International Women’s Day: Blackburn’s most inspiring women

It’s International Women’s Day today (March 8), which is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

To celebrate, we’ve rounded up five of Blackburn’s most inspiring women.

Some of these figures have cemented their place in the history books, while others are currently paving the way for young people in the modern world and serving as role models.

Blackburn’s chief executive with Darwen Borough Council, Denise Park, said: ‘During my time on council I have worked with some wonderful women. Women in all fields and departments who have inspired and influenced my work and my environment.

“I have always believed that the Council is an inclusive and diverse place to work. A place where my career has flourished and where the achievements of women are recognized and celebrated.

“As Chief Executive, I have been tasked with driving forward Blackburn’s vision for the future with Darwen and how the public and private sectors can work together to create a stronger and brighter future for the region. .

“It would be an impossible task without the women who continue to support me and the board in every area of ​​work we undertake.”

Here are five inspiring women from or with links to Blackburn:

Blackburn’s AJ Odudu (Ray Burmiston/BBC)

AJ Odudu, who grew up on Devonport Road, is best known for her roles as a presenter – including co-presenting Channel 5’s Big Brother’s Bit On the Side in 2013.

AJ has previously appeared on a series of challenge shows including Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, Cooking With The Stars and The Chase.

She shot to fame in 2021 after portraying Blackburn on the hit BBC show Strictly Come Dancing.

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph at the time, she said: ‘I really want to make my hometown and the whole of Lancashire proud.

“Things like that don’t normally happen to people like us. It’s a working-class neighborhood and to say you’re going to be on the most popular show on TV is a dream come true.

AJ, 34, qualified for the 2021 final but had to withdraw due to an ankle injury.

However, the tenacious youngster from Lancashire didn’t let that stop her and has gone from strength to strength ever since.

The St Bede’s High School alumnus has taken on several presenting roles this year, including Channel 4’s The Bridge and The Baftas.

Later this month she will host the Great Comic Relief Prizeathon alongside comedian Joel Dommett.

Lancashire Telegraph: Barbara CastleBarbara’s Castle

Barbara Castle was MP for Blackburn from 1945 to 1979 and is said to have helped put the town on the map.

She was even considered as future Prime Minister before Margaret Thatcher made herself known.

She was originally a journalist, but turned to a political career in 1944.

She was chosen to take a seat for Blackburn and held that seat until her retirement in 1979.

She was considered by many to be a major figure in the Labor movement, as a Member of Parliament and MEP, Minister and Cabinet Minister and, after leaving politics, as an activist for pensioners.

On the politician’s death in 2001, then Prime Minister Tony Blair said: ‘She was brave, determined, tireless and principled, she was never afraid to say what she wanted. she thought or to defend her beliefs.

“She was loved throughout the Labor movement and recognized as an outstanding minister in the many high offices she held.”

Last October councilors unveiled a castle statue of the Baroness in Jubilee Square, Blakey Moor Ewood.

In a BBC Radio 1 clip, which aired at the unveiling, Barbara said: “I never wanted a woman’s job.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Camilla Ainsworth on The Apprentice in 2018 (Photo: BBC)Camilla Ainsworth on The Apprentice in 2018 (Picture: BBC)

Camilla Ainsworth is a true role model for budding businesswomen.

The Blackburn-born woman appeared in The Apprentice in 2018 and was the youngest finalist to appear in Lord Sugar’s Boardroom.

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph at the time, she said it had always “been a boy thing” throughout her life.

Following her success on the show, the CEO of Holland & Barrett was impressed with her line of M+ LKPLUS vegan nut milks and she launched the dairy alternative in 645 of their stores nationwide.

The Westholme School alum was included in Business Insider’s “Top 10 Women to Watch List” of 2020 and “Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs”.

Currently, she also runs a business consulting website called Camilla Consultancy.

Speaking recently about International Women’s Day, Camilla said: “I’ve thought long and hard about what I want to say for International Women’s Day and I’m going to do my best to condense it and not write a romance novel. JK Rowling (a difficult task!)

“While it’s undeniable that there’s a lot to be done when it comes to closing the gender gap, I think it’s important to say that the sprouts of positive change are beginning to grow. to make felt.

“On a more personal level, I have felt a real paradigm shift over the past few years when it comes to standing up for other women – there is no more powerful force than a woman determined to elevate, rally and uplift other women while doing so.

“I have never felt so proud to be a woman – the last six months have been completely transformative.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Josephine CoxJosephine Cox

The Blackburn-born author penned dozens of bestselling books before she died in 2020, aged 82.

Josephine has written over 60 books and her works include Two Sisters, The Beachcomber and Her Father’s Sins.

According to her website, Cox was born in Blackburn in a family of 10 children.

She often recounted how she grew up in poverty, barely able to afford food and clothing, let alone books.

She married her husband, Ken, when she was 16 and had two sons.

Once her children started school, Cox began studying at university. She got a place at Cambridge University but couldn’t accept as it would have meant living away from home.

She instead took up teaching and began writing her first novel, Her Father’s Sins.

She’s already been awarded the ‘Superwoman of Great Britain’ award and has topped the Sunday Times bestseller list on more than one occasion.

Lancashire Telegraph: An official portrait of singer Kathleen Ferrier.An official portrait of singer Kathleen Ferrier.

Kathleen Ferrier was a world famous opera singer and talented pianist, originally from the humble town of Blackburn.

She was born in 1912 and died of cancer in 1953, at the age of 41.

During her career, she continued to perform on some of the biggest stages in the world and even rubbed shoulders with royalty.

She originally lived in Bank Terrace, Higher Walton, before the family moved to Lynwood Road in Blackburn when she was a toddler.

Her father was headmaster of St James Primary School in the town and Kathleen attended Blackburn High School for Girls.

At 14, she left school to become an apprentice telephonist at the GPO in Blackburn.

She would remain a telephone operator for nine years, eventually moving from Blackburn to the Blackpool Telephone Exchange in 1934 in order to be closer to her future husband, Herbert Wilson.

She made her stage debut in 1946 at the Glyndebourne Festival premiere of Benjamin Britten’s opera The Rape of Lucretia.

In 1948, Kathleen embarked on her first concert tour of North America – she would make two more trips in the following years – and the three years from 1948 to 1951 were probably the peak of her career.

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