In Depth

The seven most influential women of the last 70 years

Fictional Bridget Jones joins former prime minister Margaret Thatcher on Woman's Hour list

Bridget Jones

Margaret Thatcher has topped Radio 4 Woman's Hour Power List of the most influential women in the past 70 years – alongside US singer Beyonce and fictional character Bridget Jones. 

Thatcher, who was prime minister from 1979 to 1990, took first place in this year's list, which celebrate the seven most influential women since the show's launch in 1946. 

She was followed by Helen Brook, who set up Brook Advisory Centres offering contraceptive advice to women in the 1960s, Labour MP Barbara Castle, who brought in the Equal Pay Act in 1970, and Australian writer Germaine Greer, a major voice of the feminist movement. Activist Jayaben Desai was also recognised for campaigning against low pay and poor conditions for women workers in the 1970s.

But in a Power List first, author Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones was in the final seven, along with Crazy in Love star Beyonce.

This year's judging panel for the list, which was unveiled during a reception at Buckingham Palace attended by the Duchess of Cornwall, comprised businesswoman Karren Brady, Ayesha Hazarika, a former Labour adviser and commentator, screenwriter Abi Morgan, ex-Woman's Hour editor Jill Burridge  and Julia Hobsbawm, the founder of Editorial Intelligence. The panel was chaired by BBC 5 live presenter Emma Barnett, who said the inclusion of the fictional Bridget had been the judges' most divisive choice.

But, she added, the list was about who has "actually had impact in real women's lives" and impact "doesn't have to be good, bad, serious or funny".

Speaking to The Guardian, Barnett said Bridget "gave permission for our own imperfections", adding: "Bridget Jones is our Sex and the City", a "flawed heroine" and a character who "enabled women who didn't have children, didn't have the perfect life, to laugh at themselves and feel unashamed of who they are".

The choice wasn't just controversial for the judges. Helen McCarthy, a historian at Queen Mary University, and poet Emma Purshouse voiced their doubts on Twitter.

Others said Bridget Jones's creator might have been a better choice than her character. Fielding, however, seemed unperturbed.

Telling the BBC it was a "tremendous honour for Bridget and, of course, for me", she said: "I hope it doesn't mean everyone's going to binge drink and eat Milk Tray late at night."

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