An exciting new company is running walking tours of London with a difference – they focus on women’s history.
Women of London was created by Becky Laxton-Bass, a woman passionate about the subject matter and expert at bringing the stories of the women of London to life. I heard about her company when researching something special to do for our team meet up in London and well, their walks sounded like the perfect activity for us!
We chose to take the Women of Westminster tour and met Becky at the starting point, which was the Agatha Christie memorial outside Leicester Square station. I have to admit I must have walked past this on many occasions without ever taking it in, and this is one of the many things I loved about this tour – I began to stop and see so much more of London.
Exploring the Borough of Westminster
The Women of Westminster tour takes you all around the borough of Westminster, with Becky pointing out the statues and memorials to special women and telling us more about their stories. Did you know that in this borough alone there are 900 statues? Interestingly, only 28 of these are of women…
Becky was highly knowledgeable and you could tell she had a real love for, and genuine engagement in, the subject matter. Over the course of two and a half hours we had some passionate discussions about the portrayal of women in history, discussing themes such as politics, art and literature, royalty, social reform and suffrage.
Some of the women I’d heard of, others I’m embarrassed to say I hadn’t, but she delved into their stories with gusto, promoting in-depth discussions as well as laughter over fun facts. For example, did you know Queen Victoria is the second most statued woman – behind only the Virgin Mary? You can find over 3,000 statues of her all around the world and 20 in London alone! If you look closely you’ll even spot a nod to her in the statue of Boudicca on the edge of Westminster Bridge.
We stopped at memorials to women such as the nurses Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole and Edith Cavell – the final name was unknown to me so it was very interesting to hear her tale and how her death was co-opted to promote patriotism in propaganda during World War I. Another weird fact: after his death, her dog Jack was stuffed and is still on display at London’s Imperial War Museum today.
Million Women Rise March
Just to add even more gravitas to our tour, our visit to London coincided with the Million Women Rise March, which was dedicated to all the women and girls who’ve died at the hands of male violence. We caught the tail end of the march, where we saw women proudly march wearing red. Becky had even worn red on that day in solidarity. It was moving to be there and definitely gave food for thought.
Of course, being the Women of Westminster tour, our walk took us to the Houses of Parliament, where we talked about women in politics including names like Constance Markowich, Lady Astor, Barbara Castle, Betty Boothroyd, the ‘Blair Babes’, Maggie Thatcher and Theresa May. We the discussed the suffragettes, including how their statue is ‘hidden’ in Westminster gardens and how differently ‘controversial’ women of history are portrayed compared to ‘controversial’ men.
The tour ended in Parliament Square with the most recent statue we visited – the Millicent Garret Fawcett statue, which was unveiled just last year. Interestingly this was the only one of the statues we saw that was designed by a woman.
What we thought of the Women of Westminster walking tour
Emma, Laura and I went on this tour and we all enjoyed it immensely. I feel like I learnt so much about not just these women, but also the area of Westminster itself. I discovered things I’d simply walked past before, and looked at those women given pride of place as well as hidden away. We also discussed the women who don’t have statues as well as those that do.
Becky was the most inspiring tour guide I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Young and passionate I feel her tours will inspire guests of all ages and interests. And that’s an important point. Unsurprisingly the majority of people that have taken her tours to date are women, but these walks are not just for women – they’re for anyone with an interest in history, politics, London, art and culture…do I need to go on? Concentrating on the men in history is just half the story says Becky, and she’s keen show visitors much more…
Find out more about the Women of London
They both run daily at 10am and 2pm, last roughly two and a half hours and cost £15 per person. Head to the Women of London website to find out more and book your tour.