The names of trailblazing women who made historic contributions to Leeds will be officially put forward to be etched on the walls of Leeds Civic Hall, it was announced today.

The people of Leeds were asked to help decide which women from an initial list of six should become the first to have their names permanently added to the walls of the building’s prestigious council chamber.

And following an overwhelmingly positive public response, all six names will now be formally submitted for inclusion on the chamber walls, where they will take their rightful place alongside men from the city’s past who already feature there.

The decision was announced by Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s deputy leader and executive member for communities, at an event celebrating International Women’s Day today (March 8) and its theme of Inspiring Inclusion.

Councillor Coupar said: “The public response to this has been incredible, and the overwhelming sentiment which shone through was that each and every one of these women deserved to have their stories and legacy honoured.

“That’s testament to how enthusiastic the people of Leeds are about recognising the accomplishments of women and inspiring future generations of women and girls to follow their dreams.

“We’ve also received some amazing suggestions for more names which we can look at in future too, and it’s so positive to see this initiative sparking such a passionate conversation about how we ensure women’s role in the history of Leeds is acknowledged and celebrated.”

Following the consultation, the names which will now be put forward are:

The Barnbow Lasses:
These women worked in the Barnbow Munitions Factory, where 35 women and girls were tragically killed in an explosion during the First World War. It remains the single biggest loss of life in the city’s history.
Leonora Cohen OBE: A pioneer of the Suffragette movement, born in Leeds. She was famously arrested for smashing a glass case containing royal insignia at the Tower of London in protest against the government’s position on a woman’s right to vote.

Gertrude Paul:
A founding member of the Leeds West Indian Carnival and the first black head teacher in Leeds. She also founded the Leeds International Women’s Group, the Afro Asian Organisation and the United Caribbean Association.

Alice Bacon MP CBE:
The city’s first female MP, as a minister in the Home Office in the 1960s she oversaw the introduction of substantial societal changes, including the abolition of the death penalty, the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the legalisation of abortion.

Beryl Burton OBE:
English racing cyclist who dominated the sport in the UK and abroad, winning more than 90 domestic championships and seven world titles and setting numerous national records.

Ivy Benson:
Born in Holbeck, Benson was a saxophonist and bandleader, who led an all-female swing band. Benson’s band were the first entertainers to be invited to perform at the VE celebrations in Berlin in 1945.
Responding to the news, Heather Paul, daughter of Gertrude Paul, said: “Thank you, to the people of the city for voting. The recognition is for all the women of Leeds who gave their time generously to make a difference for all the communities we serve.

"The visibility of diverse women on the walls of the council chambers will provide generational hope and aspirations for the people of Leeds who continue to give their time to others.

"It is a testimony that Leeds City Council is proud to share historical evidence of the immense impact made by women in Leeds”.

Their names will now go forward for approval by the council’s executive board before being added to the walls of the chamber alongside the men from the city’s past who already feature there.

When Leeds Civic Hall was built in 1933, the decision was taken to recognise men who had a close association with Leeds or who contributed in a significant way to the history of the city, with scores of names added over the subsequent decades and the council has been keen to ensure inspirational women from the city’s past are also recognised.