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The women who made Manchester great

Written by
Elise Gallagher

Did you know that Manchester city centre has only one out of its many, many statues representing a woman? That's right. Queen Victoria at Piccadilly Gardens is our only woman to be immortalised in this way, something which the WOManchester campaign has set out to rectify.

This week the shortlist of potential new statues of Manchester's great women was unveiled and obviously consists of amazing women, all. 

With Manchester known for being a city of innovators and pioneers, and with any number of notable residents making a difference in the world, here's our own look at seven of the women who've made significant contributions to the history of our city and beyond.

Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst addressing a crowd in Trafalgar SquareVintage Press Print 1908

Moss Side-born, Pankhurst was a passionate activist who founded the Women's Social and Political Union as well as the Women's Franchise League. She was also the leader of the British Suffragette movement and was instrumental in helping women have the right to vote. Being declared in 1999 TIME as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th Century they stated that, "she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back." She'll be portrayed by Meryl Streep in the much anticipated 'Suffragette' later this year.

Maxine Peake

Maxine Peake

Maxine Peake is most recognisable for her roles in Victoria Wood's 'Dinnerladies', the BBC's Martha Costello and Veronica in the Manchester-based series 'Shameless'. Born in Bolton, Maxine Peake's career has seen her appear on both stage and screen attracting a large following, she most recently won an award for her portrayal of 'Hamlet' which is set to be shown in cinemas across the country. Her next and much anticipated role of 'The Skriker' can be seen at Manchester's International Festival

Enriqueta Rylands

Enriqueta Rylands

The University of Manchester Library

Differing from the rest of our line up, Enriqueta wasn't born near or around Manchester but Cuba in 1843. She was brought up in London and Liverpool after her parents died, and first stepped foot on Manchester when she was 20 years old to become the companion of John Rylands' second wife Martha. After Martha's death Enriqueta became the third and final wife of John and built our very own John Rylands' library in memory of her late husband. In 1889 the library was opened and she was handed the key to the city of Manchester. A remarkable women who dedicated twenty years and £2m on the library with every detail chosen under her personal supervision. 

Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell 1851

Gaskell moved to Knutsford after the death of her mother when she was only a year old. One of the most famous writers of her time, Gaskell penned her first piece of work after the death of her only son. Her first novel 'Mary Barton' subtitled 'A Tale of Manchester Life' was published anonymously creating a great impact among readers. Her depiction of a poverty stricken Manchester roused the consciousness of the nation. Her other famous works include the likes of 'North and South', 'Cranford' and 'The Life of Charlotte Bronte' which is widely considered one of the first modern biographies. Her home on Plymouth Grove is now open to the public after a multimillion-pound refurbishment in 2014.

Victoria Wood

Victoria Wood

Victoria Wood is one of the UK's most popular playwright, screen-writer, actor and director. Wood from Prestwich boasts a plethora of awards having won more BAFTAs than anyone else, and she was also the first women to be honoured by the Writer's Guild. Wood wrote and directed 'The Day We Sang' for Manchester's International Festival in 2011, she then revised it to be shown at the Royal Exchange in 2014 before the TV adaptation was aired on the BBC. She describes it as 'a Mancunian love story set again the background of The Wimpy, The Golden Egg and Piccadilly Gardens with a bit of singing and a few dance numbers'.

Rebecca Adlington

The Olympic swimmer and OBE appointed Rebecca Adlington lives in Stockport. In 2008 she was named Sports Journalists' Association's Sportswoman of the year, she is also Britain's joint most decorated female Olympian with two gold medals which she won in 2008 and bronze which were won in 2012 which make her Britain's first Olympic swimming champion since 1988. 

Marie Stopes

Marie Stopes broke the glass ceiling of academia by becoming the first female academic on the faculty of Manchester University. Stopes published the controversial and influential 'Married Love' in 1918 which was printed by a small publisher after larger ones turned her down because of the content. Having rapidly sold out the book was in it's sixth printing within a fortnight and by doing so brought the issue of birth control to the public. As well as this Stopes opened Britain's first birth control clinic whilst at the same time edited and gave explicit practical advice in the newsletter Birth Control News. The sexual and reproductive health organisation Marie Stopes International continues in her name.

See more things to do in Manchester from Time Out.

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