In what's been deemed the 'year of the woman', Body Confidential lists some of the city's most inspiring

In a ceremonial unveiling this month, a new statue devoted to suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was revealed to a crowd of thousands at St Peter's Square - the first female statue in Manchester since Queen Victoria in 1901. The gesture also marked 100 years since some women won the right to vote, following campaigns led by Pankhurst and Annie Kenney. It was a symbolic end to 2018, in what's been called the 'Year of the Woman'. Globally, women have made continued strides towards equality in all facets of career and social conventions. In Manchester, we have seen similar strides. 

We've listed some of Manchester's most inspiring women, from all walks of life and in all fields.


Emily Coxhead | Founder of The Happy Newspaper

Mainstream news' bleak, 24/7 reporting of crime and corruption can cause many to lose hope in humanity. It's what prompted Emily Coxhead, a writer, illustrator and designer, to create The Happy Newspaper, a bright, colourful and unmistakably optimistic platform for good news. Connecting an international audience of thousands readers, the paper is celebrated for championing the world's unsung heroes and adding colour to an otherwise grey news cycle. Coxhead writes: 'Every single day there are people helping others and doing incredible things in all corners of the planet and the majority of them aren't celebrated, but we think they deserve to be recognised. We aim to bring a refreshing twist on what we typically know as 'news', reporting on positive changes and truly inspiring people.'

Emily Coxhead

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Emily Coxhead

Councillor Sarah Judge | fighting protests outside abortion clinics 

Access to safe, legal medical treatments is a basic human right. Which is why, after hearing reports of harassment outside abortion clinics, Councillor Sarah Judge campaigned to make protests outside clinics in Manchester illegal. 

Despite pro-life campaigners claiming that their protests were peaceful, reports highlighted how women who access the services were called ‘murderers’, had holy water thrown in their path and were harassed and intimidated. “The argument isn’t about being pro-choice or pro-life,” explained Judge, the Lead Member for Women in an interview for Confidentials.com. “It’s about women being able to access health services that they are legally allowed to access in safety.” 


Holly Ringland | raising awareness of domsetic violence with debut novel The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

Any artist will attest to the vulnerability that goes hand-in-hand with the creative process. But for Manchester author Ringland, whose work is grounded in real-life experiences of domestic violence, said vulnerability has been amplified. The debut author has been thrust into international acclaim with her novel ‘The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart,’ a tale which followers the life of a young girl through trauma and loss. The book has been hailed for it’s candid account of male perpetrated violence, and for inspiring women across the globe to take control of their own stories and break the cycle of abuse.  

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Esme Ward | first female director of Manchester Museum

As Manchester Museum’s first ever female Director, Esme Ward’s appointment this year sparked much debate. Ward is the first woman to hold the role in the museum’s 125 year history, a move that, whilst progressive, highlights a wider gender disparity in the arts. The top three museums in the world have never had female directors, and experts estimate that only around 5% of the work featured in major permanent collections worldwide is by women. As institutions that reflect society, both past and present, it is crucial that museum’s represent female voices as well as male. And as such, Ward’s appointment is destined to make a positive impact.


Dr Robina Shah | First Asian woman to be personally appointed by the Queen as High Sheriff for Greater Manchester

When it comes to accolades, Dr Robina Shah enjoys a fruitful list. The University of Manchester lecturer was the UK's youngest and first Asian chairman of an NHS Trust, the youngest Deputy Lieutenant for Greater Manchester in 2006, and now holds the esteemed honour of High Sheriff of Greater Manchester, a title which was bestowed upon her by the Queen.  The High Sheriffs central role is to support the Crown and the judiciary, as well as local services including the police, emergency services, probation, prison services and voluntary sector organisations. Dr Shah will also support charities and organisations working with young people and other vulnerable members of the community. 

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Dr Robina Shah

Dr Jessicarr Moorhouse | launching medicine-meets-fitness initiative in Manchester

Navigating the noise around diet and fitness can be a minefield. With so many influencers offering healthy tidbits, how can you find the advice that will really help you? It’s for this reason that Dr Jessicarr Moorhouse founded Tribe.MCR. The new wellness initiative combines Moorhouse’s background in medicine and physiotherapy with circuit-style sessions and fitness classes to give a more rounded approach to health and exercise. “I am a true advocate for sustainable lifestyle interventions in the prevention and treatment disease,” explains Dr Moorhouse in a recent interview

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Jane Craggs | calming the city’s cons with yoga

With its power to encourage calmness, reflection and mental wellbeing, could yoga be the missing piece in rehabilitating prisoners? For Manchester yoga expert Jane Craggs, the practice definitely helps offenders reflect. That’s why she teaches prisoners at HM Prison Forest Bank, a category B men’s prison in Pendlebury. Whilst yoga practice alone cannot break the cycle of crime, Craggs believes it can be a positive contributor. “When therapeutic, mindful yoga is used alongside a variety of appropriate interventions, I think it can be a very powerful tool,” Craggs explained in a recent interview. “Everyone deserves to have an opportunity to find inner peace.”


Sophie Lee | performer, burn survivor and body positive campaigner

“Beauty was the be all and end all for me. But then the accident happened. I thought would people still accept me? I had to get a grip and learn to love myself, as myself," said Sophie Lee to Body Confidential in a viral article earlier this year. Whilst fire performing in Chicago, club negligence led to 23-year-old's face catching fire. The terrifying accident would change her appearance but no her go-getting spirit. Still undergoing recovery, Sophie is currently using her platform to promote scars as beauty by posing without makeup. More companies should take the risk and hire imperfect models  - the more normal and visible we are, the more it’d become sellable.” Since her accident, her story has caught the attention of Cosmopolitan and ITV.

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Sophie Lee

Isobel Carse | Founder of ethical and award-winning chocolate, Dormouse Chocolates

For those with a sweet tooth, Isobel Carse has the dream job. The former law student pursued her chocolate passion, working as an assistant at Hotel Chocolate for six years before branching out on her own to launch her own chocolate brand. Dormouse is now stocked internationally and has been named a ‘rising star’ at the Academy of Chocolate Awards, who this year awarded Carse with two gold accolades. The Manchester chocolatier is scrupulous with ingredients sourcing and has been praised for ensuring that farmers are paid fairly. As many small producers are overlooked by larger companies, Dormouse is often the only UK business to use them, with Dormouse beans currently hailing from Venezuela, Peru, Guatemala, India and the Philippines. A chocolate that is ethically sourced, tastes divine and is handmade here in Manchester? We’re sold. 


Stacey Copeland | Professional boxer, first British woman to hold Commonwealth title

Female recognition in sport is a continued work in progress, yet there are many athletes helping to pave the way especially here in Manchester. Stacey Copeland was an international footballer - playing in the women’s premier league and FA cup final - before she decided to hang up her boots and commit to competing in boxing in 2010. It was in Zimbabwe this year, when she defeated Mapule Ngubane to become the first ever British female boxer to win a commonwealth title. As well as going down in the history books, Stacey Copeland's mission is to encourage the future generation of sportwomen. “Our own governing body is only just coming around to the fact that we’re there,” she said. Copeland set up the ‘Pave The Way’ project for schools in Greater Manchester last year. She has given 58 talks on the subject in the last fourteen months, and in April she addressed the European Parliament in Brussels.

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Stacey Copeland Stacey Copeland

Dr. Erinma Bell | Moss Side anti-violence campaigner

For close to two decades, Dr Erinma Bell has worked to prevent gang war and gun violence in Moss Side and Longsight with grassroots charity Carisma (Community Alliance for Renewal Inner South Manchester Area). In 2017, artist Karen Lyons unveiled a sculpture made in Dr Bell’s honour; it became the first ever sculpture of a woman to be showcased in Manchester Town Hall. The bust is made from 50 melted down illegal firearms – a symbolic representation of Bell’s continued work to eradicate gun crime in the city. “It is a great achievement and a symbol of hope, aspiration and peace,” says Bell. 


Julie Hesmondhalgh | Actor, activist & co-founder of Take Back Theatre

Julie Hesmondhalgh has long been known for combining acting with activism. Through her popular role as Hayley Cropper on Corrie, she brought transgender issues to the media forefront playing the first transgender character in a British soap opera. Since her days on Corrie’s cobbled streets, Hesmondhalgh has Co-founded Take Back Theatre, a grassroots political theatre company that provokes debate on social issues from racial hate to homelessness. Hesmondhalgh co-founder the non-profit company with Rebekah Harrison and visual artist Grant Archer, winning the Manchester Theatre Award last year. As well as showcasing both emerging and established talent, the theatre group has been praised for raising funds for relevant charities.

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Julie Hesmondhalgh

Sylvie Pope – campaigning to make misogyny a hate crime in Manchester

45% of women have experienced sexual harassment in a public place. And it has to stop. According to research by Greater Manchester Citizens, 90% of Manchester women believe that misogynistic acts should be recognised as a hate crime, similarly to any other acts of prejudice, abuse and hostility. That’s why University of Manchester student Sylvie Pope has launched a city-wide crusade to persuade GM Police to record acts of misogynistic behaviour as hate crime. Pope has campaigned tirelessly alongside fellow students Nimo Omer and Devi Joshi and hopes that the movement will empower victims of sexual crimes, as well as enable local forces to record the sensitive nature of these crimes appropriately.

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“We want to send a message that this behaviour is not acceptable anymore.” - Sylvie Pope

Mitzi Cunliffe | first female artist to receive plaque in Manchester

Whilst the commemorative landscape is often scrutinised for its imbalance – just one in five statues in the UK are of women – this year saw Manchester make a positive step towards shifting the imbalance. The city received a plaque dedicated to artist Mitzi Cunliffe, the first of its kind dedicated to a female artist in Manchester. The American artist is best known for creating the BAFTA trophy, which she sculpted in her Manchester studio in Didsbury. Manchester plays home to several of Cunliffe’s other works, including Threshold at Manchester High School for Girls, Heaton Park Pumping Station relief (which is Grade II listed) and Man and Technics at Manchester Health Academy. 

Visitors can view the plaque at Cunliffe’s former studio at 18 Cranmer Road, Didsbury, M20 6AW


Paulette Constable - DJ and exhibitor

After holding residencies in Ibiza club circuit, DJ Paulette recently returned to Manchester to reclaim her position as one of the city's most beloved DJs. In a career currently spanning more than two decades and three countries – Paulette has been a resident at some of the biggest and best clubs in the world, with residencies in prestigious clubs including the Hacienda (Manchester), Queen Club, Mix Club, Cocoon (Frankfurt),Ibiza Rocks at Pikes Hotel. She has supported the cream of the dj establishment – from Gilles Peterson, Norman Jay, David Guetta, Laidback Luke, SHM, Afrojack, Bob Sinclar, Didier Sinclair, Fafa Monteco to Duke Dumont, Jaymo & Andy George, Junior Sanchez, Artwork, Moodymanc and Mr Scruff.

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DJ Paulette

Megan Marie Griffith - Creative Director, Girl Gang Manchester 

Girl Gang is a collective effort (as the name would suggest).The female-focused events and entertainment group was formed by friends Ellie Ragdale and Vanhessa Longley over coffee after they realised that there was little community support for young women running creative businesses. After a number of successful events in Sheffield, Megan Marie brought the concept to Manchester. The gang put female friendship and celebration at the forefront of their activities and put on events to help and support women to achieve in life, work and society'. Speaking to Body Confidential, she said: "Our events try to open feminism up to the next generation of feminists and women who wouldn’t necessarily see a feminist event on Facebook and click attending."


Diane Modahl MBE |Commonwealth winner, charity founder

Considered one of the region's most distinguished and treasured athletes, Diane Modahl was honoured with an MBE at the Palace this December. As a top-ranking middle distance runner, Modahl won gold in the Commonwealth in 1990. Following retirement, Modahl devoted her career to honing the sporting abilities of underprivileged young people in the city with the Diane Modahl Sports foundation. Ambassadors include Rio Ferdinand and Kate Massey, and the charity work to set up programmes, identify talent and promote healthy lifestyles.

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Christine Burns MBE | Transgender rights campaigner

Dedicating a quarter of a century to fighting for trans rights, Burns has been a fierce campaigner for the legal rights of the UK trans community. She is best known for being a leading figure at Press for Change (PFC), where she worked for fifteen years and was influential in achieving and shaping the Gender Recognition Act. She worked to develop the first ever official guidance about trans health from the Department of Health and was awarded an MBE in 2005 in recognition of her work representing transgender people. She is now retired and focuses her efforts on writing, with two published books “Making Equality Work” and “Pressing Matters”, a memoir on the roots of trans activism in the UK.


Zeynep Kartal | Fashion designer 

Zeynep Kartal has many claims to fashion fame: Lady Gaga wearing her couture gowns (and later ordering another in a different colour) is one of them. Life changed drastically for the Turkish-born designer when she unveiled her first collection at the Manchester Vogue Fashion Night Out in 2013. Her thirteen-piece collection caught the attention of fashion critics, and the designer - whose showroom remains on Manchester's King Street - has featured regularly at London Fashion Week ever since. Cheryl Cole, Amanda Holden, Tess Daly, Game Of Thrones' Maisie Williams and many more have worn her designs. She has also been instrumental in raising the profile of Manchester's fashion community. "They tell me I should move to London,"says Kartal, who studied design at Manchester City College, "but why would I want to move from Manchester?"

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Zeynep Kartal

Simone Roach | CEO and founder Northern Power Women

Gender equality has been the centre of public discourse for much of 2018. For CEO Simone Roach, campaigning and supporting women has been the central motive throughout her career. From working in a male-dominated military background to spearheading major leading roles at international companies, Simone was later compelled to promote the role women played in driving the economy. Operating from Manchester, Roach created Northern Power Women to encourage organisations to increase opportunities for women, as well working towards 'accelerating gender pay equality'. The company also aims to provide people with the knowledge and skills needed to drive careers forward, all against the backdrop of the Northern Powerhouse agenda'.

Northern Power Women


Jade Clarke | Netball World Cup 2019 ambassador and Commonwealth Gold Medallist

England Commonwealth gold medallist and long-standing netball star Jade Clarke has a string of sports accomplishments to her name. This year, the Manchester-born athlete was appointed as the 2019 Netball World Cup ambassador, a role that will see her engage more people in the sport. Earlier this year, Clarke and her teammates on the Roses, the national England team, made history when they won Gold at the Commonwealth Games, beating Australia, a finalist favourite. The historic moment is credited with contributing to the rise in the uptake of Netball nationwide – there was a 44% increase in participation at grass roots level in the last year, with nearly 30,000 players pounding the courts across England. Prior to this, Clarke had competed at four netball World Cups and three other Commonwealth games.  

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Jade Clarke, Netball World Cup

Madeleine Penfold | Photographer and charity fundraiser

When we first met Madeleine she was existing on just £1 per day, eating just tinned foods and not much else, in a bid to highlight the millions of people around the world who live below the poverty line. The difficult one month challenge saw her raise £10,000 for a nursery school in The Gambia, where she had once volunteered. In the West African country, some families often live on less than £1 per day and conditions can be especially tough on children. Some time later, The Erenjang nursery has been completely transformed with the help of Penfold and her fundraising. 

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Madeleine Penfold

Hazel Reeves | Sculptor of the new Pankhurst statue 

After an intense voting period back in March 2017, Hazel Reeves won the honour of producing the new ‘Our Emmeline’ statue of Emmeline Pankhurst that will crown St Peter’s Square. Reeves’ design sees Emmeline Pankhurst standing on a chair whilst delivering a speech, enticingly addressing an unseen crowd with an extended arm. The design was selected from a shortlist of six and will be the city centre’s first monument to a woman in more than 100 years. The full-size bronze statue was unveiled on Friday 14 December 2018 to mark 100 years since women first voted in the UK. 

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Hazel Reeves

Beth Tweddle | Olympic gymnast

She’s the Cheshire resident that put Britain on the map for gymnastics. To date, Olympian Beth Tweddle holds the title of 'Britain’s greatest gymnast' along with Olympic Bronze Medallist, triple World Champion, six-time European Champion, Commonwealth Champion and seven-time consecutive National Champion. To top it all off, Tweddle received an MBE for her services to gymnastics in 2010. Since retiring from the podium, she has launched Total Gymnastics, a company that partners with local schools and leisure centres to provide classes.  


Zara Khalique | Founder, Keep It Bright

A business conceived in Zara's Manchester childhood bedroom more than a decade ago, Keep It Bright has since grown from strength to strength. Featuring urban clothing with positive, uplifting slogans, it's now a clothing company with a celebrity following. Miley Cyrus has been a continued ambassador of the brand as well Ariana Grande, who wore Khalique's latest 'Radiate Love sweatshirt' on the Ellen Degeneres show earlier this year.  Khalique's commitment to inclusive, all-embracing and positive messages has ensured the brand's continued success. 

Keep It Bright

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Ariana Grande wearing Keep It Bright

Ruth Daniel | Co-director, In Place of War

Art can be inspired in the most tumultuous of spaces, even war. Born out of the University of Manchester, In Place of War investigates the work and projects of artists living out of war torn countries. With a collective reach of over 60 million people in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, the team has worked with creative communities in some of the most challenging context in the world. At the helm is Ruth Daniel, an award winning cultural producer, activist and social entrepreneur. Daniel joined In Place of War during its inception and is said to have been 'pivotal in the organisation’s development and vision'. 

In Place of War 


Ruth Ibegbuna | CEO of charity RECLAIM

A teacher-turned activist Ruth Ibegbuna was awarded an honorary Degree of Doctor of Education in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the North West. Ibegbuna is the CEO and founder of RECLAIM, a charity that runs youth engagement projects and leadership development programmes across Greater Manchester. Through educating and empowering young working-class leaders, Ibegbuna strives to encourage social mobility and eliminate social barriers faced by young people. This year, Ibegbuna was one of three influential Manchester women selected to receive a statue in their likeness. The project, supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery, aimed to create twenty-five new statues of living women.

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Ruth Ibegbuna

Caroline Stevenson | Foodinate founder 

Under the tagline 'giving never tasted so good', Foodinate have worked on a clever way to encourage restaurant-lovers to help the hungry. Pick a restaurant, order a meal, and Foodinate and your chosen restaurant will give back a meal on your behalf. It's a simple but extremely effective concept by Caroline Stevenson, a young Mancunian entrepreneur, who began developing the concept during university. Speaking to The Independent, Stevenson said: “It’s all about giving the consumer the choice. In the UK, we are already choosing to go out to eat 1.4 billion times per year so why not make the choice to eat at a Foodinate-partnered restaurant, knowing that every delicious meal we enjoy will provide another meal for a local person in need? If everyone made that choice, just think of the impact we could have.”

Foodinate

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Caroline Stevenson, Foodinate

Adele Jordan | Founder Cracking Good Food

It's a skill most should possess (some better than others), yet not everyone has had access to the necessary education to know how to cook for themselves and their families. Affordable cooking, tackling Britain's food waste issue and a love of cooking, prompted Adele Jordan to launch Cracking Good Food, a social enterprise that delivers cooking courses and training in local communities. By teaching people how to cook from scratch, especially in underprivileged areas, the Cracking Good Food team are successfully promoting affordable, sustainable and healthier food for all. 

Cracking Good Food


Hannah Beaumont | Founder Beaumont Organic and 49 Hilton Street 

As Manchester's reputation as a world leader in online fashion continues to grow, many other fledgling brands have set up roots in the city. Yet, unlike the medley of popular fast-fashion brands, Beaumont Organic is the complete antithesis favouring slow and sustainable style. The online store and Northern Quarter boutique was founded by designer Hannah Beaumont after she witnessed fashion's deeply problematic environmental and ethical issues. She writes: 'Fashion can be all-consuming and it is easy to crave the latest must-have pieces, with just a short-term return. But if you only buy quality items to enhance your wardrobe, beautiful clothes will surround you for years to come.' We are inspired by making changes and paving a way for fashion to have a more sustainable future. We do this by asking questions, producing ethically, reducing wastage, using off-cuts where we can for sampling and keeping consumption low.' 

Hannah Beaumont

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Hannah Beaumont, Founder Beaumont Organic