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Putney High Alumnae Depicted in Powerful Portrait Exhibition

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Putney High Alumnae Depicted in Powerful Portrait Exhibition

Celebrating 125 years of fostering independence and individuality in their pupils

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  • Aicha Mackenzie by Anita Corbin.

    Director of AMCK and Choreographer

  • Ailsa Bosworth MBE by Anita Corbin

    Founder and CEO of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society

  • Jenny Beavan OBE by Anita Corbin

    Oscar-winning Costume Designer

  • Mary Coombs by Anita Corbin

    Computer Programmer

  • Pippa Greenwood by Anita Corbin

    Botanist, TV and Radio Broadcaster and Writer

  • Dr Sandie Okoro by Anita Corbin

    Lawyer and Senior Vice President at the World Bank Group

  • Madeleine Wickham by Anita Corbin

    Author, (pen name) Sophie Kinsella

  • Sophie Raworth by Anita Corbin

    Journalist and Broadcaster

  • Sophie Simnett by Anita Corbin


  • Sophy Gardner by Anita Corbin

    Former RAF Wing Commander

  • Baroness Virginia Bottomley of Nettlestone by Anita Corbin

    Chancellor, University of Hull; Trustee, The Economist & Life Peer

    Formerly Secretary of State for Health and for National Heritage

  • Anita Corbin by Antonia Cheema-Grubb


Celebrating 125 years of fostering independence and individuality in their pupils, Putney High School GDST commissioned this empowering portrait gallery.

This series of portraits, all of trail-blazing alumnae who attended the school over the generations and have since gone on to make their mark in the world, were executed by Anita Corbin. Herself a Putney Alumna, and the artist behind the critically acclaimed Visible Girls and First Women UK exhibitions, Anita acknowledges the achievements of a range of exceptional alumnae who all display the same indomitable Putney spirit that remains at the heart of the current generation of pupils.

Commenting on her subjects, Anita Corbin said,

‘All these women, and the many that aren’t featured here, have a great deal in common. They have all gone on to find their own distinct pathways. The teachers at Putney treated us as independent young women and encouraged us to see beyond the stereotypes – we were taught that anything and everything was within our grasp.’

The exhibition was unveiled at an event on 8 November as part of celebration that mark the 125th Anniversary of the school, which first opened its doors in 1893. It also prompted the school to devise the Anita Corbin Award. Conceived to offer invaluable photography experience to a Year 12 student with a passion for art, the winner, Antonia Cheema-Grubb, shadowed Anita for five days. She was immersed in researching subjects, location finding, shooting and the curation and post production that followed, and was even invited to take the twelfth portrait, of Anita, herself (above).

One of the featured alumnae, Sandie Okoro, who is a lawyer and Senior Vice President at the World Bank Group, said of her time at the school: ‘Putney was never for one type of girl. Yes, it was academic, but it was also for the curious, the iconoclast, the creative, and for girls who wanted to change the world.’

‘My PHS friends haven’t changed,’ she continued, ‘they still have the same cracking sense of humour, the same warmth and not one of them takes themselves seriously even though they have all gone on to do amazing things.’

Echoing a similar sentiment, Pippa Greenwood, now a botanist, reminisced, ‘Putney gave me something which was very special – It made me think, quite rightly I believe, that anything was possible if you wanted it and if you tried. You didn’t get something by standing still with your hand out – you had to make things work.’

It is this ‘can do’ attitude that, for Anita, unified all the alumnae she met during the process. ‘Putney was always very respectful of the individual,’ she remembered, ‘finding what everyone was good at. They knew everyone was good at something and they helped you find it’.

A display of skilled photography – and The National Portrait Gallery in London has, to date, purchased 20 of Anita’s photographs for the national archive – this gallery depicts the brilliance that a school such as Putney High endows in its pupils. Gifts that patently serve them well as they leave school and find their feet, leading fulfilled and eclectic adult lives. Or in Sophie Simmet’s words: ‘I learnt so much, not just from lessons, but about myself, how to be, and how to be happy’.

READ MORE: School Memories: Sandie Okoro remembers Putney High School GDST | Schools Show Respect for Anti-Bullying Week | Schoolgirls Empowering Women All Over the World


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