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A special set of stamps celebrating the lifetime achievements of five British women was launched by Royal Mail today.

The woman featured on the "20th Century Women of Achievement" stamps, to be issued tomorrow, are scientist Dorothy Hodgkin on the 20p second class stamp, ballerina Margot Fonteyn, 26p first class, sculptor Elisabeth Frink, 31p, author Daphne du Maurier, 37p, and sports administrator Marea Hartman on the 43p stamp.

Anita Roddick said: "There is such poverty of praise for women. History rarely celebrates us. So for me this is a wonderful occasion in recognition of some of the most remarkable women."

Royal Mail's special stamps manager Rosena Robson said: "Royal Mail's stamps celebrate the lives of women who reached the very pinnacle in their chosen fields.

"While there were many brilliant women to choose from, what was exceptional about the five women selected is that their achievements were outstanding throughout their lives. They were an inspiration to their contemporaries and remain inspirational today."

Dorothy Hodgkin was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1964 for her pioneering work understanding the structure of molecules, including vitamin B12 and penicillin.

Margot Fonteyn danced her first solo aged 15 and went on to become prima ballerina assoluta and president of the Royal Academy of Dancing.

Sculptor Elisabeth Frink was the most notable British women sculptor of her generation, widely acclaimed in Britain and abroad. Her public works include the Eagle Lecturn in Coventry cathedral and the Kennedy Memorial in Dallas, Texas.

Daphne du Maurier remains a massive best-seller 60 years on from when her first novels were published, and Marea Hartman, the outstanding sports administrator, devoted a lifetime to encouraging other women to take part in sport and inspired generations of young athletes to compete on the world stage.

The five stamps feature the subject's portrait alongside an image related to their achievement. Dorothy Hodgkin's own molecular model of vitamin B12 is pictured alongside her portrait. The set also features Margot Fonteyn's pink ballet shoes, an Elisabeth Frink sculpture and Daphne du Maurier's typewriter. A women athlete adorns Hartman's stamp.

The stamps were designed by Stephanie Nash, herself a leading light in design. With her partner Anthony Michael, their design company Michael Nash has created acclaimed work on album cover designs for pop stars Seal and Neneh Cherry and the multiple-award-winning packaging for Harvey Nichols Food Hall.

The stamps form Royal Mail's contribution this year to PostEurope, in which more than 20 postal authorities throughout Europe are issuing similar sets of stamps featuring their own Women of Achievement.

Ms Robson said: "These great women have all died within the last decade. Their contributions to art and literature, science and sport made a major impact during their lives and continue to be influential today. They are all modern women who helped to shape the century."

A presentation pack containing the five stamps and an appreciation written by top women's biographer Jenny Uglow will be available from main post offices, many sub-post offices and the British Philatelic Bureau, 20 Brandon Street, Edinburgh EH3 5TT, priced £1.90.

Postcards of the stamps showing the perforations are also available from many post offices and the British Philatelic Bureau, priced 25p each.

First-day cover facilites are available tomorrow at post offices with philatelic post boxes. Two first-day of issue post marks are also available, one from the British Philatelic Bureau and one from Fowey, Cornwall, where Daphne du Maurier lived and the area that inspired much of her writing.


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