Fight to honour extraordinary women who forged the city of Wakefield

Though she campaigned tirelessly for equal votes for women right up until her death, the achievements of suffrage leader Florence Beaumont were little known in her hometown of Wakefield a year ago.

Monday, 4th March 2019, 1:08 pm
Updated Monday, 4th March 2019, 2:43 pm
Wakefield-born suffragist Florence Beaumont will be honoured with a blue plaque.

But next week Florence, who founded the city’s branch of the suffrage movement in 1910, going on to represent the women’s voice at the League of Nations 18 years later, will be recognised with a permanent honour.

She is one of four influential females for whom The Forgotten Women of Wakefield project will have helped to secure a blue plaque by the time of this year’s International Women’s Day.

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100119 Leeds' first female MP Alice Bacon

The scheme, which launched in the centenary year of the first women being given the vote, is working to unearth and share stories of women that members say have been erased from the city’s history and celebrate their efforts.

“We want blue plaque parity,” says Sarah Cobham, director of social enterprise company Dream Time Creative, which is running the project. “We want to be the first city in the UK to have the same amount of blue plaques for women as there are for men – and we will get it.”

They aim to achieve the goal by 2028, 100 years since the Equal Franchise Act that granted equal voting rights to men and women – and in just 365 days, they have already made significant progress.

When the group started the project, Wakefield Civic Society had around 30 plaques either dedicated solely to men or referencing them in the telling of a building’s history. Just four women were commemorated. The remainder of its 50 blue plaques were principally for buildings.

Gertrude McCroben, former head teacher of Wakefield Girls' High School.

The Forgotten Women project’s work to redress the balance saw the dedication of a blue plaque for Yorkshire’s first female MP Alice Bacon on International Women’s Day last year. The plaque was later moved to her birthplace in Normanton, in June.

Sarah said: “All these women were extraordinary and they are just the top of the iceberg.

“Wakefield produced some of the most active, passionate trailblazers in social reform, education, health and culture in the UK, during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

“It is those women we will continue to honour as part of the blue plaque scheme.”