The London Assembly is running a campaign to try and boost nominations for women and hope to see this translate into an increase in the number of plaques going to women who have done incredible things, writes Florence Eshalomi London Assembly Member for Southwark & Lambeth…
The Blue Plaque scheme has been running since 1866.
Blue Plaques are awarded from nominations which meet the criteria set by English Heritage; they must have been dead for 20 years, they should be of significant public standing in a London-wide, national or international context; and they need to have made some important positive contribution to human welfare or happiness which deserves recognition.
It’s a great way to honour someone’s achievements, particularly those who have perhaps been somewhat forgotten after their death. You would think, given that the scheme has been running for over 150 years, there would be hundreds of women honoured with blue plaques across London. A no-brainer.
Disappointingly and despite women’s inarguable contribution to British culture, out of the 903 plaques placed on buildings across the city, only 111 commemorate women – that’s just 14 per cent. Out of all the blue plaques, just four per cent honour people of colour. English Heritage says that part of the reason behind the disparity is the lack of nominations.
To tackle this, the London Assembly is running a campaign to try and boost nominations for women and hope to see this translate into an increase in the number of plaque’s going to women who have done incredible things across London.
In South London we have had an abundance of impressive women do incredible things locally and across the city. I am eager to see women from South London like Ada Salter, who was a tireless social reformer, Bermondsey’s first female councillor and the first female mayor in London. Surely, the first female Mayor of London deserves commemoration with a blue plaque in Southwark.
For me, it is shocking that someone like Olive Morris has not yet been honoured with a plaque. Born in Jamaica, she moved to South London when she was 9 years old. Dedicating her life to the struggle of black women and the underprivileged, she founded several organisations including the Black Women’s Mutual Aid, the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent.
She was a principled campaigner and wrote extensively on racial prejudice in local South London papers. She also ran campaigns helping to rehouse black families in the 70’s. Morris died of cancer in 1979 aged just 27 but her short life had an enormous impact and one that deserves to be honoured with a plaque.
If you know of a female Londoner whose past achievements ought to be recognised as part of the iconic Blue Plaque scheme, then please do get involved. Make sure you tell your friends and family to join in and nominate women whose achievements ought to be recognised.
You can do this at: www.english-heritage.org.uk /visit/blue-plaques/propose-a-plaque/
READ MORE: Southwark has its own blue Plaque scheme www.southwarknews.co.uk/news/blueplaques