St James’s one-of-a-kind women are thriving in the neighbourhood, and their stories – past and present – should be celebrated, magnified and never forgotten. The women of St James’s are entrepreneurial leaders across various fields of expertise, whether it’s crafted goods, exquisite cuisine, elegant fashion or trailblazing politicians, medical experts and technological pioneers. Marking International Women's Day on Tuesday 8th March, this article celebrates some of the area’s most notable women and all their achievements.
Women in fashion
Across St James's there a number of leading women in fashion. Emma Willis for example, is a maverick in the shirt making industry. She started her business sewing shirts in 1987 and went from selling them to businessmen in the middle of the city to opening her elegant shop on Jermyn Street in 1999. Today, her clientele includes HRH The Prince of Wales, Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Craig and David Gandy.
Meanwhile, milliner Rachel Trevor Morgan has spent over 30 years honing her craft in her St James's atelier, tucked away in Crown Passage. Since 2014, Rachel has held a The Royal Warrant of Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen, with Her Majesty seen wearing hats on occasions including Her Diamond Wedding celebration at Westminster Abbey, and Royal Ascot.
It wouldn’t be an article about St James’s influential women if we didn’t mention the driving force behind Café Murano, chef Angela Hartnett. Serving some of the best Italian food in London, you can also learn how to create one of their food-waste-friendly recipes online.
Our one-of-a-kind neighbourhood has always been home to very prominent women - not just in recent times. One of St James’s most notable landmarks, St James’s Palace, was originally built for the 16th Century Queen of England, Anne Boleyn. Since then, the palace has been home to the great Queens Mary I, Elizabeth I, and Victoria. In addition, St James’s Street’s renowned wine shop, Berry Bros & Rudd, just opposite the palace, was originally started by a widow named Bourne in 1698; her legacy lives on with the store’s immense success today.
The classical writers, George Eliot (pen name of Mary Anne Evans) and Virginia Woolf both spent countless hours working on their masterpieces in St James’s Square’s London Library. As fate would have it, this same square was also home to Countess Ada Lovelace, the phenomenal woman regarded worldwide as the first computer programmer. Discover the blue plaque which marks her former home as well as other notable St James’s residents on a walking history tour. Virginia Woolf enthusiasts can also follow in Clarissa Dalloway's footsteps with a trip to Hatchards, London's oldest bookshop.
Lastly, the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, called St James's home almost 200 years ago. The first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit, Florence was praised for introducing mathematics to nursing and revolutionising sanitary conditions in hospitals. Her statue stands today in Waterloo Place in homage to her brilliant work.
We treasure all the exceptional women in our one-of-a-kind area and hopefully you see why.