8 Mar 2017

International Women’s Day: 8 Influential Hullensian Women

Let’s celebrate sisterhood!

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a time to honour all the ladies who have persevered, inspired and impacted the lives of people all around the world. IWD also celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

From 10 -12 March, WOW Hull will also be celebrating women and girls and taking a frank look at what stops them from achieving their potential through talks, debates, music, film, comedy and activism. If you haven’t got your day passes yet get yours now! Or see the full line-up here.

Hull has plenty of girl power to go round, so grab your party hats as we take a re-cap on 8 Influencial Hullensian Women.

Amy Johnson


Hull born and bred aviation pioneer Amy Johnson was the first female pilot to fly alone from Britain to Australia. She was also the first woman to qualify as a ground-engineer in 1929 and proved women were just as competent as men in a male dominated field.

Amy completed a B.A in Economics at Sheffield University in 1923, studied as a mechanic and was president of the Women’s Engineering Society between 1935 and 1937. On Jan 5 1941, Amy drowned when the plane she was flying crashed into the Thames Estuary during rough weather. There are claims she was mistaken for a German bomber, and was shot down by anti-aircraft guns on her final flight.

The Amy Johnson Festival which takes place from 1 July – 6 September, celebrates Amy’s achievements and aims to inspire women to consider engineering and the sciences as future career paths.

Lillian Bilocca


Lillian Bilocca, otherwise known as ‘Big Lil’ was a campaigner for better safety conditions on fishing trawlers during the 1960s.

After the trawlers St. Romanus, Kingston Peridot and Ross Cleveland went down in January 1968 resulting in 53 men losing their lives, Lil fought against authorities within the fishing industry, helping her turn into a local hero. Lil won the legal requirement for full-time radio operators on all trawlers, saving thousands of lives since then.

Lillian was never afraid to speak her mind and always stood up for what she believed in.

Michelle Dewberry


Michelle Dewberry was the 2006 winner of the second series of the British television programme The Apprentice.

Whilst her friends were out chasing boys, Michelle dreamt of being an ‘honest and successful business woman’ who worked three jobs and read business biographies.

Michelle likes to meet and work with thousands of people wanting to return to work, and helps people present themselves in the best way possible.

Debra Stephenson


Debra Stephenson is an English actor, comedian, impressionist and singer who is widely known for her work as a comedic impressionist.

Since the age of eleven, Debra has been entertaining the public with her impressions which include celebrities such as Janet Street Porter, and Holly Willoughby.

Debra is also known for her appearances in Coronation Street, Bad Girls and Spooks and has been referred to as ‘an amazingly accomplished performer’ by the Radio Times.

Stevie Smith


Stevie Smith, christened Florence Margaret Smith, was a poet and novelist. Stevie acquired her nickname in her early twenties whilst riding on the London commons with a friend who compared her toSteve Donoghue.

Although Stevie’s poetry was at first less successful than her novels had been, the publication of her best known collection Not Waving But Drowning in 1957 resulted in her becoming more widely known. Stevie’s work often expressed sadness and isolation with her poetry being darkly comic in style.

Stevie won the Cholmondeley Award for Poets in 1966 and the Queen’s Gold Medal for poetry in 1969. Stevie also inspired writers such as Amy Jenkins, who went on to write the novels Honeymoon and Funny Valentine.

Jean Bishop


Hull’s leading lady Jean Bishop is known for regularly dressing up as a bumble bee to raise money for Age UK and has now become a local celebrity.

Jean won Fundraiser of the Year at The Pride of Britain Awards in 2013 for raising an incredible £92,000 and has even been mentioned by comedian Russell Howard on his show Russell Howard’s Good News, where he praised her work, saying “How incredible is she? People like that make the world go round…”

Jean believes ‘If you love everybody, even if you just like everybody, I think you just feel more cheerful and happy.’

Jean Bishop © Josh Moore

Lucy Beaumont


Stand up comedian Lucy Beaumont has come a long way since her days serving on a meat counter on Hessle Road, and is now known for her surreal upbeat humour.

Lucy has been known to regularly visit Hull to help young people reach their personal goals at The Warren Youth Centre.

Lucy won the BBC Radio New Comedy Award in 2012 and returns to her homeland for the ‘We Can Twerk it Out’ show at Hull Truck Theatre this May.

Madame Clapham


 Madame Clapham (otherwise known as Emily Clapham) opened up a dress making salon in Hull in 1887 and was known as Hull’s ‘finest dressmaker’.

Madame Clapham successfully competed with London and Paris fashion houses with a large and illustrious clientèle, which included Queen Maud of Norway, the daughter of King Edward VII of England.

Clapham brought 19th century glamour to Hull and always had a good eye for fashion and colour with fantastic business sense.

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