Leeds Town Hall 1943
The steps of Leeds Town Hall in 1943 during the Women's Day parade, part of the Wings for Victory campaign.
1 min read

Fantastic photo flashback to year Leeds had its first female Lord Mayor

A spectacular parade marches down The Headrow as a military band plays in front of Leeds Town Hall and a majestic Second World War fighter plane wows the excited crowd of thousands.

This incredible photo, which dates from 1943, captures a wartime Women’s Day march, part of the Wings for Victory campaign to raise money to buy an aircraft and one of the most eye-catching occasions in the year Leeds had its very first female Lord Mayor.

Jessie Beatrice Kitson held the office from 1942 until 1943, stepping into the role after Councillor Arthur Clarke died shortly after being selected, making her the fourth member of her family to serve as the city’s Lord Mayor.

She served from November 1942 and was not attached to a political party. Alongside famous Leeds Suffragette Leonora Cohen, she was also one of the city’s early female Magistrates.

The memorable Town Hall photo is part of an album of pictures documenting the year she donned the gold chains. It is currently being displayed as part of A Woman’s Place, an inspiring exhibition highlighting the many different roles women in Leeds and beyond have fulfilled over the past 150 years.

As the city marks International Women’s Day tomorrow and Women’s History Month all through March, the image is one of a number of fascinating stories being highlighted by museums and galleries in Leeds.

Councillor Jane Dowson, the current Lord Mayor of Leeds, said: “This incredible photo captures what would have been a fascinating time for Leeds, with the Second World War raging in Europe and thousands of local men going off to fight abroad while women on the home front were asked to play a crucial part in the war effort.

“It must have been a daunting task for Jessie Kitson to step into the role of Lord Mayor at such a tumultuous time for the city but she must also have been an inspirational figure for the women who saw her taking on such an important role.

“As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day, it’s fitting that we look back at the many women like her who have laid the foundations for us today and recognise the extraordinary contribution they have made.”

A Woman’s Place? which is currently at Kirkstall’s Abbey House Museum, shines a light on the stories of several influential women as well as celebrating the quiet heroism of women in everyday life.

Among the figures recognised as part of the exhibition is 1940s all-female jazz band leader Ivy Benson, born and bred in Holbeck, 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.

For more details, please visit: https://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries

Previous Story

Plans to preserve historic Leeds landmark set to go to panel

Next Story

Grant support helps Leeds water treatment company excel