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Top 5 Women of Manchester
Freelance writer Ruth Rosselson has created a list of the most influential female campaigners, politicians and artists from Manchester’s history.
These days we take our voting privileges so much for granted, that many of us don’t bother to vote at all. I’m not sure what Emmaline Pankhurst, and her daughters Christabel, Sylvia and Adela would make of this. They spearheaded the Suffragette movement, growing increasingly militant in their tactics as the campaign grew in the years prior to the First World War. You can visit their home, now a small museum and women’s community centre.
An English theatre patron and manager who formed Britain’s first regional repertory theatre company here in Manchester, putting on more than 200 plays. She encouraged local writers, including Harold Brighouse, author of Hobson’s Choice and Stanley Houghton, who wrote Hindle Wakes. I’m also including her because she outraged society by riding a bicycle – unchaperoned - and wore unconventional clothing including ‘outrageous knickerbockers’.
A Victorian novelist who wrote most of her books while living in her house in Plymouth Grove. Famous for Cranford, North & South and Mary Barton, her writings reflected a time of political change and social tensions and challenged traditional views of women. She also wrote a biography of fellow novelist Charlotte Brontë. Her house remains one of the very few Regency-style Villas left in Manchester.
A journalist who worked for a number of Manchester newspapers – including the Manchester Evening News – before she became the editor of the Guardian’s women’s page in 1957. She remained the editor until 1972, and was described in her obituary in 2002 as ‘one of the great campaigning journalists of the 20th century. She hated discrimination of any form, and cared passionately about poverty, unemployment and disability.
Another suffragette, Hannah Mitchell came from a completely different background to the Pankhursts. Born in 1871 in Derbyshire, she left home at 14 and became a seamstress in Bolton while working hard to improve her handwriting and reading. A socialist, pacifist and suffragette, she was elected to Manchester City Council in 1924. Her autobiography, The Hard Way Up, was published posthumously.