The incredible story of Leeds women’s rights activist Leonora Cohen, highlighted in the Hollywood blockbuster Suffragette, will be on display at Leeds City Museum.
The museum hosts a whole display dedicated to Leonora, with the centrepiece being the eye-catching dress she wore to the Leeds Arts Club Ball in 1914. Covered in Suffragette symbols, the dress carries the logo of the Women’s Social and Political Union, a militant branch of the suffrage movement founded by the Pankhursts.
Kitty Ross, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator of social history, 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 and they stepped up their protests.”
As the suffrage movement became more militant, Leonora in turn became notorious for her direct action in protesting against the government.
In 1911 she threw a rock at the window of a government building and was subsequently arrested and jailed. The threat of prison did not deter her though, and in 1913 she was again arrested and jailed, this time for hurling an iron bar through a showcase at the Tower of London.
Councillor Judith Blake, who earlier this year became the first woman to be named leader of Leeds City Council, said:
“Leonora’s extraordinary story is a truly inspirational example of the determination and indomitable will of the Suffragettes, some of whom literally laid down their lives in the fight for women’s rights.”
The Leonora Cohen display can be found at Leeds City Museum on Millennium Square.
Leeds City Museum – Entrance is free
Opening hours: Monday closed (except bank holidays)
Tues – Fri: 10am-5pm
Sat, Sun and bank holidays: 11am – 5pm.
www.leeds.gov.uk/citymuseumMillennium Square, Cookridge Street, Leeds, LS2 8BHTel: 0113 2243732.