Remembering one of Leeds’ original girl power leaders

Suffragette Mary Gawthorpe.
Suffragette Mary Gawthorpe.
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AN INSPIRING Leeds woman who helped spark a true girl power movement has been honoured by the city.

Leeds Civic Trust has installed a blue plaque to remember suffragette and political activist Mary Gawthorpe, who was born on Melville Street in Woodhouse.

Mary Gawthorpe, pictured far left, alongside Christabel Pankhurst in 1909.

Mary Gawthorpe, pictured far left, alongside Christabel Pankhurst in 1909.

Mary and her fellow suffragettes helped secure women’s right to vote, and she was arrested several times for her political activism and jailed at Holloway Prison.

Mary passed away in 1973, and this week a plaque was unveiled in her memory.

Lynda Kitching, chair of Leeds Civic Trust, said: “Great strides have been made in improving the lot of women in British society and we are very pleased to celebrate the part Leeds women have played.

“Mary Gawthorpe was a remarkable activist and organiser working closely with women of much higher social status in the suffrage movement.

“This plaque is an important addition to those we already have for influential Leeds women such as Leonora Cohen, Ellen Heaton, Isabella Ford and Gertrude Paul.”

Born in humble beginnings in a back-to-back house in Woodhouse, Mary began her career as a teacher.

She grew increasingly interested in the women’s suffrage movement and was inspired by Christabel Pankhurst, who she later went on to campaign with.

Mary became an organiser for the Women’s Social and Political Union and later became an assistant mistress at St. Luke’s Boys School at Beeston Hill.

She became engaged to Tom Garrs – a shift printer at the Yorkshire Post – and she wrote articles, made political speeches and campaigned fiercely for the women’s right to vote.

Her first article was published in the Yorkshire Weekly Post, earning £2.

She later moved to Bramley – where the new plaque has been installed – before emigrating with her brother to America, where she continued to be active in women’s suffrage and labour politics.

Historian and writer Dr Jill Liddington unveiled the plaque.