Leeds will pay tribute to Suffragettes in spectacular fashion

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They were the formidable Leeds campaigners whose courage and determination helped women across the country win the right to vote.

Now a century later, one of the city’s biggest cultural celebrations is looking to shed new light on the stories of stalwart Suffragettes Leonora Cohen and Mary Gawthorpe.

Organisers of this October’s Light Night Leeds are calling on artists to create a dynamic digital artwork to celebrate social change and mark 100 years since the first women in the UK were allowed to cast their votes at the ballot boxes.

It will be projected onto the façade of the 250 year-old Leeds Library building and will feature the city’s two historic women’s rights trailblazers in keeping with this year’s event theme of Progress and Innovation.

Famous for her unshakable belief in the cause, Leonora Cohen was never one to shy from public displays.

In 1911 she threw a rock at the window of a government building and was arrested and jailed before again being imprisoned in 1913, for hurling an iron bar through a showcase at the Tower of London in front of a crowd of schoolchildren.

In later life, Leonora was appointed OBE, living to the age of 105, and remained a force for women’s rights right up until her death in 1978.

Fellow Suffragette Mary Gawthorpe left teaching in 1906 to become a full-time, paid organiser for the Women’s Social and Political Union.

She regularly spoke at huge national events, including a rally in London’s Hyde Park in 1908 in front of 200,000 people.

Like Leonora, she was arrested and imprisoned a number of times suffering harsh treatment both in and out of custody but was undeterred.

Coun Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council said: “Women like Leonora Cohen and Mary Gawthorpe were true pioneers in the field of women’s right and their remarkable dedication and absolute conviction in their beliefs helped to blaze a trail for us all in the century that has followed.

“I can think of no better tribute to their historic accomplishments than for them to be part of an event which celebrates heritage, diversity, inclusion and progress in such a uniquely beautiful and colourful way.”

The Leeds Library piece will be one of more than 50 around the city centre at this year’s 14th annual Light Night, which takes place on October 4 and 5.

Submissions for the Library piece are open until June 26.