Do you think Queen Elizabeth II is the most influential woman in British history? Many royal fans would probably agree with this statement: she’s Britain’s longest-reigning Monarch and has had an immeasurable impact on not only British society, but also across the Commonwealth.
According to a recent public poll, however, The Queen is not Britain’s most influential woman, with the honour instead going to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
In honour of International Women’s Day, Sky News worked with Equality Now to compile a list of 100 British women who they felt were influential. The women on the list were varied; from The Queen, Margaret Thatcher and Jane Austen to Ada Lovelace, JK Rowling and the Spice Girls, the list was also intended to be a snapshot of British history.
The poll’s results, however, were quite surprising, with two SNP members featuring in the top five.
Topping the list was Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP and Scotland’s current First Minister; she is the first woman to hold either of those positions and was voted for by 51,600 people.
Second place, with 30,200 votes, went to another member of the SNP, Mhairi Black, who is currently the MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire. Ms Black was elected to Westminster in 2015 at the age of 20, which means she is the youngest-ever MP elected to the House of Commons. Both SNP women are known for their strong views and passionate speeches.
Her Majesty The Queen came in third, taking some 24,100 votes; as the longest-reigning Monarch in British history, The Queen has seen immense changes from when she ascended to the throne in post-war Britain. As well as being influential in Britain, Elizabeth II is currently the Head of State of 16 Commonwealth nations, including Canada and Australia.
The Queen was followed on the list by the late Diana, Princess of Wales, who was well-known for her charity work and compassion, particularly with those suffering from AIDs. 10,200 people chose her as the most influential. Although she passed away in 1997, Diana’s influence is still felt within the Royal Family due to the modern and human touch she is often attributed bringing into the family during her marriage to Prince Charles.
Rounding off the top five was Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first-ever female Prime Minister, with 8,800 votes. Although a divisive figure in the UK, the late Conservative Leader was instrumental in paving the way for female politicians to rise to positions of power. Without Thatcher’s influence, it is unlikely that women like Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon would have such a strong role in British politics today.
Interestingly, a poll of 2015 put Thatcher ahead of the Monarch to be named ‘most influential woman of the last 200 years’. The Princess of Wales also made the top five, along with Marie Curie, and Emmeline Pankhurst.
In the following positions came Emmeline Pankhurst (women’s suffrage leader), Florence Nightingale (pioneer of nursing during the 19th century), The Bletchley Park women of WWII, Emily Davison (suffragette who died at the Epsom Derby, trying to pin a rosette onto the King’s horse) and Queen Victoria.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this result – do you think The Queen should have been chosen as Britain’s Most Influential Woman? Or another royal woman who didn’t make the top 5; like Queen Victoria or Elizabeth I – let us know in the comments!