Black History - UK Women
Black people have always been present throughout history in the UK, but they haven't always been represented in history books and credited for their contributions We believe it is important to remember the forgotten people who have helped to shape the UK and the rest of the world.
The arrival of the Windrush generation in 1948 is usually considered the 'starting point' for black British history, but from as early as the 1700s, black women carved out identities in the UK as feminists, activists and artists. In this week's blog, we will be highlighting and celebrating the achievements and contributions of black women to British society.
Sophia Duleep Singh
Sophia, the daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh and goddaughter of Queen Victoria was born in Belgravia in 1876. She was of German, Indian and Ethiopian ethnicity. She was a member of the Women's Social and Political Union and campaigned for votes for women nationally as well as locally in London. Sophia was involved in the first suffragette delegation to the House of Commons in November 1910. In protest, she refused to pay her taxes or sign the census until women were awarded the vote. The fight for the female vote was not only a British issue, or a 'white' concern, it was a worldwide problem and women of colour were involved and active campaigners.
Kathleen was born in Ethiopia but moved to England in 1917 as a child brought by church missionaries. Kathleen had a troubled upbringing in a Yorkshire children's home and ran away, eventually ending up in London in the 1930s. She and her husband established a Somali Seaman's Mission Stepney and she later went on to become one of the founding the Stepney Coloured People's Association in the 1950s. The organisation aimed to improve community relations as well as education and housing for black people. Also, throughout her life, she spread awareness by sharing her experiences of racism through invited talks at school visits.
Lilian was born in Liverpool in 1918 to a Barbadian father and British mother. Throughout her lifetime Lilian explained that it was difficult to find employment because of her father's origins. At the onset of the Second World War in 1939, Lilian enlisted in the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) but she was dismissed after seven weeks when it was discovered that her father was not born in the UK. She then joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in 1941. Lilian became a leading aircraft woman and was eventually promoted to the rank of Corporal despite all odds against her.
Olive was born in Harewood, Jamaica in 1952. As part of the Windrush generation, she and her family emigrated to England in 1961 and settled in South London. Olive campaigned for racial, gender equality and squatters' rights up until she died in 1979. She helped found the Brixton Black Women's Group in 1973 and led protests and demonstrations. Throughout her student years at Manchester University (1975-78) she became involved in the community struggles in Moss Side, contributing to the formation of the Black Women's Mutual Aid and the Manchester Black Women's Co-op. Olive is remembered as a vital influence in our ongoing fight for equality and justice for all.
If you wish to read more on UK black history, then check out our previous blog from a few weeks ago.