• York Rotary

"We Cannot Change History"

Eileen and Janet report...


HerStory : 100 York Women.

On November 12th, our Speaker was Kate Hignett. In 2018, inspired by the centenary of SOME women getting the vote, Kate, a Legal Aid Lawyer living in York, had the idea to hold a York Women’s Conference focussing on the progress towards gender equality. She also suggested a community history project to research and celebrate “invisible women” of this city. So, Herstory was born.


This local history project had sought to identify and learn about York’s women “changemakers”, the main aim being “making invisible women visible”. Research had proved quite tricky, but the group’s full results can be found at https://www.herstoryyork.org.uk






Janet Morley, one of the first two women to join York Rotary in 2006 and Eileen Davis, it’s first female President in 2016-17, had been almost overwhelmed when reading about the 100 in order to identify just 3 to be featured by Kate in her talk.


· Maud Sellars 1861-1939 was the first female member of the Merchant Adventurers in 400 years. Having secured funds for the restoration of the Hall and written an authoritative history on the Company and Hall, she became a Member of the Company of Merchant Adventurers in 1913 and its Honorary Curator and Archivist in 1918. Maud must have had a formidable intellect and great determination.

· Mary Hughes 1886-1953 was the Co-Founder of the York Refugee Committee in 1938. She was a Quaker and had a keen interest in people and events beyond York. In particular, she sought to offer help to Jews and other political refugees escaping occupied Europe. She was involved in fundraising, setting up employment bureaux and sports clubs for the refugees – and was often frustrated by inaction on the part of others.

· Dolly Cooper 1921-2012 came from a humble background; she was bright and determined. She worked in the wages section at Rowntrees at the start of her career but qualified as a teacher in the early 1960s. An active member of the Labour Party, she had first-hand involvement with many community organisations; she was Lady Mayoress and Sheriff of York and served on the North Yorkshire Education Committee.



The project and presentation challenged assumptions about women’s contributions and why their stories were not widely acknowledged. It is uncomfortable to realise that so many went unsung, yet we should take pride in their accomplishments.








Many try to judge the past from the perspectives of today, but this project is an interesting way to promote attitudinal change around equality and to recognise the contributions of half of the population.


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