Female pioneers

The call for equality among men and women is something that remains firmly on the agenda today, just as it was 100 years ago. Mary, Helena and Margaret led the way in their time, instigating changes and achieving firsts that have established their place in history as people who’ve pushed back against established ideas and challenged the status quo. Click each image or link to find out about the story behind it.

A black and white pencil portrait illustration of Mary Bailey, on a pink backgroundMary Bailey

Female aviator and first woman to fly across the Irish Sea

Mary was a fiercely independent spirit who refused to be constrained by the belief that a woman could not venture out on their own. Read the full story to learn more about her avionic exploits.

Meet Mary Bailey

An illustration of Helena Normanton, created from a photograph. By Sophie Glover.Helena Normanton

One of the first female barristers

Helena Normanton was not one to be told what to do by men, forging her own path in law regardless of the established ideals of the time. Learn how she carved out a career in a male-dominated profession.

Meet Helena Normanton

A black and white pencil portrait of Margaret Bondfield, on a pink background.Margaret Bondfield

The first female cabinet minister

Margaret fought for the rights of working people throughout her life, and boasts a stellar list of political achievements. Discover how she became a leader in female politics.

Meet Margaret Bondfield

What is 20 People of the 20s?

20 People of the 20s is a project where staff members at The National Archives have researched a story of someone from the 1920s. From family members and First World War service personnel, to famous performers and politicians, we hope these stories will encourage you to explore the breadth of experience in 1920s Britain. 20 People of the 20s is part of 20sPeople – our season to mark the release of the 1921 Census, connecting the 1920s and the 2020s.  Find out more here.

20sPeople Banner - Pink background with a composite photograph of a face, with half from 1920s and half from 2020s and the logo for We are 20sPeople