Women’s History Month

In 2019, the Heritage Gallery at The Core, Solihull featured an exhibition of notable female Silhillians for Women’s History Month (pictured above).

There are scores of notable women with a connection to places in the Solihull Borough- some are well known as artists, actors, writers, sports women, politicians, musicians, whilst others made an impact in the local area but perhaps were not well-known beyond the borough or county boundaries.

We know of the following:

Actors

  • Stephanie Cole OBE – actor who was born in Solihull
  • Lucy Davis – actress who was born in Solihull
  • Felicity Kendal MBE – Olton-born actress
  • Nikky Smedley – Solihull-born actress best known for playing Laa Laa in the BBC TV series Teletubbies
  • Zena Walker (1934-2003) – actress who attended Saint Martin’s School, Solihull

Artists

  • Georgina Evelyn Cave Gaskin (1866-1934) – jewellery and metalwork designer who lived in Olton
  • Edith Blackwell Holden (1871-1920) – artist who achieved posthumous fame as her nature notebook (written whilst she lived in Olton) was published in 1977 as the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady
  • Jessie Lavers (1916-2010) – artist who lived in Solihull and Hampton-in-Arden for a time
  • Vinitha McWhinnie (1926-2004) – ceramic artist who lived in Solihull

Dancers

  • Julie Felix – formerly Head of Dance at Saint Martin’s School, Solihull, and Britain’s first Black professional ballet dancer
  • Emma Louise Gladwin – Solihull-born dancer

Musicians

Sportswomen

  • Pat Cropper MBE – athlete and Solihull resident
  • Karen Carney MBE – sports journalist and former professional footballer who attended school in Solihull
  • Lorraine Hanson – sprinter who previously worked at Kingshurst Housing Dept
  • Alice Louise (“Daisy”) Hartill (1893-1937) – Olton-born golfer who was “Midland Lady Golf” champion in 1923 and 1925
  • Dannielle Khan – racing cyclist who was born in Solihull
  • Sharon Lee – Judo champion from Kingshurst who was a double gold medalist at the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand in 1990
  • Diana Mason OBE (1933-2016) – horse rider who was born and raised in Dorridge
  • Ann Moore MBE – show jumper who grew up in Chadwick End and won a silver medal at the 1972 Olympics
  • Nadine Okyere – silver medalist at the Commonwealth Games 2010 who subsequently taught at Solihull College
  • Jane Sixsmith MBE – Olympic field hockey player who became hockey coach at Solihull School in 2016
  • Sally Walton – retired British hockey player who attended school in Solihull and became a teacher at Solihull College in 2005
  • Maud Watson MBE (1864-1946) – grew up in Berkswell and was Wimbledon’s first female tennis champion
  • Lucilla Wright – Solihull-born hockey player

Writers

  • Lilian Sarah Arnold (1872-1950) – novelist and editor of “The Field” magazine, who lived at Bickenhill Hall, Olton until at least 1881.
  • Wersha Bharadwa – journalist, author and the first British Indian staff writer for Cosmopolitan UK
  • Caroline Clive (1801-1873) – novelist and poet who lived in Solihull
  • Michael Field” – Nom de plume of two collaborating female poets – Katharine Harris Bradley (1846-1914) and her niece Edith Emma Cooper (1862-1913) who lived in New Road, Solihull 1872-76
  • Kate Fisher – radio and TV journalist,born and bred in Barston
  • Susan Fletcher – author who grew up in Knowle and was formerly Head Girl at Saint Martin’s School
  • Daphne Foskett (1911-1998) – art connoisseur and writer who lived in Solihull in her later years
  • Isobel Henderson (1924-2010) – writer (pen-name, Isobel Neill) who lived in Solihull for 17 years
  • Anna James – author, formerly librarian at the Heart of England School, Balsall Common
  • Clara Milburn (1883-1961) – housewife and diarist who achieved posthumous fame when her wartime diary of life in Balsall Common was published in 1979
  • Diana Pullein-Thompson (1925-2015) – author of pony books for children who lived in Olton for a time
  • Celia Rees – Solihull-born author of books for young adults
  • Rebecca Tinsley – journalist who attended Saint Martin’s School, Solihull
  • Suzanne Virdee – former BBC and ITV journalist who trained on the Solihull Times

Other notable women with a Solihull connection:

  • Karren Brady, Baroness Brady of Knightsbridge CBE – former resident of Knowle
  • Lorely Burt, Baroness Burt of Solihull – MP for Solihull 2005-2015
  • Jessica Butcher MBE – co-founder of Blippar and social media video platform Tick. Born and grew up in Solihull
  • Anne, Lady Byron (1792-1860) – philanthropist wife of poet, Lord Byron. She inherited the Longdon Hall estate and founded an agricultural school at Copt Heath
  • Lettice Annie Floyd (1865-1934) – suffragette from Berkswell
  • Flora Macrae Forster (1895-1981) – renowned scholar and first Headmistress of Solihull High School for Girls. She also helped to save the Manor House, High Street, Solihull
  • Audrey Godderidge (1910-1996) – first female Mayor of Solihull 1973/74
  • Louise Hunt – first female coroner for Birmingham and Solihull
  • Rev Canon Jane Kenchington – first female Rector of Solihull, in post from September 2015 until February 2021
  • Marion Murtagh (1916-2001) – businesswoman and computer industry pioneer. Lived in Bickenhill for a time. Founder member & Life President of West Midlands Bridge Club, Solihull
  • Mandy Rice-Davies (1944-2014) – model and former resident of Shirley who became enmeshed in the “Profumo Affair”
  • (Caroline) Mary Ridding (1862-1941) – Sanscrit and Pali scholar, and a librarian, who was born in Meriden
  • Joan Seccombe, Baroness Seccombe DBE – politician who was educated at Saint Martin’s School, Solihull
  • Nikki Sinclaire – borough resident and the UK’s first openly transgender parliamentary politician
  • Dame Caroline Spelman – MP for Meriden 1997-2019
  • Notburga (“Burgi”) Cheetham-Tilt (1923-2015) – former Austrian resistance fighter who lived in Olton in her later years

Please let us know if we have missed out any notable women who have lived, worked or studied anywhere in the present Borough of Solihull.

Tracey
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

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