Twin sisters from Brighton have campaigned for a blue plaque to commemorate inspirational Edge Hill alumna Helena Normanton, one of the first women to be called to the Bar in England and Wales.
Thirteen year-olds Sophia and Izzy, have been successful in their bid to raise funds and secure a blue plaque to celebrate Helena Normanton in their home city.
The sisters got the idea whilst researching Magnus Volk, a British inventor and pioneering electrical engineer, for a school project. On visiting the cemetery where he is buried, they noticed that it was also the burial and memorial place for Helena Normanton and Sophia Jex-Blake, a pioneering woman doctor. Sophia and Izzy discovered that neither of these inspirational women had their achievements celebrated in Brighton, and promptly embarked on a mission to rectify this.
Further investigations by the pair proved that less than a quarter of blue plaques in the city are for women, and some of those commemorated on plaques are referenced for being wives, daughters or mistresses of men.
The girls secured support from local residents, Middle Temple (which Helena joined in 1919 to become the first woman admitted to an Inn of Court) and Normanton Chambers (the first barristers’ chambers named after a woman) and have now had their campaign approved. The plaque will be displayed at 4 Clifton Place, where Helena lived in the 1890s, and will be unveiled this summer – 100 years after Helena was called to the Bar.
Following the success of this project, Sophia and Izzy have been invited to be junior ambassadors on a campaign appealing for a statue for Mary Clarke, who was the first woman to die fighting for women’s right to vote. This is alongside their second blue plaque project for Sophia Jex-Blake, who was one of the country’s first women doctors and campaigned to open up the study of medicine for women.
Talking about her inspirations, Izzy said: “Helena Normanton campaigned for equal pay but 100 years later it’s still a problem and I like seeing famous women like Emma Watson pointing it out. Our family support Everton and when we went to watch the women’s team play against Lewes, we found out that Lewes was the only club in the world who pay their women the same as the men, which I think is really cool.”
Sophia added: “Sarah Taylor inspires me, she is an English cricketer who went to the same school as me. She has broken loads of records as a player and recently became the first woman to be appointed as a specialist coach for a men’s county team, Sussex.”