Didn't make the list? That doesn't matter. You are cordially invited to the Friday 5.
2. April Ashley. Ashley comes across in interviews as intelligent, witty and thoughtful – an ideal dinner-party companion. Liverpudlian Ashley had gender reassignment surgery in 1960, when the procedure was still pioneering. She subsequently became a model in London. She was never credited for her first and only film role as she was outed as Trans by the Sunday People in 1961 – but the prejudices of the media were not reflected in the public, and she remained popular.
Her first husband, Arthur Corbett, was fully aware of her background. That didn’t stop him taking her to court when they divorced in 1970, claiming that the marriage had never been consummated as Ashley was “really” a man. The judge ruled in Corbett’s favour, in a case that had devastating consequences for trans rights until the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. The same act allowed Ashley to change the gender on her own birth certificate to female. Squeamish Louise
3. Lois Long. I love me a flapper girl, I had a hard time narrowing my choice down for this list because, well it can’t all be 1920s be-bobbed devil-may-care ladies with their knees out can it? Lois Long wins, as a writer for The New Yorker she could take us out after dinner to all the secret night spots. Lois Long wrote under the pseudonym Lipstick, reviewing the New York nightlife, Long often suggested she was really a bearded male or a portly, middle aged housewife in her articles. Long wasn't so popular with her more traditional colleagues, once having to break in to her own office. You can’t help but love the idea of Lane roller skating through The New Yorker office before settling down at her clattering typewriter, pausing only to laugh raucously at her own jokes. Squeamish Kate
4. Amelia Earhart. The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic was also a celebrity who promoted products, a careers counsellor for other women and a founding member of the ninety-nines, an organisation for female aviators. Earhart's debut flight in an airplane was at an air show in 1920, at a time when even driving cars was a niche interest. It was love at first flight, and she took flying lessons from pioneering female pilot Neta Snook. In 1923, she became the 16th woman to be granted a pilot’s licence. Her passion for flight must have been huge: she worked at several jobs to pay for her lessons, and continued to fly despite severe sinus problems and pain which required several operations (a result of catching the Spanish Flu in 1918). She set several flight records, until her fateful 1937 attempt to circumnavigate the globe ended with her disappearance over the Pacific Ocean. But don’t concentrate on that; focus on the fascinating life she led.
5. Aphra Behn. The first published woman playwright, Aphra Behn also worked as a spy in Antwerp for Charles II. Behn began writing when her husband died, in order to support herself. Behn’s play The Rover is an unfortunately much ignored part of the Restoration canon. As with most women of the Restoration, not much is known about Behn. It is thought she might have been brought up as a Catholic, due to once alluding she had been planning on becoming a nun. She was a Royalist and used her plays to promote the Tories. Writer Virginia Woolf said of the playwright; “All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn... for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” Which is endorsement enough for me. Squeamish Kate