At a time when war raged across Europe, Ivy Benson was calling her own tune.
The pioneering musician and band leader, who was born in Holbeck, became something of a celebrity when war gave her a chance to break into the world of big bands.
In fact her All Girls Orchestra became the BBC’s resident dance band in 1943 and, after the liberation of Europe in 1945, they were specially requested by General Montgomery to play to the troops.
Ivy led the band for 40 years and they continued to play on into the 1980s, appearing in many summer seasons on the Isle of Man. She retired to Clacton, Essex, where she died in 1993.
This commemorative ceramic of Ivy is one of four depicting unsung Leeds heroines currently on display in Abbey House Museum’s A Woman’s Place? exhibition.
Created by Yorkshire-based artist Katch Skinner, the pieces also honour Morley cycling champion Beryl Burton, Leeds Suffragette Mary Gawthorpe, and Edith Pechey, one of the first female doctors in the United Kingdom, who practised in Leeds during the 1870s-80s.
A Woman’s Place? Commemorates 100 years since the first British women won the right to vote as well as celebrating the quiet heroism of ordinary women.
Among the other influential women whose stories the exhibition shines a light on is that of Leeds Suffragette Leonora Cohen and Olympic gold medal-winning boxer Nicola Adams.
Kitty Ross, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator of social history said:
“Each of these women has played their own unique and important role in challenging and changing perceptions of what women can achieve, in turn helping to inspire subsequent generations.”
A Woman’s Place? runs throughout 2018, alongside a programme of talks, study days and schools workshops.
For more details, please visit: http://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries