March is the month to commemorate and encourage the study, observation and celebration of women in history.
This month, I taken the time to reflect on the often-overlooked contributions of women that have walked along the corridors of Manchester university. It has been an incredibly motivating activity and I wanted to use this month’s blog to share some of the most profound stories.
Dame Christabel Pankhurst- one of the first suffragettes
Graduating in Law from the University, Pankhurst was a British Political activist and campaigned for women’s rights and gender equality. She is best known for organising the UK suffragette movement and achieving the right to vote for women.
As a feminist, I have the upmost admiration for any women that dare to be brave and work for change. Pankhurst is one alumni that we can learn a great deal from. She demonstrated steely resilience in the face of adversity, which is essential in today’s society where things are often unpredictable and stress inducing. It is during these unprecedented times of a global pandemic that we should, like the suffragettes, stay true to our values and priorities. Resilience is a skill which can be learned by embracing challenges, being consistent, and believing in ourselves enough to continue to make the effort.
Catherine Chisholm- the first female graduate of medicine from the The University of Manchester
Chisholm is best remembered as the founder of the Babies’ Hospital in Manchester after becoming the first female to graduate from the city’s medical school. In 1935 she was awarded a C.B.E. for her work and became the first female Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.
Like many feminists of her time, Chrisholm had a strong mind and pioneering spirit which enabled her to pursue a career, previously only accessible to men. She opened the door for women to make advancements within the medical field and enabled them to move forward with confidence.
Beatrice Shilling- one of the first female students to enrol on the electrical engineering degree
In 1929 Shilling made university history by enrolling on the electrical engineering course. After graduating, she went on to work for the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) where she invented the RAE restrictor which prevented aircraft engines from flooding after a ‘nosedive’. She was later awarded an OBE for her wartime work.
It is important to learn from Shilling’s confidence and take responsibility for our own careers. Both men and women can learn from her self-assurance and realise that they can do whatever they desire, just like she did.
Marie Stopes- the first academic on the faculty of Manchester University
Stopes opened Britain’s first birth control clinic, which continues in her name to this day, after becoming the first female academic on the faculty of the University of Manchester. She was considered a controversial figure in 1918 because of a manual she wrote about sex which brought the subject of birth control into the public domain.
Stopes had controversial views and was not afraid to voice her opinions on subjects considered off-limits for discussion in society. It is because of women like Stopes that we are able to speak our truth in today’s society, which we often take for granted. It is important that we all begin to acknowledge the freedom of speech that we all have and use it to shape a better and more prosperous society.
Professor Dame Sally Davies- first female chief medical officer for email
Davies graduated from the university with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MB ChB) degree in 1972 and received a DBE in 2009. In 2010 Davies was appointed the UK’s Chief Medical Officer and has led global action to combat antimicrobial resistance.
Davies encourages women to ‘hold your nose up and jump’, ‘take the risk’, and ‘be authentic’.
It is important to take the time to remember the great accomplishments of women throughout the years. It is a chance to reflect on those women that have lead the way for change and encourage us all to follow in their footsteps for our own successes.