Rachel Reeves and Judith Blake column: Let’s ‘change the balance’ of Leeds artwork on International Women’s Day

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On International Women’s Day it’s a great time to reflect on the great women who have inspired us. In Leeds there are many.

Sue Ryder who went on to establish Leonard Cheshire Homes and was born in Leeds, suffragette Leonora Cohen who was imprisoned for throwing a bar through a display of jewels at the Tower of London, suffragette and social reformer Mary Gawthorpe from Bramley, headteacher Gertrude Paul who founded the Leeds West Indian Carnival and served on the Commission for Racial Equality, Beryl Burton the cycling champion who lived and trained in Morley, Nicola Adams the Olympic boxing champion from East Leeds, Barbara Taylor Bradford the bestselling author from Armley, Jane Tomlinson who raised millions for charity while battling cancer and Alice Bacon, Leeds’ first woman MP. The list of women who have shaped our city and our lives is endless.

So why are the only statues of women in Leeds of Queen Victoria, Moore’s Reclining Woman and some nymphs in City Square?

Why are all the busts in the Art Gallery’s Tiled Hall all of men?

Surely we can do better than that and with Manchester setting about erecting a statue for suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and Middlesbrough’s ambitions to create a statue for their first woman MP, Ellen Wilkinson, we can and should be doing better.

As Leeds’ first woman leader of the City Council and the city’s second female MP we want to change the balance in Leeds.

So today we are asking YEP readers which Leeds women they most admire and draw inspiration from.

Whether it’s one of our suffragists, writers, athletes, philanthropists, scientists or business women we have so many brilliant women to choose from.

We want a work of art or statue commissioned for a Leeds woman who has helped make our city the great, vibrant and diverse place it is today so we can better celebrate the contribution of all women to our city.

Today we are starting a campaign to raise the funds and think about who we honour and remember in Leeds. We hope you’ll be part of it!

Rachel Reeves MP is a Labour politician who has served Leeds West since 2010.

Judith Blake is a Labour councillor for Middleton Park and is leader of Leeds City Council.

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