A host of high-achieving women from Leeds have been named by readers as people they would most like to see honoured with a statue in the city.
Last month, the Yorkshire Evening Post backed the call of Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves and council leader Judith Blake for a prominent female figure to be commemorated with a fitting work of art.
Ms Reeves’ suggestion came after she had discovered that the only statues of women in Leeds were of Queen Victoria at Woodhouse Moor, Henry Moore’s Reclining Woman: Elbow outside the Art Gallery and a set of nymphs in City Square.
Now members of the public have responded to the YEP’s request for their suggestions with seven top choices: Jane Tomlinson, Sue Ryder, Dame Fanny Waterman, Isabella Ford, Beryl Burton, Nicola Adams and Jo Cox.
Ms Reeves, the city’s second female MP, said: “Women in Leeds deserve to be celebrated for their achievements in the arts, sciences, politics and sport and yet there are no artworks or statues highlighting the successes of Leeds women, anywhere in the city.
“That is why I am determined to commemorate a notable woman in this way. Already some fantastic suggestions have been put forward by YEP readers. And I am keen to hear more names from the public on who they want to memorialise through a piece of artwork or a statue in Leeds, whether that be celebrating a modern role model like Jane Tomlinson or a look to our proud history of women’s suffrage in Isabella Ford.
“Other exciting ideas could include Professor Irene Manton and her exceptional contributions to science at the University of Leeds, or Lucy Osborn, a Leeds-born nurse who trained at Florence Nightingale’s school of nursing.”
Despite being diagnosed with incurable breast cancer in 2000 and given just six months to live, mum-of-three Jane Tomlinson defied her diagnosis and undertook a series of sporting challenges, raising more than £1.85m for charity over seven more years. She also founded the Jane Tomlinson Appeal before she died in Leeds in 2007.
Leeds humanitarian Sue Ryder helped people who had been displaced from their homes during WWII, after which worked to support those in need and with life-threatening conditions across the UK and internationally. After she died in November 2000, she left behind a legacy of charities across the globe.
The daughter of a Russian Jewish emigrant to this city, Dame Fanny Waterman co-founded the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1961 and did not step down as chairwoman until 2015, aged 95.
Isabella Ford, from Adel Grange, campaigned to improve the pay and conditions of women working in the textile industry in Leeds. In 1885 she helped to form a Machinists’ Society for tailoresses in the city, later co-founding a union for them.
Morley’s Beryl Burton excelled in an amateur cycling career that took her to an unprecedented 122 national titles over five decades. The mother-of-one won 25 consecutive British Best All-Rounder time trial titles from 1959 to 1983.
Great Britain’s first ever female Olympic boxing gold champion Nicola Adams shot to fame at the London 2012 games. Then last August in Rio, she became the first British boxer in 92 years to defend their Olympic title.
Former Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox died last year aged 41 after being shot and stabbed when she turned up for a constituency surgery at Birstall Library. Born in Batley and raised in Heckmondwike, she was a self-described “proud Yorkshire lass” who tackled many issues in her short time as an MP and sought to bring parties together over issues such as Syria.
Can you offer support?
Sponsors who can help get a statue or artwork made in tribute to Leeds women are being asked to come forward.
Although final funding options for the project are yet to be revealed, Rachel Reeves MP has said that no public money will be spent on it.
She said: “Similar to schemes in Manchester and Middlesbrough, the idea is that the project would not be funded through public money but supported by donations and sponsorship, whether that be through charities, grants or crowdsourced funding.
“We are keen to ensure the public are involved every step of the way but at times of cuts to other services it is right that the money for this isn’t raised through council tax or business rates.”
Martin Hamilton, director of Leeds Civic Trust, has helped to place blue heritage plaques for people, places or events of historical importance in the city, and said that external sponsorship is usually how these are funded.
Owners of the location where the tribute is placed are often the source of funding for such projects, he said.
“We generally try and find someone with a link,” he said.
Mr Hamilton said that the trust is interested in becoming involved with the statue project.
“In terms of statues, we have a few [in Leeds] but actually we are not particularly well catered for.
“Finding opportunities for more public art is something we’ve always supported.”