This year marks the centenary of one of the most important landmarks in modern British history: the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the right to vote in parliamentary elections for the first time.
In honour of this milestone, we launched a poll to discover the women you think have done the most to shape the world around them. There were 100 women to choose from – nominated by 10 historians, who have each selected 10 women they feel are the most important – from science, technology and sport, to politics and literature.
Voting is now closed, view the results of the poll HERE.
Margaret Thatcher, 1925–2013
Britain’s first female prime minister came to power at a particularly unsettled time in the country’s history, as it faced political disharmony and economic recession. Further trials, including the 1982 Falklands War and the conflict in Northern Ireland, marked a controversial, influential career.
Isabella of Castile, 1451–1504
Queen of Castile, political unifier, economic reformer: Isabella I was a hugely important figure in 15th-century Spain. Together with her husband she was responsible for less savoury episodes, including the forced expulsion of Muslim and Jewish subjects, yet she remains a key figure in the nation’s rise to become an early global superpower.
Queen Victoria, 1819-1901
Victoria remains one of the UK’s most iconic monarchs, more than a century after her death, portrayed in countless films and TV series. Crowned in 1837, she oversaw the nation and its empire throughout a remarkable period of social, technological and economic change.
Final ruler of Egypt’s Ptolemaic dynasty, Cleopatra was more than the famous beauty her subsequent, simplistic portrayals often depict. A formidable, politically shrewd monarch, she was directly involved in the running of a kingdom that faced challenges on many fronts.
Catherine de’ Medici, 1519-1589
Queen of France and mother of three kings, Catherine de’ Medici held a hugely influential position in the nation’s politics throughout the 16th century. Civil war and religious tensions often led her to take drastic measures, yet she is also remembered for her tenacious nature and artistic patronage.
Indira Gandhi, 1917-84
India’s first and only female prime minister to date is remembered for her political steel and often controversial legacy. She ruled the country on two occasions, from 1966 to 1977 and from 1980 until 1984 when she was assassinated by her own bodyguards.
Catherine the Great, 1729-96
Russia’s longest-ruling female leader, Catherine was head of the country as it modernised, expanded, and strengthened. A patron of arts and a supporter of education, her reforms led her to become one of the most influential rulers in Russian history.
Eleanor of Aquitaine, 1122-1204
One of the wealthiest women of the Middle Ages – and one of its most eligible brides – Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII of France and then, following their divorce, the future Henry II of England. As such, she occupies a singularly important position in the medieval histories of both countries.
Dowager Empress Cixi of China, 1835–1908
One of the most powerful women in Chinese history, Empress Cixi rose from low-ranking concubine of the Xianfeng emperor to regent of China for nearly 50 years. During her regency, Cixi oversaw a number of economic and military reforms which helped transform China into a more modern world power, although the political murders carried out during her reign and her role in the Boxer Rebellion have cast a shadow over her reputation.
Theodora, Empress of Byzantium Turkey, c497–548
Theodora exercised considerable influence as wife of the emperor Justinian I, handling political affairs and corresponding with foreign rulers. She is remembered as one of the first rulers to recognise the rights of women, altering divorce laws to give greater benefits to women and prohibiting the traffic in young girls.