St James’s one of kind women are thriving in the neighbourhood, and yet 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 Monday 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 include 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.
Your favourite St James’s women aren’t just leaders in high fashion however. Melanie Arnold and Margot Henderson didn’t use a needle and thread to make their mark. These two women took the culinary helm at The Mall’s Institute of Contemporary Arts and transformed it into the second outpost of their hugely successful ‘Rochelle Canteen’; which boasts an all-day bar and restaurant.
Speaking of great food, 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 learn how to create one of their food-waste-friendly recipes here. Cafe Murano was also a member of our pioneering Food Waste Pledge project, and is committed to providing you with a conscious choice for drinking and dining in a more sustainable way.
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 were also somewhat made in our neighbourhood. These literary icons 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.
Lastly, the mother 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 during the Crimean War and beyond. Her statue stands today in Waterloo Place in homage to her brilliant work. Read her story here.
We treasure all the exceptional women in our one of a kind area and hopefully you see why. You can also read about the inspirational women who call our Regent Street neighbourhood home here.