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Ada, Sophia, Lilian and Andrea did a lot of amazing things - too many to cram in to just one show. So we thought it'd be cool to share a little more information about them, and some other unsung female heroes, with you via this online exhibition. 

Meet: the Unsung women featured in the show

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) a talented mathematician who composed the first algorithm for the Analytical Engine, and is hailed as the world’s first computer programmer. Her prescient observations about the potential applications of the Analytical Engine, were far beyond the perception even of the machine’s creator, and are truly visionary by today’s standards.  She was fascinated by machines and mathematics from an early age. She was temporarily paralysed at the age of 12 after contracting measles; having lost her ability to walk, set about learning to fly instead. She constructed wings out of various materials and examined the anatomy of birds to try understand how they were able to propel themselves forward.

Sophia Jex-Blake (1840 – 1912), a medic and the first woman to be permitted to study at a British university (Edinburgh). Her attempt to sit an anatomy exam sparked the Surgeons’ Hall Riot in 1870, and despite passing all her qualifications the university refused to let her graduate due to her gender. She later set up the Edinburgh Hospital and Dispensary for Women and Children and Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women. Her pioneering persistence to fight for her right to education paved the way for women today.

Lilian Bader (1918 – 2015), one of the first black women to serve in the British Armed Forces. She was born in Liverpool to a Barbadian father and Irish mother, but orphaned at a young age. When the Second World War broke out, she joined the NAAFI in Yorkshire, but was asked to leave after an official discovered her father’s heritage. Determined to overcome racial prejudice, she enlisted with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and trained in instrument repair, soon gaining the rank of Acting Corporal.

Andrea Dunbar (1961 – 1990), the Bradford born author of Rita, Sue and Bob Too, The Arbor, and Shirley. Acclaimed as ‘a genius straight from the slums’, she grew up on the poverty-stricken Buttershaw Estate, and wrote her first play The Arbor as an assignment for GCE English at the age of only 15. Despite economic disadvantage, being a single mother of three, and a lifelong struggle with alcoholism, by the age of 20 two of her plays had been performed in London to great critical acclaim.

Further reading:

- The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming

- Sophia Jex-Blake: A Woman Pioneer in Nineteenth Century Medical Reform, by Shirley Roberts

- Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile by Adelle Stripe

- The Motherland Calls: Britain's Black Servicemen & Women, 1939-45 by Stephen Bourne

- Imperial War Museum Oral History 1989 - Interview with Lilian Mary Bader by Margaret A. Brooks

- Together – Lilian Bader: Wartime Memoirs of a WAAF 1939-1944 by Lilian Bader


Articles about Lilian Bader: 

- https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/blog/lilian-bader-the-first-black-woman-to-join-the-raf

- https://www.africansinyorkshireproject.com/lilian-bader.html

- https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/leading-aircraftwoman-in-the-waaf-and-one-of-the-first-black-women-to-join-the-british-armed-forces-10158515.html


Articles about Sophia Jex-Blake

- A timeline: https://biography.yourdictionary.com/sophia-jex-blake

- About her persistence: https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usbiography/j/sophiajexblake.html

- Some more details: http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Sophia_Jex-Blake

Meet: the Power Girls and their Unsung Heroes

We were privileged to spend time with a wonderful group of women called the Power Girls on several occasions while developing the show. Our sessions together informed the show's content, and made it into what it is today. Below is some poetry created by two of the groups members in homage to their Unsung female heroes.

My unsung hero. By Therese.


She’s meek and mild like a child

She’s stronger in mind much more than mine. 

She has a heart of gold that just unfolds. 

She has a beaming smile and a contagious laugh. 

She has an inner peace of tranquility, that quietens those thoughts that trouble me. 

As a child she would comfort me when those nightmares took hold of me.

Now as adults mothers and grandmothers.

I pray this bond that we have will  last forever, as we continue life together. 

As you are my big sister Myra.

And I  treasure our times together. 


This poem is about my older sister. There is just two years between us. When we were younger she would always look after me when I had bad dreams.  We are quite close and speak to each other most days. I treasure all the times we have together. 

Unsung. By Cheryl.


Hear our voice 

Sing our song

When times get hard 

we carry on

Denied our history

Our place in time, 

Omitting our legacy and equality 

Our achievements not recognised

Without a shrine. 

Meet: your Unsung Heroes

We invite you, our wonderful audiences, to tell us about your own Unsung female heroes. Whether personal or historical - if you know of a woman who deserves to be acknowledged, then we would love to know learn about her!


Please email or tweet the following to us, and we will add her to the exhibition:

- Her name

- A brief summary of why she is a hero

 - An image to


Email: info [at] unsungcollective [dot] come

Twitter: @unsung_women

Virginia Hall (1906 – 1982), a skilled spy during the Second World War and the only woman to have ever received the Distinguished Service Cross from the US Military. The Gestapo labelled her the 'most dangerous of all Allied spies', and she coordinated French Resistance activities in Nazi occupied Toulouse and Lyon. She was made an honourary Member of the Order of the British Empire for her services, and had been an amputee since the age of 27, humorously nicknaming her wooden eg 'Cuthbert'. 

Thank you to Kalve Svenson for the addition!

Helen Sharman (b.1963) - in May 1991, Sheffield-born chemist Helen Sharman became the first Briton to travel to space in May 1991. She was selected from more than 13,000 applicants, and spent 8 days orbiting Earth. She received an OBE in 1992.

Thank you to Rachael Halliwell for the addition!

Katie Bouman (b.1989) - Dr Bouman is an American computer scientist who led the development of the algorithm that pieced together data from several telescopes that allowed the capture of the first ever image of a black hole. Bouman was a PhD student at the time, and just 29 years of age. 

Thank you to Leeds City College for the addition!