Celebrate the famous women born in Kent and Sussex this International Women’s Day

Kelly Holmes on parade, in Hildenborough, Kent, during her homecoming parade following the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Kelly Holmes on parade, in Hildenborough, Kent, during her homecoming parade following the 2004 Summer Olympics. - Credit: Halsteadk/Wikimedia

The theme of this year's International Women’s day is Choose to Challenge. So, in the spirit of Challenge, here are some fantastic famous women from Kent and Sussex who have either defied societal expectations or have had tremendous success in their field. 

Holly Willoughby 

Holly Willoughby at the Happy Feet premiere in 2006

Holly Willoughby at the Happy Feet premiere in 2006 - Credit: S Pakhrin/Flickr

Born in Brighton. Willoughby is one of the country's most recognisable TV presenters with over 20 years of experience in the industry. She is most well-known for hosting This Morning and Dancing on Ice alongside Phillip Schofield.

Outside of her presenting work, Willoughby is also a writer and has alongside her sister Kelly written several children’s books that form the School for Stars series.   

Angela Carter  

Black and white photograph of acclaimed author Angela Carter

Black and white photograph of acclaimed author Angela Carter - Credit: Archant Library

Born in Eastbourne, Carter is famous for her Feminist novels, which are often witty and within Magical Realism. Carter is often heralded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century due to her unique writing style and her radical subject matters.  

Her most famous work, The Bloody Chamber, is a collection of fairy tales that have been re-imagined in a Feminist light. The usual trope of the Damsel in Distress is subverted, and the women are more often than not the heroines of the stories.  

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Fellow writer Jeanette Winterson said, "What Angela Carter did with fairy tales was to take the stories that we all know and turn them inside out. Make them into something that gave women back the power.”     

Kelly Holmes  

Kelly Holmes on parade, in Hildenborough, Kent, during her homecoming parade following the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Kelly Holmes on parade, in Hildenborough, Kent, during her homecoming parade following the 2004 Summer Olympics. - Credit: Halsteadk/Wikimedia

Olympic Gold Medallist Dame Kelly Holmes was born in Pembury in Kent. She retired from Long-distance running after her triumphant wins in the 800m and 1500m events at the Athens Summer Olympics in 2004.

Since then, she has published several books, appeared on TV and is a motivational speaker. Holmes is also the president of the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, a mentorship program designed to help 11-25 years olds achieve their best with the help of world-class athletes.  

Hattie Jacques  

Black and white photo of actress Hattie Jacques

Black and white photo of actress Hattie Jacques - Credit: Archant Library

This Kent-born Comedy Actress worked extensively on stage and in film, tv and radio. But she will forever be known for her roles in the iconic Carry On Films.

Hattie Jacques often played stern, no-nonsense characters over the 14 Carry On Films she appeared in, which she grew tired of. Jacques named Carry On Cabby as her favourite of the series as it allowed her to play the love interest for once rather than her typecasted role of the “battleaxe”.  

Vita Sackville-West  

Black and white photograph of author and garden designer Vita Sackville-West in 1924

Black and white photograph of author and garden designer Vita Sackville-West in 1924 - Credit: Dhruva Srinivas/Wikimedia

Born at her ancestral home of Knole House in Kent, Sackville-West was a poet and novelist in her own right, but she is perhaps best known for being Virginia Woolf’s lover and inspiration for the classic feminist novel Orlando. Sackville-West's son Nigel Nicolson wrote, “The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature”.  

Sackville-West's private life became very public due to numerous liaisons she had with women while married to Politician Sir Harold Nicolson. This often overshadowed her merit as a literary mind. Her most famous work, All Passion Spent, is now heralded as a feminist masterpiece and explores female autonomy in a patriarchal society and how societal expectations often thwart the ambitions of women.

Vita Sackville-West, alongside her husband, created the famous Sissinghurst Castle Garden, which is now one of the most popular estates out of all the National Trust Properties and is home to an internationally respected plant collection that includes around 200 varieties of Rose that Sackville-West personally cultivated.

Click the link for more information about International Women's Day 2021 and how you can participate https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

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