More Blue Plaques to Women

Blue plaques are placed on buildings historically associated with famous people. This is from Monday’s i paper:

It is “wrong” that so few blue heritage plaques are dedicated to women and there should be increased recognition of the female contribution to history, the chairman of English Heritage has said.

Only 13% of London’s blue plaques – attached to the former homes of people who have contributed to society – are dedicated to women,out of a total of 902 signs. Sir Tim Laurence, who heads the charity, urged the public to do its part in improving the gender balance. “We are taking steps to correct [the low proportion of plaques for women]”, he told a Sunday paper. “I do think it’s wrong. We can only assess people who are nominated, so we are asking people to nominate more women.”

A survey by English Heritage found 40% of people believe women have had less of an influence on history the men, a ending the group is keen to change by installing more plaques dedicated to female achievements.

Plaques for women to be unveiled this year will include one dedicated to Ava Gardner, who starred in the 1946 film The Killers, and the cookery writer Elizabeth David, credited with influencing British cuisine in the post-war period. Among the women already honours is Volette Szabo, a Second World War secret agent who was captured, tortured and executed by the Nazis. She is remembered by a plaque in Stockwell, south London which is inscribed with the words “Secret agent lived here – she gave her life for the French Resistance.”

In addition, Marie Stopes, “promoter of sex education and birth control” has a plaque dedicated to her in Upper Norwood, south London.

As with my article on BBC enforcing equal numbers of women on and behind the screen a few days ago, I am a bit wary of this. Women just have not, due to most of them being child bearers, contributed as much as men. But in this case, if women genuinely have been overlooked, I very much welcome this, but it must be on merit, not on the basis of gender balance.

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