Exhibit celebrates female local councillors, past and present
AN EXHIBITION in Hull is looking back at girl power in local government over the past century as part of today's International Women's Day.
Challenge And Change, a brief history of women councillors in Yorkshire and the Humber region, will run from today until Friday, March 30, at Hull History Centre.
Nan Sloane, of the Centre Of Women And Democracy in Leeds, said her team interviewed 76 present and past female councillors and explored dozens of archives.
She said: "Women were coming to us and asking for information about women in local government and we didn't have any.
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"We spoke to people aged 28 to 95 and the project has taken a year to complete."
International Women's Day celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women past and present. And the exhibition in Hull has come at the right time.
Frances Brady, 95, was an east Hull councillor for 30 years and always fought for what she believed in.
Along with her niece, councillor Mary Glew, she looked back over her time serving her local community for the project and reminisced on contributions to the city.
Frances said she went into politics because she wanted to help people.
She said: "I became a councillor in 1964 and was very passionate about housing and education.
"I was involved in a lot of demolition work in the Hessle Road area and the slums. I wanted to improve the quality of housing.
"There would often be a family of ten living in a two-bedroom house and lots of outdoor toilets.
"Men on the council in those days didn't realise a woman's attention to detail."
Frances said the new exhibition is "marvellous" and a good way to educate people. She hopes it will encourage more women to get involved in politics.
Her niece Mary, a councillor for Southcoates West, said women feel more accepted in local government these days.
She said: "I have been a councillor for ten years and I really enjoy dealing with people's day-to-day issues.
"I would love to see more women in local government, for sure. We can always do several jobs at once."
The exhibition includes women who led campaigns and took on unpopular causes and vested interests, those who supported their communities through crises and great events, and who worked quietly and with dedication for the communities they served.
Ms Sloane, who helped put the project together, said: "We don't want some of these women to be forgotten and we are glad we were able to get lottery funding for the project.
"The best thing is knowing all of this information is now archived for other researchers.
"It dates back to the 1920s and one of the earliest female councillors was Mary Hatfield, who represented west Hull.
"She was on the asylum committee and discovered women were being abused and even had their bones broken in mental homes.
"When Mary wanted something to be done about it, the men on the council told her she was making a fuss about nothing.
"It took six or seven years before they agreed to make changes.
"We owe a great deal to women like Mary, who stuck their neck out for others."