City’s inspiring women set for Leeds Civic Hall tribute

Inspirational women who have made their mark on Leeds are set to have their names etched in history at Leeds Civic Hall.

People across the city are being asked to help decide which remarkable women from history will have their names inscribed on the walls of the building’s prestigious Council Chamber.

A consultation has been launched this week, closing on Friday 1 March 2024, asking for residents’ views on those that might be recognised.

People in Leeds are being asked to express their preferences from an initial list of six women, who have each blazed a trail in their own, unique way, whilst also being invited to make their own suggestions as to who might be included.

Women who feature on the initial list are:

Ivy Benson: Born in Holbeck, Benson was a saxophonist and bandleader, who led an all-female swing band. Benson’s band were the first entertainers to be invited to perform at the VE celebrations in Berlin in 1945.

Ivy Benson and her band

Gertrude Paul: A founding member of the Leeds West Indian Carnival and the first black head teacher in Leeds. She also founded the Leeds International Women’s Group, the Afro Asian Organisation and the United Caribbean Association.

Leonora Cohen OBE: A pioneer of the Suffragette movement, born in Leeds. She was famously arrested for smashing a glass case containing royal insignia at the Tower of London in protest against the government’s position on a woman’s right to vote.

Alice Bacon MP CBE: The city’s first female MP, as a minister in the Home Office in the 1960s she oversaw the introduction of substantial societal changes, including the abolition of the death penalty, the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the legalisation of abortion.

Beryl Burton OBE: English racing cyclist who dominated the sport in the UK and abroad, winning more than 90 domestic championships and seven world titles and setting numerous national records.

The Barnbow Lasses: These women worked in the Barnbow Munitions Factory, where 35 women and girls were tragically killed in an explosion during the First World War. It remains the single biggest loss of life in the city’s history.

The names of those who are chosen by the people of Leeds will be announced on International Women’s Day on March 8, and will form part of a report for the final decision making process later in the year. The names formally agreed will be added to the walls of the chamber alongside the men from the city’s past who already feature there.

When Leeds Civic Hall was built in 1933, the decision was taken to recognise men who had a close association with Leeds or who contributed in a significant way to the history of the city, with scores of names added over the subsequent decades and the council is keen to ensure inspirational women from the city’s past are also recognised.

Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s deputy leader and executive member for resources, said:

“As a city, Leeds has a very proud track record of honouring those who laid the foundations of the place we know and love today.

“However, there’s no question that the names which currently feature on the walls of the Council Chamber echo a time when the accomplishments of women were not held in the same high esteem which they are today.

“It’s high time we began to address that imbalance, to ensure that the achievements of these truly remarkable women get that same recognition and that their names stand as a lasting inspiration for future generations.”

As part of the survey, people can also suggest any names which they would wish to be considered in future.

To take part, please visit: www.leeds.gov.uk/inspirationalwomen

 

This post is based on a press release issued by Leeds City Council

 

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