Leeds suffragette’s plight in the spotlight

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The inspirational story of a prominent Leeds activist and her struggle for equal rights is being showcased in a series of exhibits, ahead of the release of the Hollywood blockbuster Suffragette.

Suffragette Leonora Cohen became notorious for her direct action in protesting against the government.

Her struggle for equality is being documented in a special exhibit by Leeds City Museum - with the centrepiece being the eye-catching dress she wore to the Leeds Arts Club Ball in 1914.

Kitty Ross, Leeds Museums and Galleries curator of social history, said the dress would have caused quite a stir. She said: “The dress was quite a statement but at the ball she would have been among some of the people who were quite sympathetic to her cause.

“Like many women, Leonora had hoped that when the Liberal government was elected in 1906, women would have finally got the vote.

“When that didn’t happen it was the breaking point for many campaigners.”

In 1911 Leonora threw a rock at the window of a government building and was subsequently arrested and jailed.

Kitty said: “Whilst in Armley jail, Leonora went on hunger and thirst strike in protest and was released so that she could recover. Whilst on licence, she fled to Harrogate and like many campaigners, put protesting on hold and joined the war effort.

“After the war she became a Justice of the Peace and visited Armley jail in the 1920s. While she was there, she looked herself up and found that she was officially still on licence.”

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