Skip to content

Women's History Month

Authored by Nishah Malik
Published on 30th March, 2022 7 min read

Women's History Month

A poster for women's history month.

This March marks the annual Women’s History Month, a month long celebration that began in 1987 in the United States of America. Despite discrimination, hardships, and exclusion, women throughout history have strived for equality. Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to celebrate the contributions and legacies of women to history, society and culture. 

The month is about amplifying women’s voices, not only in the past, but the present and also creating a safe space for the future. Although the month originated in the United States it is also celebrated, alongside International Women’s Day, in the United Kingdom and Australia. Generations of women have pushed boundaries, broken patriarchal ideals and shaped our progress. In this month it is important to celebrate those less-well known women and understand their role in shaping the world we live in today. 

British Online Archives would like to take this opportunity to celebrate one of the many amazing women who have made outstanding contributions to society; Princess Sophia Duleep Singh. Indian princess, Sophia Duleep Singh, daughter of the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, was a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union and the Women’s Tax Resistance League in the early 1900s in Britain. The young Indian princess was a member of British elite society, a close friend of Queen Victoria, as well as a prominent member of the suffragette movement. 

The princess was a part of suffragette deputations, chaired meetings, refused to pay her taxes, was taken to court and even threw herself at Prime Minister Asquith’s car, while slamming a “give women the vote” pamphlet on his window. However, most famously she strategically used her social class and status in the movements favour. Sophia began selling the suffragette newspaper at Hampton Court Palace and brought the suffragette voice to royal grounds. 

While there were many suffragettes that dedicated their life striving for women’s equality, Princess Sophia Duleep Singhs story is both unique and inspiring. Women’s History Month is all about celebrating women’s varied and undervalued achievements throughout history and Princess Sophia Duleep Singhs story does just that. Her story is influential for a number of reasons. 

“Representation is important. I think it fills an internal yearning that validates you and almost gives you permission to take your place in the professional world. It says that you can, it says that you should, it says glass and concrete ceilings can be broken.” – Paula Cummins, Kingston University London

In the grand scheme of history the stories and achievements of people of colour, especially women of colour, have unfortunately been overlooked. Modern Britain has been built on its cultural diversity, ethnic minorities have played a key role in shaping Britain. The British suffrage movement was more or less exclusively white, however the movement was not race exclusive and never favoured the rights of one race over the other. Sophia was not just influential in terms of her activism, but her very involvement in the suffragette movement draws on broader arguments about immigration and Indian women’s role in British society. 

Sophia’s prominent involvement in the movement as an Indian woman is significant in challenging traditional notions surrounding political agency of Indian women. Her very presence in the movement highlights how, despite the common narrative, women of colour have played a major role in shaping the Britain that we live in today. 

Women’s History Month is all about bringing these stories to the surface, it is about changing the common narrative and celebrating and acknowledging the overlooked women who have played a major role in shaping modern society and culture. 

Read the full article “Princess Sophia Duleep Singh and The Important Role of Indian Women in the Suffragette Movement” on the British Online Archives website


March marks Women’s History Month, a month that provides an opportunity to celebrate the contributions and legacies of women to history, society and culture. During this month it is important to celebrate those less-well known women and understand their role in shaping the world we live in today. Alongside this, this month is also about recognising and celebrating how far women have come in terms of equality. By no means have we achieved full gender equality in society, however looking at and celebrating past accomplishments can help to shape future changes.

When discussing past changes to women’s status emphasis is mainly placed on political and legal changes that were initiated by the suffragette movement in the early-1900s. However, alongside these changes, women’s status culturally, socially and economically was also changing. In particular, in 1960s and 1970s Britain women’s position changed considerably in all aspects of society. It was a period that began the breakdown of traditional patriarchal ideals, a period that slowly began giving women more freedom socially. 

These changes and new found freedom for women was down to a combination of different factors, particularly the post-War “Youthquake”, consumerism, the rise of music and fashion, the sexual revolution and the introduction of the contraceptive pill. The mid-1950s witnessed a “Youthquake”, the period witnessed the emergence of a new generation. A generation that began challenging the norms of the past and subsequently began creating their own cultural expression. During this period a great deal of youth subcultures emerged, most notably the Teddy Boys, Mods, and Rockers. Exploration in fashion played a major aspect in these subcultures and fashion began to reflect the more liberal mood of society. The fashion of the 1960s embodied the very spirit of the wider economic, social and political freedoms that women were gradually gaining in society. One of the most iconic fashion trends of the 1960s, for the modern woman, was the miniskirt. The shorter hemline was vastly different to women’s fashion in the 40s and 50s. The miniskirt provided women with more freedom with their fashion, women had the freedom to dress more liberally. 

Alongside these social changes, women in the 60s and 70s gained sexual freedom, this was in part due to the introduction of the contraceptive pill, which allowed women to take control of their fertility and their bodies for the first time. The introduction of the contraceptive pill was a milestone moment for the women’s liberation movement, it not only allowed women to be sexually liberal, but also economically independent. This increase in sexual freedom for women was also down to more societal openness with regards to sex. 

Prior to the 60s and 70s a great emphasis was placed on a woman’s chastity and intercourse was only presented as a means of producing children in the constructs of marriage. However, this changed for women in the 60s and 70s, there was more of an emphasis on sexual pleasure and enjoying sex without just having children. These sexual shifts in society meant women could now not only enjoy sex, but also plan when to have or not have a child, they could continue their career or education without the fear of getting pregnant. The changes in the sex structure and introduction of the pill had a profound effect on women’s position in society. 

These social changes played a major role in changing women’s position in society overtime and rejecting idealised femininity. At the heart of these alterations in the 60s and 70s was a gradual change in societal attitudes surrounding deep rooted female repression; a key factor that helped to create a modern Britain built on equality between the sexes. Women’s History Month is the perfect opportunity recognise and celebrate these progresses and also look at what else needs to be done. 

To find out more about the social and cultural changes to women’s status in the 1960s and 1970s, check out the “From the Archive: Women's Liberation, Miniskirts and The Pill in 60s and 70s Britain” article on the British Online Archives website:

Authored by Nishah Malik

Nishah Malik

Nishah Malik is Collections Editor at British Online Archives. Nishah gained a Masters in History from the University of Derby in 2020. Her research interests centre around South Asian culture and heritage, as well as the history and experiences of the South Asian diaspora. She also has a keen interest in women's history.

Share this article

Notable Days


The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

Get Social

Back to Top