It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially when the odds are stacked against you. Lillian Armitage had plenty and more than a century after she was jailed for her part in the suffragette movement, a Bradford street is being named after her.
Local teacher Lillian was Secretary of the Women’s Social and Political Union and clearly a very determined woman, so determined in fact that she attempted to enter the House of Commons on February 14 1907 to demand voting rights for women. Predictably, the Establishment was outraged. She was arrested, tried and sent to prison for two weeks.
Without the bravery of Lillian and others like her who fight for human rights, Britain would be a very backward place. It is great that our district is taking a stand and celebrating the contributions of these women through a new campaign called Pioneering Bradford Lasses, starting with Lillian Armitage Close at a new development on the corner of Green Lane and Lumb Lane.
Cllr Sarah Ferriby, portfolio holder for Better Health, Better Lives, told The Yorkshire Post: “I work in City Hall most days and while there are rightly many pictures of the old industrialists and aldermen who helped shape our district, these are by and large, male figures. This campaign offers the chance to redress this balance and promote more of our district’s pioneering lasses.
“I look forward to seeing more of the women from our past in my visits to City Hall, and indeed throughout the district and hope that Lillian Armitage will be the first of many women to be publicly honoured in in the district. By raising the profile of our Pioneering Lasses in Bradford we hope to inspire young women across the district to go on and make their own history.”
There are many exceptional role models to be found in the Bradford civic community. Take the following as a few shining examples: Bradford Chamber chief executive Sandy Needham, Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe, council chief executive Kersten England, Bradford Literature Festival director Syima Aslam, manufacturing MD and LEP board member Joanna Robinson, charity chief Adeeba Malik, University of Bradford vice chancellor elect Shirley Congdon and health care commissioner Helen Hirst. I could go on.
We have many outstanding female entrepreneurs, such as Gemma Andrews, the 31-year-old co-founder and managing director of Superfood Market, who transformed a popular food blog into a successful whole foods supply business with annual sales reportedly nearing £10m.
She told The Yorkshire Post: “I really love my job and the business we have built over the best part of a decade. I’m really proud of all the work we do, but I’m especially proud of the hardworking and dedicated female team leaders, managers and department heads at Superfood Market.
“I hope that my leadership of the company serves as a positive example of modern times in business, and inspires other women to reach for positions at the highest level. I hope though my hard work and dedication I pave the way for fellow Yorkshire lasses like myself to pursue and achieve their dreams.”
Suzanne Watson, the managing director of Ilkley-based Approach PR and the Vice President of Bradford Chamber, is another example of an outstanding female entrepreneur in our district. She said: “The political, cultural and business landscape is changing at an incredible rate and now more than ever do we need inspiring female leaders to step forward and share their experiences, their skills and their vision with the next generation of women to encourage more entrepreneurship, more courage and more self belief to achieve our potential and secure the careers we deserve and truly make the difference we are capable of.
“Recognising female achievement in all areas is long overdue and as Bradford moves to acknowledge and promote the important role of women in the district’s history with its Pioneering Bradford Lasses campaign, I am looking forward to a future where Bradford’s example of female leadership is the norm, rather than the exception.”
Suzanne becomes Chamber President later this year, the second woman to hold the post after the advertising guru Judith Donovan CBE, another outstanding female entrepreneur from Bradford. Over the years, our district has produced some truly great women who have risen from diverse backgrounds to become figures of historic significance. Recognising their often courageous contributions to business and civic life helps pave the way for others to follow.
• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club