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100 pioneering women celebrated in photography exhibition

100 First Women Portraits by photographer Anita Corbin celebrates pioneering modern women, and opens at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery ahead of International Women's Day.

Portraits of 100 inspiring 21st-century women will be on show at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery from Saturday, February 15 2020.

The exhibition, 100 First Women Portraits, is the work of photographer Anita Corbin, who made it her mission to capture the portraits of modern female trailblazers over the last ten years.

Corbin, who has spent more than 40 years behind the lens photographing women who defy the norm, has travelled across the country to capture portraits of remarkable women who have broken down barriers and changed the world.

Famous faces and female firsts

The thought-provoking exhibition features images of celebrities, famous personalities and unsung heroines from across the decades – ranging from Seventies rocker Suzi Quatro to Olympian Boxer Nicola Adams, newscaster and TV star Angela Rippon to writer and comedienne Jenny Éclair.

It also features women doing extraordinary jobs and achieving firsts in their fields, such as Brigadier Sharon Nesmith, the first woman commander of a brigade of 5,000 front-line troops, Baroness Patricia Scotland, first woman Attorney General, Christine Duffin, first woman governor of a Class A prison and Megan Swann, first woman to be made an officer of magician’s society the Magic Circle.

Sporting heroes are featured, such as Hope Powell CBE, the first woman to achieve the UEFA Pro license. After her successful playing career, she became the coach of the England women’s national football team and the Great Britain women’s Olympic football team until August 2013. She now manages Brighton & Hove Albion’s women’s team.

Stories of women

To celebrate the exhibition there will be a series of talks and events open to the public exploring some of the stories of the women in the show and other ground-breaking women in history.

The show marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which granted the vote to women over 30 years old and paved the way for universal suffrage. It is part of a two-year UK-wide tour of the exhibition.

Explaining her inspiration for the First Women UK project, Anita says: “From ages 18 to 102-years old and in fields of expertise covering everything from beatboxing to bomb detection, I wanted to create an impressive visual archive documenting female ability and achievement, fantastic role models, in order to celebrate the impact women have had on our society over the last 100 years.”

“In a long history dominated by notable males, First Women UK asks: ‘what is it about women that can inspire you?’ These powerful portraits of women are intended to provoke people to look beyond the exterior image and contemplate the essence of the woman it personifies.”

Encourage and empower

All the works in the exhibition are portraits, displayed as framed colour photographs, over a metre tall, and without glass or mounts. Anita says: “I wanted the viewer to have a real visceral connection with the First Women.

“I hope this exhibition will motivate, encourage and empower women and men across all ages and backgrounds and help them see that it is possible to break down barriers – whether gender, social, economic, cultural or political – to unlock their full potential.”

For full details of the exhibition, and the events surrounding it, visit:


Bex Bastable
Bex Bastable
Bex is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.


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