Portsmouth will celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women at events marking International Women's Day, 8 March.

Public events include a ceremony at Portsmouth High School (25 Kent Road, Southsea, PO5 3EQ) on Wednesday 8 March, 11am-12pm, which will honour former student Margaret Rock, one of 8,000 female mathematicians who worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. The event has been jointly organised by Portsmouth City Council and Portsmouth High School.

Margaret was recruited by the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park in 1940, where she trained and worked alongside mathematicians and professors to break and decode enemy messages with the Enigma machine. She was considered by Dilwyn Knox, Chief Cryptographer, to be one of the best in the whole Enigma staff and “as useful as some of the professors”. Margaret received a promotion to the grade of ‘linguist’, the closest a woman could get to being called a codebreaker and was awarded an MBE in 1945.

Margaret’s life is commemorated in Kerry Howard’s book Dear Codebreaker. The author will be attending the unveiling of a blue plaque at the school and will be making a speech.

There is no need to book, just show up on the day.

Also open to the public is the Aspex Gallery‘s Raining Fire event on Sunday 5 March, 1pm-3pm, where the gallery will be raising awareness for Iranian women’s rights through dance and sharing their experiences through the spoken word. This event is free and can be booked by contacting 432nomads@gmail.com.

On 8 March, the Guildhall will be lit up in purple, one of the symbolic colours of International Women’s Day, to signify justice, dignity and loyalty to the cause.

Cllr Suzy Horton, the council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education said:

“I am so proud of the fantastic events around the city to celebrate the incredible women in our society and to inspire those of all ages. Whether you’re five or 50, you should believe in your capabilities and know that you can achieve anything you put your mind to, regardless of your gender. That’s what this is all about.

“I was in my forties when I became a city council member. I came into the role to try and make a difference to the culture of local politics. As one of nine female city councillors, I’m here to tell you, you can make a difference as a woman and It’s never too late to try something new!”

Other events taking place include a celebration held by Pompey In The Community for girls from local schools. This will involve activities, workshops, and a Q&A panel of inspirational women. Women from Hampshire Constabulary and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service will take part, and there will be a talk from Treasure Your Chest, an initiative to educate schoolgirls on breast health.

Local community interest company Pamodzi Creatives will be holding their fifth annual awards ceremony celebrating women making a positive impact in the arts, business, health, sport and science, and as inspirational figures.

Side profile, black and white image of Margaret Rock