First Women Ambassadors
As the First Women project steadily grew, we felt it important to invite a selection of the portrait sitters to become more involved; to champion and contribute to the live projects and activities evolving from the original concept.
First Women Ambassadors are women already very engaged with the core values of the project by merit of their work – as well as being outstanding examples in their fields of endeavour and achievement.
As Ambassadors, these women have agreed to actively support and contribute to First Women through their creativity and embodiment of the pioneering spirit.
‘By tuning into the women in their lives, I believe men could learn to take responsibility for their privilege in the world and create change’
Bellatrix (AKA: Belle Ehresmann) is a beatboxing, double bassist from the West Country. Aged 17, Bel became the UK’s First professional female beatboxer and in 2009 the First Woman to win the world Beatbox championships. She also holds the titles 2014 UK beatbox champion, 2015 beatbox team world champion and 2015 beatbox team UK champion. Bel is graduate of the Guildhall school of music and drama – she has a degree in Jazz double bass – and is a talented solo musician as well as a frequent collaborator. She was a member of The Boxettes (an all-female beatbox group who toured internationally for 6 years) and has worked with and supported notable musical acts including The Pharcyde, Imogen Heap, Massive Attack and Jarvis Cocker. Bel has performed worldwide, from Glastonbury and France to India and Bhutan and runs UK-based music workshops for young people.
You can watch her in action here
Felicity Aston MBE
‘I am proud to support the First Women project as an Ambassador because there are so many incredible women out there achieving such remarkable things. This is a wonderful way to share their stories and to celebrate them. This project makes us aware of how much women have achieved…as well as reminding us how much there is still to do.’
Felicity Aston is an explorer, author and former Antarctic scientist. In 2000 the age of 23, her career began when she spent a continuous two and a half years on the Antarctic peninsula to monitor climate and ozone. Felicity was the First Woman to ski 1744km solo across Antarctica, which secured her a place in the Guinness Book of Records. Her expeditions have included the first British Women’s crossing of Greenland, a 6000km drive to the South Pole, and leading the largest and most international team of women ever to ski to the South Pole.
Felicity currently sits on the Council of the Royal Geographical Society and in 2015 was awarded the Queen’s Polar Medal. She is committed to sharing the stories of her achievements in creative ways.
Felicity’s first expedition? ‘Being bribed up a modest peak in England at the age of nine with a packet of Opal Fruits…’
The Reverend Rose Hudson Wilkin
‘I am proud to support the First Women Project as an Ambassador because I feel passionately that being the first comes with a responsibility to ensure that we leave a real legacy for the generations of young women to come.’
Originally from Montego Bay, Jamaica, Reverend Rose was the first Woman in the House of Commons’ 800-year history to be made Speaker’s Chaplain. In 2007 she was appointed Chaplain to HM the Queen. She has previously served as a member of the General Synod of the Church of England, and one of its panel of Chairs. Reverend Rose has twice represented the Church of England at the World Council of Churches meeting. Currently, along with Parliamentary role, she is the Priest in Charge of St Mary-at-Hill, a Wren Church in the City. Rev. Rose’s passion for her work and courageous approach has led her in the past to sit on the roof of her local church for 24 hours to highlight the need for funding for repairs and once ‘controversially’ updated a centuries-old prayer on International Women’s day to ‘uplift and thank God for the women in Parliament.’
Known as a vocal supporter of women in the church, she said, ‘What I want is for people to be open to the possibilities that their minds might be changed.’
‘The First Women Project is important because women need strong platforms and opportunities to share and empower each other.’
Ultra Marathon Swimmer, ex-Buddhist nun and massage therapist Beth, was wheelchair bound from M.E. until her 20s and rehabilitated herself through swimming. She now uses her extraordinary experiences to educate on the subject of empowerment though self-challenge.
In 2014 Beth became the First Woman to swim 26 miles from Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly – amidst jellyfish swarms and carbon dioxide poisoning from the support boat! She has also successfully swum the English Channel and was also the first British woman to swim the 26 miles of the Molokai channel in Hawaii. She is a passionate advocate of mindfulness meditation and uses her swims to highlight environmental issues. In 2016, Beth commenced ‘Oceans7 Challenge’: an attempt to swim seven, international channels in a single year; a challenge she heads into with no wetsuit in rough seas, strong tides and in the face of shark and hypothermia risks.
Beth lives in Somerset with her son, Dylan. Find out more about Beth’s Big Swim at: http://www.bethfrench.co.uk/
‘I am passionate about inspiring self-belief in young women and giving them a hundred wonderful role models – therefore I am proud to support the First Women project as an Ambassador.’
The First Female Serjeant at Arms in the House of Commons, Jill broke the glass ceiling in 2008 after 600 years of male predecessors by earning a role created by Henry V to keep the unruly House in order. Jill is passionate about education; for seven years she worked for the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative fostering links between business and schools to improve employment opportunities for pupils. Also the first non-military Serjeant, Jill worked hard to modernise and improve processes and opened the way to more women in Westminster. ‘Part of my satisfaction in getting the post,’ she says of her ground-breaking appointment, ‘[was] that I was doing this for other women – the sisterhood.’ Jill is a Trustee and volunteer reading helper for the literacy charity ‘Beanstalk’ that supports primary school children who are struggling to learn to read: http://www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk. She also chairs ‘The Pink Shoe Senate,’ part of an influential and innovative business network that works to positively impact life-long development of women: http://www.pinkshoeclub.com.
Dame Hilary Mantel CBE – 1952-2022
‘I am proud to support the First Women project as an Ambassador because it is a landmark project, original and inspiring. It puts individual faces to our collective achievement.’
Arguably the nation’s greatest writer of historical fiction, Dame Hilary Mantel was a novelist, essayist and critic. She was the First Woman and the first Briton to have won two Man Booker prizes. A law graduate from the London School of Economics, Hilary grew up in Derbyshire, and lived in Africa and Saudi Arabia. The RSC adaptation of her Tudor novels, ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring Up The Bodies’ played in Stratford-on-Avon, the West End and Broadway, and the acclaimed TV series of ‘Wolf Hall’ was shown on BBC2 in 2015.
Author of 13 books, Hilary blended extraordinary, organic characterisation with the traditionally linear elements of academia and research. Her accolades included the Costa Novel prize, the Walter Scott prize and the Sunday Express Book of the Year. She was awarded a CBE in 2006 and a DBE in 2014.
Lieutenant Colonel Lucy Giles
‘I am proud to support the First Women Project as an Ambassador…I hope to promote this project in a positive way to a broad section of society. I also want to be associated with something that endures and that both my daughter and son can be proud of.’
Lt. Col. Lucy Giles is the First Woman to take command of New College at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. She studied science at Exeter University and has been in the Army for 25 years, commanding soldiers worldwide including operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, East Timor, Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland. At New College, Lucy oversees the final 8-months of training for officers joining the regular Army and is responsible for up to 450 cadets at any one time. She has represented the Army in athletics, rowing, rugby, heptathlon, and orienteering and is a former British orienteering champion. Lucy is passionate about inspiring leadership through positive example and showing that you can do so, as well as – ‘being a mum, running a household, being married to a person with a busy job and holding one down yourself!’