider labour movement.

Alice Wheeldon

Alice Wheeldon -  (1866–1919) pacifist and anti-war campaigner, was an early socialist, feminist and a Suffragette. This listing also references the actions of  Winnie and Alf Mason 

Mary Williams

Mary Williams aka Mother May  - Black Church Pioneer

Prof Cecile Wright

Prof Cecile Wright - Pioneer African Caribbean Professor in Derby, Political and Community Activist

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