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Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan honoured with blue plaque

Vaughan was Birkbeck’s first female professor and a prominent English botanist

Blue plaque to honour Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan
Blue plaque to honour Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan

Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan has been commemorated with a blue plaque at Flat 93, Bedford Court Mansions in Bloomsbury – her London home for almost 50 years.

Professor Gwynne-Vaughan was a prominent English botanist and is recognised for her significant contributions to military and public service.

Helen graduated from King’s College, London in 1904 and began an academic career in mycology – the study of fungi. In 1909 she became Head of the Botany Department at Birkbeck College, London. She married fellow academic David Thomas Gwynne-Vaughan in 1911 and continued to pursue her career, unlike many married women of her time.

After her husband’s sudden death in 1915, Gwynne-Vaughan moved into Flat 93 at Bedford Court Mansions, in close proximity to Birkbeck College. In 1921 she gained her professorship at Birkbeck, becoming the college’s first female professor. 

London’s famous blue plaques link the people of the past with the buildings of the present. Now run by English Heritage, the London blue plaques scheme was started in 1866 and is thought to be the oldest of its kind in the world.

Across the capital, over 900 plaques on buildings- humble and grand- honour the notable men and women who have lived or worked in them.

Today only 14 per cent of London’s blue plaques celebrate women, a matter which English Heritage is seeking to address. In 2016 the ‘plaques for women’ campaign was launched and since then more than half of the people awarded plaques have been women, but only a third of the public nominations were for women. It is acknowledged that to see a significant increase in the number of blue plaques for women, there will need to be more female suggestions.  

English Heritage has set up a scheme to address the imbalance and encourages the nomination of women who deserve a blue plaque and who meet the selection criteria.

Read more about Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan

More on the English Heritage blue plaques available here

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