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As the new century got underway women continued to make their mark. Olympic runner Kelly Holmes won two gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games and Ellen MacArthur became the fastest person to sail round the world solo.  Caroline Hamilton and Ann Daniels reached the North Pole making them the first all-female team to trek to both poles.

Clara Furse  became the first female chief executive of the two-hundred-year-old London Stock  Exchange, and in politics Margaret  Beckett was the first woman to be appointed as Foreign Secretary. 

Adoption laws were updated to allow unmarried and same-sex couples to adopt children together for the first time. The Pensions White Paper looked at better and fairer financial provision for women in later life, and the first gay couple got ‘married’ as the Civil Partnership Act gave same sex couples similar legal rights to married couples.


2000

After 19 years, the last women leave the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp.

  

2000

Grandmother Jennifer Murray is the first woman to fly solo round the world in a helicopter.

  

2000

The Queen Mother celebrates her 100th birthday, the first member of the Royal Family to reach her centenary.

  

2001

Irene Zubaida Khan becomes the first woman, first Asian woman and first Muslim to guide the world's largest human rights organisation when she becomes Secretary General of the UK based, Amnesty International

  

2001

Clara Furse is the first female chief executive of the 200-year-old London Stock Exchange.

  

2001

The Isle of Man government passes its first ever Sex Discrimination Bill, some thirty years after the UK.

  

2002

Sheila Macdonald is the first woman to become an executor of a UK high street bank, the Co-operative.

  

2002

Caroline Hamilton and Ann Daniels reach the North Pole becoming the first all-female team to trek to both poles. They trekked to the South Pole in January 2000. 

  

2002

At Leicester Cathedral the Very Reverend Vivienne Francis Faull is the first woman priest in the UK to be installed as a provost, making her the most senior woman priest in the Church of England.

  

2003

Baroness Amos was appointed Secretary of State for International Development making her the first black woman cabinet minister.

  

2003

The Sexual Offences Act (2003) provides new legislation against abuse by people who work with children, and updates the laws of sexual abuse within families.

  

2003

Professor Julia Polak receives a DBE for services to medicine in the new field of tissue engineering.

  

2003

JK Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter books, became the world's best paid author.

  

2004

Margaret Simey, social reformer and one of Liverpool's most formidable politicians, dies aged 98.

  

2004

Asylum Gender Guidelines are introduced by the Home Office to tackle issues which affect women who flee their country.

  

2004

The Very Reverend June Osborne becomes the Church of England's most senior woman priest after being appointed as Dean of Salisbury.

  

2004

Kelly Holmes becomes the first British 800 metre runner to win an Olympic title since 1980 and the first woman since 1964. She is also the first British runner to win two gold medals since the 1920 Olympics.

  

2004

Founder of the Green Belt Movement, Wangari Muta Maathai becomes the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

  

2004

Condoleezza Rice becomes the first female national security adviser to a US president.

  

2005

Ellen MacArthur becomes the fastest person to sail single-handed around the world and at 28 years old, the youngest person to receive a damehood.

  

2005

A sculpture celebrating the disabled artist, Alison Lapper, naked and 8½ months pregnant is displayed on the Fourth Plinth in London's Trafalgar Square.

  

2005

Andrea Levy's novel Small Island was chosen as the best Orange Prize for Fiction winner over the 10 years that the Prize has been running.

  

2005

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf becomes the world's first black female president, and Africa's first elected female leader when she won the Liberian elections.

  

2005

Under the biggest overhaul of adoption laws in 30 years, unmarried and same-sex couples can now adopt children together for the first time more on adoption

  

2005

The Civil Partnership Act (2004) brings same sex-couples similar legal rights to married couples. Two women, Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close became the first British gay couple to exchange vows at Belfast City Hall, and England's first gay couple tie the knot in Brighton

  

2006

The Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP is appointed Foreign Secretary, becoming the first woman to hold the post.

  

2006

Shirley Ryder becomes the first female president of the National Association of Master Bakers - and at the age of 39 years, the youngest ever president.

  

2006

The White Paper on Pensions  aims to make 7 percent of women eligible for a full basic state pension by 2010 as opposed to 30 percent now.

  

2006

Elizabeth Howard with her half-sister Keeley Hall become the first British children of a sperm donor father to meet each other face to face. They were born within two months of each other in 1972.

  

2006

St Hilda's, the last all-women college at Oxford University, ends more than a century of tradition by voting to open its doors to men.

  

2006

Michelle Bachelet is sworn in as Chile's first woman president.

  

2006

Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democratic Union becomes Germany's first woman chancellor. 

  

2007

Nancy Pelosi becomes the first female Speaker in the US Congress (in the House of Representatives).

  

2007

Nineteen year old Private Michelle Norris, an Army medical officer, is the first woman to be awarded the Military Cross, one of the highest honours for gallantry in combat. She braved machine-gun fire from 200 insurgents to save the life of a wounded comrade in Southern Iraq.

  

2007

Baroness Corston's Vulnerable Women in Prison Report is published. The Corston Review highlights the treatment of women offenders and calls for a radical new approach to dealing with vulnerable female criminals with 43 separate recommendations.

  

2007

The Gender Equality Duty comes into force on April 1st, which places a legal obligation on public authorities to eliminate unlawful gender discrimination and promote equality of opportunity between women and men.

  

2007

Alexandra Hai wins her 10 year battle to become the first female gondolier in Venice.

  

2007

Jacqui Oatley becomes ‘Match of the Day’s first female commentator.

  

2007

Britain gets its first female Home Secretary, as Jacqui Smith is appointed to the Cabinet by Gordon Brown.

  

2007

Moira Cameron is the first woman to serve as a Beefeater, breaking the 522 year male monopoly at the Tower of London.

  

2007

Benazir Bhutto is assassinated two weeks before the scheduled Pakistani General Election.

  

2008

Norway enforces gender legislation that requires all companies to have at least 40% women on their boards.

  

2008

Geneticists of the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands announce that they had completed the first-ever DNA sequencing of a woman.

  

2008

Ingrid Betancourt, a Colombian-French human rights and women's rights activist and Green party candidate for the Colombian presidency, is released after six years of captivity by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

  

2008

Sarah Palin is selected as the Republican's vice-presidential candidate for the 2008 US election, the first Republican woman in this role.

  

2008

Quentin Bryce is appointed Australia's Governor-General, the first woman to hold this post.

  

2008

In November, the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act comes into force in the UK to protect vulnerable women.

  

2009

Two female veterans, Dorothy Hughes and Winifred Phillips, become the first women Chelsea Pensioners.

  

2009

England Women's Cricketer Claire Taylor is the first woman to be named as one of the five cricketers of the year by the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack at Lord's Cricket Ground.

  

2009

Carol Ann Duffy is selected as the first female Poet Laureate, Britain's most prestigious poetry job, ending 400 years of male domination.

  

2009

Able Seaman Class 1 Kate Nesbitt has becomes the first woman in the Royal Navy to be awarded the Military Cross and only the second in the Armed Forces. She repeatedly rushed forward to save colleagues while under attack from the Taliban.

  

2009

Elinor Ostrom became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Economics, sharing the 2009 Nobel with Oliver E. Williamson. Both are Americans and both work in the new field of economic governance. Their work focused on how community institutions can prevent conflict.

  

2009

In November it was announced that Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore would be part of the 2010 Red Arrow team - the first woman pilot to fly with the prestigious troop.

  

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