Girl power! How women made their Marks in the world of retail

A firewatch crew at an M&S store in 1941.
A firewatch crew at an M&S store in 1941.
Have your say

A special event is set to celebrate the ways in which Marks & Spencer has been helping sisters do it for themselves ever since the retail giant’s humble beginnings in Leeds.

Taking place at the M&S company archive building at the University of Leeds next Tuesday, March 8, the event is a free lunchtime talk looking at the empowering part played by female employees in the firm’s long history.

Subjects that will be covered by archivists during the International Women’s Day talk include the pioneering efforts made by one worker, Flora Solomon, in establishing a staff welfare department in the 1930s.

Attendees will also hear how women at M&S successfully dealt with wartime challenges such as staffing and stock shortages.

Katharine Carter, M&S company archivist, said: “The talk spans the contribution women have made from the company’s early penny bazaar market stall to modern day equal opportunities and the women who lead M&S today.

“We’ll be exploring key periods for M&S women, particularly the Second World War – a vital time for women at M&S as around 500 trainee male managers were depleted to just 17 as they left to join the armed forces.

“Women were recruited and promoted across every level of the company.”

The talk, entitled Women at M&S, gets under way at 12.30pm.

Booking is essential as places are limited, for more details e-mail or ring 0208 718 2800.

M&S has connections with Leeds that can be traced all the way back to the firm’s start to life as a penny bazaar at the city’s Kirkgate Market in 1884.