Thatcher beats Queen to most influential woman in past 200 years

Three Royals, past and present featured in the top ten of a poll ranking the most influential women of the past two centuries.

In a survey of 2,000 people by Scottish Widows and historian Suzannah Lipscomb, Her Majesty ranked third, with Diana, Princess of Wales coming in fourth. Queen Victoria, now second longest regining Monarch in British History after The Queen overtook her in September, was voted in at eighth.

Guy Evans

Her Majesty was voted 3rd most influential women of the past 200 years. (Guy Evans)

It was former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who took top spot, as first woman leader of the UK. Marie Curie, whose research into radioactive earnt her a Nobel prize, Mother Theresa and Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the Suffragette movement at the turn of the 20th century, also feature, showing a strong trend of leaders and pioneers in their respective fields.

Suzannah Lipscomb said: “The top 10 are an impressive list of women – each of them was or has been responsible for or overseen real change, but in addition nearly every one of them has some symbolic importance beyond their own person.

“What’s evident overall is that the women chosen as the top of each category – and in our list of top 10 – are not flashes in the pan. Thatcher, Pankhurst, Curie, Earhart, Austen, Dench, Beauvoir and Adie are women who can be referred to by one name. They have been chosen because they were and are game-changers. This is the definition of ‘influential’ that emerges.”

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The list ranks as follows:

1. Margaret Thatcher (28%)
2. Marie Curie (24%)
3. Queen Elizabeth II (18%)
4. Diana, Princess of Wales (17%)
5. Emmeline Pankhurst (16%)
6. Mother Theresa (13%)
7. Florence Nightingale (12%)
8. Queen Victoria (8%)
9. Rosa Parks (7%)
10. Oprah Winfrey (6%)

Out of all respondents, taken from all sections of society, a far higher proportion of young people believed that having ambition was a determining factor of a woman’s influence (27% of 18-24 year-olds vs. only 9% of 55-64 year-olds). Older generations, however, believed having compassion to be more important (a quarter of over 65s selected this trait, vs. only 16% of 18-24 year-olds).

Interestingly, men believed women in the political arena were the most influential: 32% of men chose the Tory PM while only a quarter (24%) of women did.

Women were much more likely to be impacted by women in the fashion world, perhaps not unsurprising in the material and superficial world we live in.  21% of women say that Coco Chanel has been the most influential woman within creative arts.

Mrs Lipscomb commented: “The difference that exists between men and women over what makes a women influential is interesting – it suggests that women believe influence comes from a woman’s internal values and drive – i.e. from decisions that they can make about how to be, rather than from characteristics they possess – and men emphasise the opposite.”


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