More women should be honoured with iconic blue plaques, says London Assembly

'The fact that women still only make up 14 per cent of plaques in London must be addressed urgently'

Olivia Petter
Wednesday 19 December 2018 10:17
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London Assembly calls for more women to be honoured with iconic blue plaques

The London Assembly is calling for more women to be commemorated with blue plaques in the city.

Currently, women make up just 14 per cent of plaques in the capital, and Assembly chairman Tony Arbour believes this is down to “archaic rules” set out by English Heritage, the charity that runs the blue plaque scheme.

In a letter to English Heritage, Arbour commends the organisation’s recent efforts to create more plaques for women but says its criteria is “hindering any real progress”.

The blue plaque scheme has been running since 1866 and honours Londoners who have made a significant contribution in their respective field, whether that be politics, culture, or technology, for example.

According to the rules, someone must’ve been dead for more than 20 years in order to be considered for a blue plaque and it can only be placed on the actual building that person inhabitated.

“Placing plaques only on surviving buildings is a disservice to the ideas and achievements of Londoners, and the communities they lived in,” Arbour writes in his letter, which is addressed to Kate Mavor, chief executive officer at English Heritage.

“Celebrating the relationship between people and place is worthy and integral to the scheme, however recognition of the contributions to society by Londoners should not be frustrated by a lack of bricks and mortar.”

In October, English Heritage admitted the number of women honoured with blue plaques was “far too low” and launched a campaign to encourage the British public to nominate notable female figures from history to rectify the balance.

Arbour said he fully supports the initiative but believes the charity’s rules need to be reviewed in order to widen the pool of women eligible for nomination.

The Assembly, which works alongside the Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, and his advisors, is therefore calling for Brits to submit nominations to them directly, which they will present to English Heritage.

“When we present you with our nominations, resulting from this public campaign, we will, on behalf of Londoners, be looking for swift action by English Heritage rather than excuses,” Arbour concludes in his letter to Mavor.

“It is time for change.”

In response to the letter, a spokesperson for English Heritage said: “We note the request by the London Assembly to rethink this criterion; however the preservation and enjoyment of historic buildings remains an important point for us.”

If you have a suggested nomination for a female Londoner that passed away and made a positive contribution to the city, you can email it to the London Assembly at BackthePlaque@london.gov.uk.

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