For International Women’s Day 2023 we look at some inspiring stories of expat women who achieved success for themselves and their families by moving abroad

There’s no doubt about it; moving abroad can be a daunting life decision, but the opportunities it can present are often unrivalled by those in the UK.

Here at PSS International Removals, we know a thing or two about relocation for work. For this International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate some of the achievements made by courageous British women who have found success and made a positive impact on their new hometowns by moving overseas.

How many of these great women did you know were expats?

1. Kate Sheppard, Suffragette – from Liverpool to Christchurch, New Zealand

Kate Sheppard Suffragette New ZealandWhat Emmeline Pankhurst was to the British suffrage movement, Kate Sheppard was to New Zealand’s – only, she did it first.

Born in Liverpool, Kate moved abroad at the age of just 20 and successfully led the suffrage movement to gain the vote for New Zealand women in 1893. That’s a full 25 years before women in the UK!

In the 90s, Kate’s contribution to Kiwi society was celebrated by her face being featured on the NZ $10 note, replacing the Queen’s image to do so.

2. Kim Cattrall, Movie Star – from Liverpool to British Colombia, Canada

Kim Cattrall Liverpool Sex In the CitySex And The City star Kim Cattrall was also born in Liverpool but relocated to Canada along with the rest of her family aged just three months.

Born with star ambition, she’s now best known for her role as Sex and The City’s man-eater Samantha Jones but had long worked toward a career in show business. She studied Mandarin at high school to allow her to communicate with as many people as possible and aged 12 decided to focus on becoming a professional singer.

She’s definitely found celeb success now; having been credited in over 20 films, over 50 non-promotional television appearances and a number of theatre of productions, Cattrall is now a household name in both her native Britain, adopted home Canada and further afield!

3. Mary-Jess Leaverland, Singer – from Gloucester to Nanjing, China

Mary Jess Leaverland success in China22 year old Mary-Jess travelled to China as part of a one-year placement while studying at the University of Sheffield. Whilst there, she entered a television talent show, Min Xing Chang Fan Tian (I Want To Sing To The Stars); a localised version of X Factor.

Singing “Time To Say Goodbye”, Mary-Jess became a firm family favourite week-in, week-out, and sailed through the contest to finally win the show – despite not being Chinese.

Whilst the show has never been broadcast in the UK, and the Leaverland family were unable to fly out to watch her compete in it, Mary-Jess has since scooped a record deal and toured with the likes of Russell Watson.

She may still be unknown in Britain, but she’s extremely famous in China and continues to tour the country with local acts.


4. Naomi Watts, Actress – from Kent to Sydney, Australia

Naomi Watts moved from UK to AustraliaNaomi Watts didn’t move overseas until she was 14 years old, but it was in Australia that she got her ‘big break’ and appeared on Home and Away… in typical Aussie fashion!

Now an internationally-famous movie star, Naomi has appeared in an array of roles including cult favourites such as King Kong, Diana and Ned Kelly.

Naomi still lives in Australia and says, while she considers herself still to be British, Oz will always be her home.

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5. Julia Gillard, First Female Prime Minister – from Barry to Canberra, Australia

Julia Gillard renounced British nationality to become Australia PMThe country’s former Prime Minister landed in Australia as a Ten Pound Pom with her family.

Australia’s first ever (and still only ever, at the time of writing) female PM Julia Gillard bid farewell to her hometown of Barry, South Wales in 1966 with her parents John and Moira Gillard.

The Gillard family left the UK to start a new life for themselves in Adelaide after Julia, then just five years old, was struck down with pneumonia. Medical advice was that living in a warmer climate would aid recovery so the family booked their passage.

Julia rose through the ranks of the Australian Labour Party and renounced her dual British citizenship before becoming PM in 2010.

6. Debbie Travis, Television Presenter and Interior Designer – from Blackburn to Montreal, Canada

Debbie Travis expat fame in CanadaInterior designer Debbie hit the big time when she moved to Quebec with her husband. She founded a small decorating business and took on commissions that grew in size until she found herself supplying department stores and grand reception halls.

Attracting media attention for her unique style, Debbie went on to teach her craft to others in workshops and soon became a television star focusing on design projects. Endorsed and empowered by Oprah Winfrey, Debbie has retired from the limelight of the silver screen now but continues to enjoy working within the sector – even launching her own range of paints.

Her latest adventure is refurbishing a farmhouse in Tuscany and turning it into a retreat.

7. Sharon Osbourne, Music Manager and TV Personality – from Buckinghamshire to Malibu, USA

Sharon Osborne British expat in USAThe now notorious Osbourne family relocated to the USA at the height of patriarch Ozzy’s fame.

Sharon capitalised on his career to build her own business, Sharon Osbourne Management.  Working with the world’s most famous rock stars, she helped them enjoy continued success through recording, PR, and live shows.

Sharon is now the most famous Music Manager in the world and now regularly appears on TV in both the USA and UK… all because she spotted a gap in the market and hopped right in.


8. Mary Reibey – Business Woman – from Bury, Lancashire to New South Wales, Australia

Mary Reibey female expat entrepreneurMary Reibey was quite an inspirational character who turned her life around and found great success after being deported to Australia as a convict in 1792 aged just 14.

She had a tough start in life as her parents died when she was young and she was sent into service. She ran away, disguised as a boy and went under the name of James Burrow. After stealing a horse she was sentenced to seven years of transportation but never looked back.

Married at 17, Mary’s husband established a successful cargo business.  After he, Mary took over the family business, while looking after her 7 children, and became a hugely successful merchant, ship owner, trader, property magnate and philanthropist.

AUS20 Mary Reibey noteTo this day she remains a legendary and inspiring role model for other female single parent entrepreneurs in Australia and beyond.

The former convict is even featured on the AU$20 note!


9. Sarah “Paddy” Jones, Dancer – from Stourbridge to Valencia, Spain

Sarah Paddy Jones Spanish dancerProving that it’s never too late to start again, Sarah moved to Valencia at the age of 70 – and within 5 years had won Spain’s Got Talent!

Her relocation started as a new chapter following the death of her husband, and upon arrival in Spain, she attended Salsa dancing lessons. Dancing with her class instructor, himself over 40 years younger than her, she wowed viewers and judges alike with an acrobatic Salsa routine; netting herself the top prize.

If that was not enough she also won a Guinness World Record for being the world’s oldest acrobatic Salsa dancer.

10. Amy Jackson, Model – from Liverpool to Mumbai, India

Amy Jackson UK to India expatModel Amy had never even considered visiting India but was scouted online to be cast in a small Indian film. Travelling almost 5,000 miles to Mumbai, she found fame abroad as a model and her Western features have seen her elevated to the top of the Asian fashion scene, appearing on the covers of the likes of Indian Vogue, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan; she is now the face of Armani India.

Amy has moved to Mumbai full-time and spends her days split between modelling assignments and acting jobs.

11. Mary Wade, Matriarch – from Westminster to New South Wales, Australia

Mary Wade UK to AustraliaNot strictly an expat, but rather a convict, Mary was deported to Australia in 1789. Her young age – she was just 13 at the time – made her a notable figure, but when she arrived ‘down under’ she settled and married before then starting a family.

Mothering 21(!) children, she had 300 living descendants in Australia at the time of her death, and it’s now believed there are tens of thousands.

Despite not being Australian by birth, Mary has left behind a huge family legacy in the country, all of whom can be inspired to go on and do something memorable in their own lives. Her most famous descendant Mary is former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd!

12. Naomi Campbell, Model & Singer from Lambeth, South London to New  York, USAInternational Womens day Naomi Campbell.

Naomi Campbell was born in London, UK, and moved to the United States in the late 1980s to pursue her modelling career.

At the time, New York City was one of the major fashion capitals of the world, and many models moved there to work and gain exposure. Campbell quickly established herself as a leading model in the industry.

She is viewed as an iconic figure in the fashion industry and has continued to maintain ties to both the UK and the US throughout her career.

Naomi Campbell also has a home in Kenya – which she has described as a “retreat” or a place of escape – especially after recently having a child. The property is located in Malindi, a town on the coast of Kenya, and includes a luxurious villa and a private beach.


And a Bonus Aussie!…

Kylie Minogue, Singer and Actress Moved from Melbourne to London and then Back Again!

International Womens Day Kylie Minogue.Kylie was born in Melbourne but moved to England when she was 16. After 30 years of living in the UK, we view Kylie Minogue as an honorary brit.

She was famous in Australia for appearing on the popular soap opera “Neighbours” and made the move to the UK to further her music career.

Kylie Minogue has sold over 80 million records worldwide and is nicknamed the ‘princess of pop’. She has also appeared in many films and television shows including ‘The Voice’ and is known for her glamorous style and distinctive voice.

She has recently moved back to Melbourne, Australia and is looking forward to spending more time with her family and friends when she is not travelling. Although now based in Australia she still plans to make regular trips back to the UK.

Are you planning to find success by moving overseas?

So, there you have it. It’s not all movie stars and models, but also politicians, managers and matriarchs. No matter the specialism or focus, many British women have achieved real success abroad, whether that be moving to the spotlight on something in particular, or taking advantage of new surroundings and sparks of creativity to accomplish new challenges.

And why not you, too?

PSS International Removals are here to help you further your career and reveal new opportunities by facilitating your move abroad, no matter how far afield or how long for.

Get in touch with our specialist teams for a quote or just advice on shipping or removals, and let us empower you to take the next exciting step on your journey.