In 2020 we published a series of blog posts celebrating the achievement of 100 pioneering women in Sussex.

black and white photograph of Ellen Nye Chart. Full length she is sitting sideways to the camera, she is wearing a full bustle dress with long sleeves and buttoned down the front. It has stripes across the skirt. Her hair is up, with a strong mid parting.
Ellen Nye Chart, actress and theatre manager

Written to accompany our Anita Corbin: 100 First Women Portraits exhibition in Brighton Museum, we’ve focused on notable local women throughout history.

head shot colour photograph of Grace Nichols. She is smiling and looking away from the camera. She has short dark hair and is wearing rectangular glasses, long earrings and a black blazer. The background is a mottled blue.
Grace Nichols (c) Mike Park, Guyanese poet

With the help of writers such as Louise Peskett, Amy Zamarripa Solis and Alexandra Loske, we look at the stories of female actors, writers, lawyers, medical practitioners, suffragettes and others with a Sussex connection.

100 women

Eliza Acton, writer of first cook book aimed at the home cook

Nazish Adil, first British Asian female Mayor (Seaford)

Peggy Angus, innovative artist

Jane Austen, Regency writer

Violet ‘Betty’ Baxter, soup kitchen pioneer 

Laura Bayley, early film pioneer

Elspeth Beard, first woman to motorcycle around the world 

Clementina Black, social reformer and trade unionist

Barbara Bodichon, artist and women’s rights campaigner

Margaret Bondfield, Britain’s first female cabinet minister 

Helen Boyle, Hove’s first female GP and mental health pioneer 

Val Brown, researcher and writer of women’s histories 

Fanny Burney, one of Britain’s first female novelists

Margaret Busby OBE, Britain’s youngest and first black female book publisher 

Dame Clara Butt, singer and early star of recorded music 

Mary Jane Clark, suffragette

Shirley Collins, the ‘first lady’ of folk music 

Clare Connor, Sussex cricketer

Sophie Cook, activist, writer and speaker

Dame Catherine Cookson DBE, writer

Joyce Cooper, champion swimmer 

Margaret Damer Dawson, police pioneer

Elizabeth David, cookery writer 

Lady Denman, President of the Women’s Institute

Katie-George Dunlevy, Paralympic cyclist

Millicent Fawcett, suffragette and social reformer

Cat Fletcher, co-founder of Freecycle 

Sarah Forbes Bonetta, African slave princess 

Marian Frost, pioneering Victorian librarian 

Constance Garnett, translator of ‘War and Peace’

Tirzah Garwood, artist

Gert and Daisy’, performers and radio stars 

Nus Ghani, politician and first female Muslim minister to speak in the House of Commons 

Mary Ann Gilbert, philanthropist and allotment pioneer 

Mercedes Gleitze,first British woman to swim the English Channel 

Clarissa Goff, travel writer

Jacquetta Gomes, Buddhist and Multifaith chaplain for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

Natalie Greenhough, Paralympic Judo star 

Martha Gunn, Entrepreneur, ‘Queen of the Sea Dippers’

Sally Gunnell, record-breaking track and field athlete 

Margaret Hardy MBE, Brighton’s first female mayor

Mary Hare, suffragette, first ‘policewoman’ and pioneering educator for deaf children 

Pauline Henriques, first black actress to appear on British tv and pioneering social worker

Avis Joan Hearn, Acting Corporal in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force

Phoebe Hessel, soldier

Georgette Heyer, one of the 20th century’s most successful authors

Violet and Daisy Hilton, conjoined twins and stars of the stage and film

Florence Holdgate, First World War nurse

Barbara Hulanicki, fashion and design entrepreneur

Sophia Jex-Blake, one of Britain’s first ever registered female doctors 

Catherine Johnson, author and screen writer

Angelica Kauffman, artist

Sally and Sarah Kettle, first mother and daughter team to row the Atlantic ocean 

Mary Joy Langdon, first female retained fire fighter

Alison Lapper MBE, artist

The Lawrence Sisters, Penelope, Dorothy and Millicent), founders of Roedean School for Girls 

Patrice Lawrence, author and journalist 

Dorothy Levitt, record breaking race car driver

Lewes Women’s Football Club, first football club to pay their men’s and women’s team equally

Dorothea von Lieven, Influencer at George’s IV’s Court 

Mary Lloyd, the first woman to publish a book about Brighton 

Caroline Lucas, Britain’s first ever Green Party Member of Parliament 

Ida Lupino, film director

Dame Vera Lynn, singer 

Meghan Markle, trailblazer for the Royal Family

Margaret Marriott, social reformer and philanthropist

Louisa Martindale, Brighton’s first female GP

Odaline de la Martinez, first woman to conduct the BBC Proms 

Millie and Christine McCoy, 19th century conjoined twins and music hall performers

Mary Merrifield, artist, scientist and writer 

Lee Miller, photographer 

Gwen Moffat, first female mountain guide 

Kate Mosse, author and founder of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 

Grace Nichols, Guyanese poet and children’s novelist

Annie Nightingale, first female presenter on Radio One

Priscilla Noble-Mathews, paramedic and founding member of the South East Coast Immediate Care Scheme

Helena Normanton, first woman to practice as a barrister in England 

Ellen Nye Chart, pioneering manager of Theatre Royal Brighton 

Sharon Dodua Otoo, Ghanian-British author and activist

Nalini Patel, founder of Brighton & Hove’s Hindu Women’s Group

Ingrid Pollard, photographer, artist and reseacher 

Hope Powell, first woman to achieve the UEFA Pro Licence and first woman and non white person to manage an English national football team 

Margaret Powell, writer

Miss M Raymonde-Hawkins, founder of Raystede Centre for Animals

Tessie Reynolds, record breaking cyclist

Elizabeth Robins, activist, writer and performer 

Dame Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop and animal rights activist

Flora Sassoon, philanthropist, business-woman and Jewish scholar

Umi Sinha, British-Indian author and teacher 

Marilyn Stafford, photographer 

Rebecca Stephens, first British woman to summit Mount Everest

Elizabeth Taylor, co-founder of the National Deafblind Helpers League

Vesta Tilley, trailblazing entertainer

Jayne Torvill, iceskating Olympian 

Doreen Valiente, Mother of witchcraft

Rachel Whiteread, artist and first female winner of the Turner Prize

Helena Wojtczak, first female train guard in 1978 

Grace Eyre Woodhead, pioneer of disability rights and mental health care

Commander Margaret ‘Margot’ Wyndham Gore, pilot with the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) during the Second World War

Whitehawk Woman, one of Brighton & Hove’s earliest known residents