March 8, 2023 8.00 pm This story is over 15 months old

International Women’s Day: Celebrating Lincolnshire’s inspiring women

Stars of screen, a Paralympic hero and a true business mogul

By Local Democracy Reporter

March 8 is International Women’s Day – celebrating the remarkable achievements of women across all four corners of society, including right here in Lincolnshire.

Each year on March 8, women everywhere are celebrated for the impact they leave or have left on the world, whether that be social, political, economic or cultural achievements.

Lincolnshire is no stranger to powerful and influential women throughout the course of history.

Baroness Margaret Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister in British history, flying the flag not just for females across the country, but also for everyday people in her birth town of Grantham, Lincolnshire.

One of the founding members of the Royal College of Nursing, Dame Sarah Ann Swift, was also born in Lincolnshire, and there is a ward named after her at St Thomas Hospital in London.

We have taken a look at five of the most inspiring women within the Lincolnshire community, varying from great business minds to recognisable stars of our screens.

Ursula Lidbetter

There are seldom few major leadership roles across Lincolnshire that Ursula Lidbetter hasn’t been involved in. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Lincolnshire Co-op’s first female chief executive, the first ever chair of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, former chair of both the Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce and the Lincoln Business Improvement Group, and even former Deputy Lieutenant of the county – it’s fair to say that seldom few have left their mark on the area more than Ursula Lidbetter.

The former boss at Lincolnshire Co-op retired after 18 years as chief executive of the local company at the end of 2022, and in that time she oversaw the £70 million redevelopment of Lincoln’s Cornhill Quarter, the construction of the Lincoln Science and Innovation Park, and much much more.

Lincoln’s born and raised business mogul Ursula was given an OBE in 2019 for services to the local economy, and she said of this: “It is a great honour to receive recognition from your country for something you have done locally.”

Sophie Wells

With eight Paralympic medals to her name, nobody from Lincolnshire has more success in the games than Sophie Wells. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Next up we have Lincolnshire’s most decorated athlete in Olympic and Paralympic Games – dressage extraordinaire Sophie Wells.

Born in Lincoln, has an astonishing eight Paralympic medals to her name, as well as a golden postbox in the city after her London 2012 triumph.

Despite being born with amniotic band syndrome, Sophie never gave up on her dream to be the best in the world, and with 34 medals at the last 12 consecutive Para championships, there’s little debate in her being in the very elite group of equestrian riders.

Sheridan Smith

Sheridan Smith has captured imaginations on stage and TV screens for two decades. | Photo: IMDB

Sheridan Smith is a star of screen and stage alike, winning countless awards for her performances in television series, theatre productions and as a singer.

The Epworth-born celebrity is a two-time Laurence Olivier Award winner, a BAFTA winner, and was rewarded with an OBE in 2015 for her services to drama.

Whether it’s depicting the hilarious role of Smithy’s sister Rudi in Gavin & Stacey, Janet on Two Pints of Lager & A Packet of Crisps, or any intense role played in the succession of gripping TV dramas she starred in – Sheridan Smith is a name and face that is recognised across the world.

Joan Plowright

Joan Plowright is one of the most esteemed actors of her generation. | Photo: IMDB

One of the most decorated people to feature on this list, Brigg-born actress Dame Joan Plowright, 93, had a career spanning six decades and inspired many of the country’s top actresses over the years.

The Plowright Theatre in Scunthorpe is named in Dame Joan’s honour, reflecting on her star-studded career as a two-time Golden Globe winner, a Tony Award winner, and even an Oscar nominee.

Her marriage to Laurence Olivier saw her take on a close role with the National Theatre from 1963 onwards, and accolades from her country soon followed in the form of a CBE in 1970, and a promotion to Dame Commander in 2004.

Jennifer Saunders

Jennifer Saunders on the set of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. | Photo: IMDB / David Appleby

A truly titanic comedy actor in her own right, it was the humble town of Sleaford that proved the birthplace of the legendary Jennifer Saunders.

She is best known for her consistently brilliant comedy partnership with Dawn French – winning a lifetime achievement BAFTA for the duo’s work, as well as the writing and playing of her Edina Monsoon character in Absolutely Fabulous.

Due to her RAF background, Jennifer did not spend much of her life in Lincolnshire, but the place of her birth remains immensely proud to call one of Britain’s finest comedic minds, one of their own.

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