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.
George Eliot, 1819-1880
The 19th-century novelist and poet Mary Anne Evans, born in Warwickshire, took the pen name George Eliot in a bid to have her work taken seriously. Her subsequent novels, including Middlemarch and Slias Marner, tackle weighty themes including religion, marriage and industrialisation.
Gabriela Mistral, 1889-1957
Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, known pseudonymously as Gabriela Mistral, was a Chilean poet and diplomat whose works often explore morality and motherhood. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1945, becoming the first Latin American author to receive the honour.
Virginia Woolf, 1882-1941
Most famous for her works including Mrs Dalloway and A Room of One’s Own, the English author Virginia Woolf was also one of the founders of the influential literary set the Bloomsbury Group. Her complex personal life and sometimes controversial viewpoints have led her to become both an influential and divisive figure.
Zora Neale Hurston, 1891-1960
Hurston’s work chronicles life in the American South, particularly the racial and gender struggles she witnessed and experienced during the first half of the 20th century. Her career as an anthropologist also saw her make key contributions to the study of North American folklore and ritual activity in the Caribbean.
Buchi Emecheta, 1944-2017
A Nigerian-born novelist who moved to London in 1962, Emecheta’s books include 1979’s The Joys of Motherhood. Concerned with both the black and female experience, she was awarded an OBE in 2005 for her services to literature.
Murasaki Shikibu, c973-c1014
An 11th-century Japanese writer and lady-in-waiting, Shikibu’s early talent for Chinese allowed her to become fluent in the language to an extent unusual for women of the period. Her novel The Tale of Genji is widely regarded as a masterpiece.
Mary Shelley, 1797-1851
Born to political philosopher William Godwin and feminist activist Mary Wollstonecraft, and husband of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley managed – through her 1818 work Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus – to make a name for herself, even in such high-achieving company. Blending the horrific with the sympathetic, the Gothic with the Romantic, the novel has gone on to become a literary classic.
Anna Akhmatova, 1889-1966
Akhmatova’s career as a poet, which spanned a period of war, totalitarianism and revolution, saw her mix the personal with the political to chronicle a tumultuous chapter in Russian history. Her work and sympathies were often met with official opprobrium, and many of those around her were executed, detained or deported.
Susan Sontag, 1933-2004
Famous for a string of influential essays including 1964’s Notes on ‘Camp’, Sontag’s work embraced such diverse interests as sexuality, art and philosophy. Her decades-spanning career also saw her work as a teacher, political activist and filmmaker.
Amrita Pritam, 1919-2005
An Indian writer and essayist and a leading 20th-century poet in the Punjabi language. Recognised with a string of awards throughout her lifetime, her work is by turns feminist, inclusive and deeply humanist.