07th Mar, 2018
International Women’s Day: Celebrating Remarkable Leeds Women
Words by Kathy Sharpe
Look up famous Leeds figures from history, and unsurprisingly you’ll find a list dominated by male names.
From Joseph Priestley (chemist, theologian, and author) and Titus Salt (entrepreneur and businessman), to Joshua Tetley (brewery founder) and Charles Frederick Thackray (pioneer of medical instruments), the names of these famous men are remembered on buildings across the city.
But what about the women?
On International Women’s Day 2018 we are celebrating just some of the many influential female Leeds figures that have made a big impact on the city and far beyond:
Nicola Adams (1982-)
Born in Leeds, Nicola Adams is a professional boxer and the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title when she gained gold in the 2012 and 2016 women’s flyweight division.
She is the reigning Olympic, World, Commonwealth, and European Games champion at flyweight. Adams is openly bisexual and was named the most influential LGBT person in Britain by the Independent in 2012.
Isabella Ormston Ford (1855-1924)
An English social reformer, suffragist and author, Isabella Ormston Ford was born in Headingley and became an avid campaigner for feminism and workers’ rights. She is known to have concerns about the rights of female mill workers at an early age.
Ford was linked to trade unions in the 1880s, was a member of the national administrative council of the Independent Labour Party, and was the first woman to speak at a Labour Representation Committee (which became the British Labour Party) conference.
Sue Ryder (1924-2000)
Born in Leeds, Margaret Susan Ryder was a volunteer to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry at age 15 during World War II. She later volunteered with the Special Operations Executive in Poland where she drove SOE agents to the airfield for assignments in Europe.
After the war, Ryder volunteered to do relief work and went on to lead several charities including the most famous named in her honour. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1957, received a joint Variety Club Humanitarian Award in 1975, and was a Life Peer in 1979.
Lucy Osburn (1836-1891)
Lucy Osburn was an English nurse regarded as the founder of modern nursing in Australia. Osburn was born in Leeds where she lived with her aunt. When she was 21, she was employed as a governess and later trained in nursing.
When a mandate to reform New South Wales was issued, Osburn and five other St Thomas’ trained nurses went to Sydney in 1868. She spent a total of 16 years there, where she reformed nursing at Sydney Hospital, trained nurses in the Nightingale system, established core staff training, and made patient welfare a central concern in nursing.
Jane Emily Tomlinson CBE (1964-2007)
Yorkshire’s own Jane Tomlinson trained as a radiographer at Leeds General Infirmary. She was an amateur English athlete who raised £1.85 million for charity by completing a series of gruelling challenges, despite suffering from terminal cancer.
During her six-year treatment period, Tomlinson gained international acclaim after she completed the London Marathon three times, the London Triathlon twice, the New York Marathon, and cycled across Europe and the United States. In September 2017, 10 years after her death, the campaign announced fundraising had surpassed £10m.
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