Powerful and pioneering women from the V&A collections

"I think it evidently appears, that there is no science, office, or dignity, which Women have not an equal right to share in with the Men: Since there can be no superiority, but that of brutal strength, shewn in the latter…nor any incapacity proved in the former, to disqualify them of their right."

'Woman not Inferior to Man' (1739), attributed to either Lady Mary Wortley Montagu or Lady Sophia Fermor

Despite centuries of struggle for equality, and control and propaganda around shifting gender roles, there is still a long way to go before parity between the sexes can be proclaimed.

The following selection is an introduction to the enormous amount of material across our collections depicting powerful and pioneering women throughout history. Including some of the leading female activists and artists of the last 150 years who have advanced women's rights in the modern world, we will also explore female deities, leaders, and warriors from the Ancient world who have diversified the narrative over the millennia.

Background image: Poster, 'Internationaler Frauentag' (International Women's Day) by Mihály Biró, about 1925, Berlin, Germany. Museum no. E.1354-1931. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London