As we celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we’re reflecting on the incredible contribution the founding women of the RSPB made, and how their efforts continue to be vital part of our conservation mission today.

In 1889, Emily Williamson created the Society for the Protection of Birds with one core aim: to fight a fashion for feathers and exotic plumes that were driving birds - including little egrets, great crested grebes, and birds of paradise - towards extinction. Her all-women movement was born out of frustration that the male-only British Ornithologists Union was not acting on the issue. She was joined by many others, all determined to do their bit to protect wild birds from the whims of fashion – such as Etta Lemon and Eliza Phillips, of the “Fur, Fin and Feather Folk” group in Croydon.

Emily Williamson

Together the members of the Society campaigned tirelessly for change. In July 1921 the Plumage (Prohibition) Act was passed by Parliament, which banned the import of plumage. This was the first successful campaign by the RSPB, and solidified our role as a conservation organisation that works for nature both in the UK and internationally.

Campaigning continues to be a key part of our mission, and is vital in the fight to save nature. Thanks to our amazing members and supporters, the RSPB has achieved incredible successes – bringing back birds that were close to extinction, and saving land from harmful development. Here in the Aire Valley, our brilliant team includes a large number of women working and volunteering in a diverse range of roles – from gardening and hands-on conservation, to visitor welcome and managing our shop!


L-R: Reserve Volunteer Anne; Assistant Warden Rachael; Visitor Centre Volunteer Jacqui

Click here to find out more about the role of women in the creation of the RSPB:

And you can read more about the role of women in the RSPB and in conservation here: