Leeds Civic Hall is launching an initiative to inscribe the names of inspirational women on the walls of its Council Chamber, giving them equal recognition alongside the men historically honored. The public can vote and nominate women for this tribute, celebrating their contributions to Leeds’ history and culture.
What initiative is Leeds Civic Hall undertaking to honor historic women?
Leeds Civic Hall is launching an initiative to inscribe the names of inspirational women on the walls of its Council Chamber. The public is invited to vote and nominate women for this tribute, ensuring equal recognition alongside the men historically honored in the building. This gesture celebrates the contributions of women to Leeds’ history and culture.
Celebrating Trailblazers in Council Buildings
Leeds Civic Hall, a landmark of civic pride since 1933, is poised to embrace a new chapter in its history. A momentous initiative is underway to inscribe the names of inspirational women on the walls of its esteemed Council Chamber. For decades, numerous men associated with Leeds and its history have been honoured here. In a progressive shift, the city now seeks to ensure its women receive equal recognition. This week, the public’s input is invited; residents can offer their perspectives on which historic women should be commemorated. The consultation process, ending on March 1, extends an opportunity to vote from a list of six women while also encouraging additional nominations.
The six women on the initial list are paragons of diversity and achievement. Gertrude Paul, a pivotal figure in establishing the Leeds West Indian Carnival, was also Leeds’ first black head teacher. Her activism didn’t end there; she played founding roles in the Leeds International Women’s Group and the United Caribbean Association. Then there’s Leonora Cohen OBE, a staunch Suffragette born in Leeds, who made headlines for her dramatic protest at the Tower of London. As the city’s first female MP, Alice Bacon MP CBE implemented reforms that reshaped British society in the 1960s. From the sporting world, Beryl Burton OBE’s dominance in cycling is nothing short of legendary, with an outstanding record of national and international victories.
Museums and Galleries Honour the Past
The narrative of the city’s history is incomplete without the acknowledgment of the Barnbow Lasses. These women, working at the Barnbow Munitions Factory during WWI, suffered a catastrophic explosion, marking a dark day in the city’s history with the highest loss of life in a single event. Their story is a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by women during times of conflict. In the realm of music, Ivy Benson stands out. Her all-female swing band has the distinction of being the first entertainers to perform at the VE Day celebrations in Berlin in 1945.
These narratives, rich with struggle and triumph, resonate within the walls of museums and galleries across Leeds. Showcasing the lives and legacies of these women serves as an enduring source of education and inspiration. The initiative at Leeds Civic Hall aligns with this mission, aiming to immortalize their contributions in one of the city’s most symbolic buildings. The final decision on the names to be inscribed will emerge from a report considered later in the year. This process will coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8, when the chosen names will be unveiled to the public.
The Arts Reflect Societal Change
The arts have long been a medium through which societal changes and historical milestones are reflected and celebrated. Leeds, with its vibrant cultural scene, has witnessed the influence of its women in this domain. This tribute at Leeds Civic Hall is not merely about etching names into stone; it is about weaving the narrative threads of these women into the city’s cultural tapestry. Through their recognition, these stories become an integral part of the city’s artistic heritage, influencing and inspiring future generations.
Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s deputy leader, expressed the sentiment behind this initiative: “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.” She acknowledges that the time has come to address the past disparity in recognition: “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.”
The public is encouraged to engage with this historic occasion by suggesting names they deem worthy of this honour. To participate in the survey and contribute to this significant decision, visit Leeds City Council’s Inspirational Women page.
The integration of these names into Leeds Civic Hall’s Council Chamber is a testament to the evolving appreciation of women’s roles in shaping the city’s vibrant history. It is a gesture that promises to inspire and educate, ensuring that the stories of Leeds’ women are told and retold, their legacies cemented in the very fabric of the city they helped shape.
- Leeds Civic Hall is launching an initiative to inscribe the names of inspirational women on the walls of its Council Chamber, giving them equal recognition alongside men.
- The public can vote and nominate women for this tribute, celebrating their contributions to Leeds’ history and culture.
- The six women on the initial list include Gertrude Paul, Leonora Cohen, and Alice Bacon, who made significant contributions in areas such as education, suffrage, and politics.
- The Barnbow Lasses, who worked at the Barnbow Munitions Factory during WWI, and Ivy Benson, leader of the first all-female swing band, are also being recognized.
- This initiative aims to incorporate the stories of Leeds’ women into the city’s cultural tapestry and inspire future generations.