It’s coming to the end of Women’s History Month and I wanted to share with you five influential women that you probably didn’t know were from Lincolnshire!
Sophie Wells MBE – Paralympian
Born in Lincoln, Sophie is a Paralympian currently competing in dressage.
Sophie was born with amniotic band syndrome which resulted in her having no feeling or movement in her feet and as a result has lost a number of fingers. She grew up with a love for horses after attending a local riding school in Lincoln.
She is part of the Great Britain squad, and in the 2012 Summer Paralympics won her team won a gold medal, and then two individual silver medals. In 2013, she received an MBE for services to equestrianism. Following, in 2016 at the Rio Summer Paralympics she won an individual gold medal. Outside the Magna Carta pub in the Cathedral Quarter, you’ll find her golden post box in recognition of her achievements.
Jennifer Saunders – Comedian
Jennifer Saunders was born in Sleaford. She’s probably best known for her and co-star Dawn French’s sketch show ‘French and Saunders’ alongside a personal favourite of mine ‘Absolutely Fabulous’. Over the years Jennifer has received an abundance of awards and recognition and has even turned down an OBE! She was even named fourth funniest woman in Britain back in 2005.
Jennifer has been involved in charitable work for many years. She has supported the likes of Comic Relief, Amnesty International, CHICKS/Go Beyond, Wellbeing of Women and Make Poverty History.
Dame Joan Plowright, Baroness Olivier, DBE – Actress
Dame Joan was born in Brigg and grew up in Scunthorpe. She’s now a retired actress but her career spanned for over seven decades. She starred alongside the likes of Laurence Olivier (who she subsequently married until his death), Angela Lansbury, Dame Judy Dench and Dame Maggie Smith! As a result, she’s won a Tony Award and two Golden Globe Awards. She even won the Women in Film Crystal Award in 1994. She received a CBE in 1970 and was promoted to DBE in 2004. The Plowright Theatre in Scunthorpe is actually named after Dame Joan in her honour.
However, in the late 2000s, Dame Joan’s eyesight began to steadily decline and as a result in 2014 she officially announced retirement due to having become completely blind. This didn’t stop her from taking part in the TV documentary ‘Nothing Like a Dame’ in 2018!
Brenda Fisher – Swimmer
Brenda Fisher was born in Grimsby and is probably most well-known for breaking the women’s world record for swimming the English Channel in 1951. She was also only the 23rd swimmer of the English Channel. A crowd of 60,000 turned out to welcome her back to Grimsby!
She then completed and won the 29-mile River Nile swim in 1956 and help the fastest time. The same year, she took part in the 32-mile Lake Ontario swim from Niagara to Toronto and beat the previous record.
In 2018, she received the 2018 British Empire Medal for her achievements in swimming. There’s now a blue plaque in her honour in Grimsby!
Liz Smith MBE – Actress
Liz Smith was an actress from Scunthorpe. Known for her iconic roles in ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ and ‘The Royle Family’, Liz Smith has been in an abundance of TV shows, Films and plays.
However, I bet you didn’t know that before her acting career, she served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service during the Second World War. She adored acting so much, that whilst serving, she would entertain troops by appearing in plays and subsequently met her husband who was a sailor stationed in India.
She won a BAFTA in 1984 for her supporting role in the 1984 film ‘A Private Function’ and in 2009, she was made and MBE.