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Top 10 Inspirational Manx Women

08 March 2023

Three blocks with sad, neutral, and happy faces on them with a hand holding the happy block

This International Women’s Day, we are taking the opportunity to acknowledge women from the Isle of Man who have made their mark on the world. As the Isle of Man was the first country in the world to give women the right to vote in 1881, it only seems fitting that, on International Women’s day 2023, we share stories from some of the island’s most inspiring figures.

Black and white photo of Sophie Goulden

1. Sophia Goulden

Sophia Goulden was the Manx born mother of suffragettes Emmeline Pankhurst and Mary Jane Clarke, and is credited for influencing both her daughters’ political beliefs.

Goulden was born (and later buried) on the Isle of Man but moved to Manchester, England, when she married. It was here that she became part of Manchester’s ‘radical elite’, introducing her children to radical politics. Goulden fought against slavery and for the repeal of the Corn Laws. She was an ardent supporter of emancipation and a passionate campaigner for women's suffrage.

Samantha Barks on stage

2. Samantha Barks

Actor and musical theatre star, Samantha Barks rose to fame after placing third in the BBC television talent show I’d Do Anything in 2008. She had a number of large stage roles, before her film debut as Éponine in the 2012 film adaptation of Les Misérables.

Barks has had several theatre, TV and film roles since then, the most notable being the lead role of Elsa in the West End production of Frozen.

Dot Tilbury on stage at a presentation

3. Dot Tilbury MBE

Dot Tilbury is a local legend, and after 25 years managing the RL360 Cycling League, has been a motivation to thousands of young cyclists on the Isle of Man such as Mark Cavendish and Matt Bostock.

Dot is also well-known on the island for her numerous stage performances, including in the local pantomime. Dot Tilbury was awarded an MBE in 2009 for all her work with the cycling league.

Yasmin Ingham riding a horse

4. Yasmin Ingham

Yasmin Ingham is a competitive event rider, and was born and raised by on the Isle of Man. Ingham has competed around the world at several prestigious competitions, winning individual gold at the World Eventing Championships riding Banzai du Loir. This made Ingham the first rider to win the world championship title as an individual rather than as a team rider.

Black and white photo of Sophia Morrison

5. Sophia Morrison

Sophia Morrison was a Manx cultural activist, folklore collector and author who is considered a key figure in the revival of Manx culture. Because of Morrison’s hard work in the fields of Manx language, music, folklore and much more, all areas of Manx culture have flourished and continue to be celebrated today.

Morrison has a very successful book titled Manx Fairy Tales, published in 1911, which brought Manx culture to a wider audience. Later, in 1929, the books popularity was boosted when Archibald Knox illustrated the stories, and five new stories were added. The book is still in print today.

Clare Christian wearing a traditional Judge's full bottomed wig on Tynwald day

6. Clare Christian OBE

Clare Christian OBE was the first woman President of Tynwald. Christian is a former member of the Legislative council and a former Health Minister on the Isle of Man (1993-2016). She was President of the local government known as Tynwald from 2011 until 2016, meaning she has the casting vote on important issues and is responsible for controlling the procedure in court.

Image of the Manx Sun newspaper front page from 1871

7. Harriet Curphey

Harriet Curphey was the owner and editor of the newspaper the Manx Sun between 1858 and 1881. Curphey was in favour of women’s suffrage and refused to offer a platform in her publication for anti-suffragist views. The Manx Sun gave women a voice and helped Manx women receive the vote in 1881, one of the first places in the world to grant women the vote.

Black and white portrait of Charlotte Stanley

8. Charlotte Stanley

Charlotte Stanley, Countess of Derby, played a vital role in Manx (and British) history during the English Civil War. Stanley was evacuated to the Isle of Man in 1644, and led the defence of Castle Rushen in the ancient capital of Castletown against Parliamentarian forces. This castle was the last Royalist stronghold to surrender at the end of civil war hostilities, in October 1651.

Charlotte gained "the glory of being the last person in the three kingdoms, who submitted to the victorious rebels".

Sepia photo of Mary Louisa Wood

9. M L Wood

Mary Louisa Wood is considered the ‘Mother of Manx Music’ due to her commitment to musical education on the island. In 1982, Wood founded the Manx Music Festival, known more commonly as “The Guild”, which is still going strong today. Held every April, individuals, groups and choirs of all ages compete in a series of competitions, and it is now seen as a prestigious event that celebrates the best of Manx culture.

Zoe Gillings-Brier holding a snowboard and waving at camera

10. Zoe Gillings-Brier

Zoe Gillings-Brier is 4-time team GB Olympic athlete. Manx born and bred, Gillings is a Manx and British snowboarder. Having won seven medals at the International Ski Federation Alpine World Cup including one gold, Gillings has also competed at the 2006, 2010, 2014, and the 2018 Winter Olympics making her the only British snowboarder to compete in 4 Olympics.