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6 new blue plaques honouring amazing women are coming to London

From spies to suffragettes

Carla Challis

International Women's Day was a month ago on 8 March, but celebrating amazing women never stops – and the latest scheme to honour some of our most brilliant women is the English Heritage's Blue Plaques for Women 2020 scheme. Suffragettes, spies and groundbreaking sculptors are just some of the pioneers chosen to be commemorated in London.

With only 14 percent of over 950 London blue plaques celebrating women, English Heritage is working to readdress the balance with the six new plaques, being rolled out throughout the year. Anna Eavis, Curatorial Director and Secretary of the English Heritage Blue Plaques Panel, said: "Our efforts to address the gender imbalance within the London Blue Plaques scheme are starting to yield some strong results and we are delighted to be able to announce these six new plaques. It is a long road but we are well on our way to receiving equal number of public nominations for men and women."

READ: 10 of the most inspiring women in British history

Who are the women being recognised by the scheme? Here are the six notable women that the Blue Plaque scheme plan to commemorate this year:

Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan (1879-1967)

Notable for her work during the First World War as one of the leading figures in the first women's corps in the British military, Dame Helen is also renowned for her academic work as a botanist. Her blue plaque hangs on the building in Bedford Avenue, Bloomsbury, where she lived for 50 years. While living there, she was appointed one of the Chief Controllers of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps; Commandant of the Women's Royal Air Force, and Director of the Auxiliary Territorial Service – as well as being awarded her professorial chair at Birkbeck College. Hers was the first blue plaque to be unveiled this year.

Christine Granville (1908–1952)

Born Krystyna Skarbek in Poland, 1908, Christine Granville was Britain's longest serving female agent of the Second World War and the first woman to work as an SOE agent – two years before they officially recruited women; one of her most daring escapes was fleeing Poland on skis.

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Christine aged 19

The plaque will hang at the west London hotel where she lived for the last three years of her life.

Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975)

Born in 1903, Barbara Hepworth was a groundbreaking sculptor with works held in the collections of major art institutions across the world, including the Tate and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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Barbara Hepworth with her iconic Mother and Child sculpture

Her plaque will mark the North London address where she created one of her earliest sculptures, and where she held her first ever exhibition.

Noor Inayat Khan (1914–1944)

Noor Khan was Britain's first Muslim war heroine and the first female radio operator sent into Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War.

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Noor Inayat Khan in the 1940s

Her plaque will mark the Bloomsbury house that was her family home before she left for France in 1943. Noor lost her life at the hands of the Gestapo in 1944, and was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1949.

National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (Formed in 1897)

The NUWSS was the largest of any women's suffrage campaigning organisation, with a membership of over 50,000 women.

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A pilgrimage of National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies' members from Carlisle arriving in London in 1913

The blue plaque will mark their headquarters in Westminster during the eight years leading up to the Representation of the People Act 1918 – which gave some women the vote.

MORE: Anne Rickard on gender inequality in the workplace

Women's Social and Political Union (Formed in 1903)

The WSPU's actions brought women's suffrage into the spotlight – including hunger strikes, vandalism and arson.

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A WSPU shop in South West London in 1909

The new plaque in Holborn will mark the only surviving building that served as the once-bustling WSPU's London headquarters – it even had a suffragette shop.

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