Half of Brits under 30 have no idea who Marilyn Monroe was, according to a study

A survey of 2,000 Brits aged 18-30 found the younger generation is groping in the dark about icons like Marilyn Monroe, Virginia Woolf and Frida Kahlo – but they know all about reality TV stars

Marilyn Monroe spent most of her childhood in foster homes and orphanages
Marilyn Monroe spent most of her childhood in foster homes and orphanages

They know all about reality TV stars like Kim Kardashian, but the younger generation is in the dark about icons from Marilyn Monroe to author Virginia Woolf.

Ironically, Kim wore Hollywood legend Marilyn’s historic, sparkling dress to New York’s Met Gala this week, but the study found that half of Britons under 30 had no idea who the platinum-blonde movie star was.

The Some Like It Hot actress wowed the world when she sang “Happy Birthday” to then-President John F. Kennedy in a form-fitting, crystal-studded dress in 1962.

But it seems the relevance of the choice of 41-year-old Kim to young British adults has been lost.

Worryingly, the gaps in their knowledge of world-changing heroes were revealed in a study of lost icons that revealed eight out of ten were unaware of British Engima code-cracking genius Alan Turing, whose work at Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, where Bucks was decisive in World War II.

Young people know everything about reality TV stars like Kim Kardashian


John Nacion/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock)

A study found that young people know nothing about Virginia Woolf


Heritage Images/Getty Images)

More than three-quarters of respondents scratched their heads over who suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was, and seven in 10 didn’t know why black civil rights activist Rosa Parks was a breakthrough figure.

Perspectus Global information agency’s survey of 2,000 Britons aged 18 to 30 found that history was not their best subject, as big names like American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, influential artist Pablo Picasso and, in 1969, the first person to walk the moon walked on them Neil Armstrong meant nothing to them.

Screen dance duo Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire were a mystery to this age group, as was guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, director Alfred Hitchcock and Breakfast at Tiffany’s star, and style icon Audrey Hepburn.

British-Jamaican angel Mary Seacole, known to nurture British soldiers during the Crimean War, was the least known icon, with nine out of ten young adults unaware of her place in history.

More than half were also unaware of their contemporary and founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, who, like Mary, cared for war wounded in Crimea and was affectionately known as “the lady with the lamp” because she looked after them every night.

Huge gaps in their history, from world leaders and pioneers to showbiz stars, have been revealed as seven out of ten did not know Mahatma Ghandi, India’s civil rights leader who led the pro-independence movement with peaceful protests.

Marie Curie, whose work on radioactivity with her husband Pierre led to the discovery of polonium and radium, and who also developed battlefield X-ray machines, was unknown to six out of ten.

And although Marlon Brando was hailed as the best actor of his generation and the star of Hollywood blockbusters like The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris, he was unknown to seven out of ten.

Ellie Glason, Managing Director of Perspectus Global, said: “It is fascinating to see how many iconic figures in history are unknown to the younger generation of Brits.”

Top 30 lost symbols

1. Maria Seacole

2. Frida Kahlo

3.Virginia Woolf

4. Alan Turing

5. Ginger Rogers

6.Emmeline Pankhurst

7. Marlon Brando

8. Cary Grant

9. Fred Astaire

10. Bette Davis

11.Jim Morrison

12. Sigmund Freud

13. Mahatma Gandhi

14.George Orwell

15. Pink Parks

16. Andy Warhol

17. Aretha Franklin

18.Alfred Hitchcock

19. Jimi Hendrix

20. Audrey Hepburn

21. Kurt Cobain

22.Charlie Chaplin

23. Pablo Picasso

24. Marie Curie

25. Muhammad Ali

26. Florence Nightingale

27. Bruce Lee

28. Nelson Mandela

29. Martin Luther King

30.Neil Armstrong

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