12 spectacular British women’s firsts

11. First female self-made billionaire

Dame Mary Perkins

Attending Cardif University to train as an optometrist, Dame Mary Perkins met Doug Perkins, who she would later marry. They couple first made their mark by establishing a chain of opticians in Bristol in the 1960s. However, they sold the company for 2m in 1980. After the sale, the couple moved to Guernsey the place where Specsavers was created four years later on a table-tennis table in their spare bedroom. By 2007, Specsavers was known as the largest privately owned opticians in the world. That same year, Perkins was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

They now boast more than 900 stores across Britain. She sits on the company board, oversees business development and runs PR. Perkins has even admitted to donning disguises and visiting Specsavcers while pretending to be a customer. The co-founder soon became known as Britain’s first self-made billionaire.

12. World’s first female Olympic champion

Charlotte Cooper 

Born in 1870, Charlotte Cooper won her first singles title in 1893. She also won a Wimbledon tournament in 1895, defending her title the following year. Cooper is the oldest Wimbledons ladies singles champion and her eight consecutive singles finals stood until 1990. In addition to her singles titles, Cooper also won seven all-England mixed doubles titles.

Women were first allowed to compete in the 1900 Paris Olympics, and it was Charlotte Cooper who became the first ever female Olympic champion. Although medals weren’t introduced until the 1904 Olympics, Cooper was awarded the equivalent of two gold medals for winning the tennis singles and mixed doubles.

If you believe that you, or somebody you know, deserves recognition or has broken barriers, then nominate them for a First Women Award! The closing date for nominations is 4 April, 2014

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