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Local legend suffragette set for blue plaque honour

Plans have been lodged for a blue plaque to commemorate an Oldham suffragist.

An application has been submitted by Oldham Council for the installation of the sign to commemorate Marjory Lees at the Werneth Park Community Centre on Frederick Street.

The Legacy of Majory Lees

It would be installed next to the existing plaque on the Grade Two-listed building which honours her mother, politician and activist Dame Sarah Lees.

The proposed wording would read: “The home of Marjory Lees 1878 – 1970. Suffragist, philanthropist, social welfare activist.

Donated this house and park to the borough, 1936.”

Marjory Lees was born in Oldham, Greater Manchester in 1878, and like her mother, became active in local politics and the wider women’s suffrage movement.

Oldham Women’s Suffrage Society

She made charitable donations to the local community, began a career as a poor law guardian and became president of the Oldham Women’s Suffrage Society.

Marjory also took part in the Suffrage Pilgrimage in 1913, travelling from Oldham to London, in which 50,000 suffragists and supporters of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) converged on Hyde Park for a rally calling for votes for women.

Women’s Suffrage Pilgrimage

This was the culmination of a five-week, nationwide Women’s Suffrage Pilgrimage.

In 1919, she was elected to Oldham council following her mother’s resignation from the same seat, serving on the council until she stepped down in 1934.

Sarah Lees – English Politician

Sarah Lees was an English Liberal politician, activist, and philanthropist who was the first female councillor elected in Lancashire in 1907, and the first female Mayor of Oldham in 1910, only the second woman in England to hold such a position.

The Dame Sarah Lees Memorial

The Dame Sarah Lees Memorial erected in Werneth Park in 1937, was designed and made by the local artist and sculptor Williams Hargreaves Whitehead.

Marjory donated Werneth Park, her family home, to the people of Oldham in 1936 after the death of her mother, which forms the present public Werneth Park.

The design and access statement on behalf of the council states: “The site has an existing plaque to Sarah Lees. It is appropriate to also now acknowledge the achievements of her daughter, Marjory. The building and surrounding parkland were a gift to Oldham from Marjory Lees.

“The design of the plaque will follow the format of the existing Sarah Lees plaque. This will maintain the feel of the building and add an additional story for the public to access.”

Majory Lees Factfile

Born in 1878, Majory Lees passed away in 1970.

She was the daughter of wealthy industrialists Charles Edward Lees and Sarah Ann Buckley.

The family lived at Werneth Park, in Oldham.

Her father died in 1894.

From the mid-1890s both Sarah and her mother were strongly supportive of women’s rights and social reform.

Amongst her many other activities:

From 1897 Marjory was involved with the National Council of Women; in 1900 she was involved in social work with the University Settlement in Manchester.

In 1904 she was elected secretary of the Oldham Branch of the National Council for Women.

In 1910 her mother became Mayor of Oldham and Marjory took the role of her Mayoress.

In 1910 she was instrumental in the founding of the Oldham Women’s Suffrage Society and became its President.

In 1913 she accompanied her mother to the International Conference on Women’s Suffrage held in Budapest.

Along with other Suffrage Society members, she took part in the 1913 NUWSS Pilgrimage.

In 1918 when the Oldham Suffrage Society was re-formed as the Oldham Women Citizens Association Marjory took an active part in its work.

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