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Blue plaque Marjory Lees Published: Monday, 11th September 2023

Oldham Council’s Leader has unveiled a blue plaque to commemorate a pioneer of the suffragist movement.

Councillor Arooj Shah revealed the newly installed sign to commemorate Marjory Lees during a recent ceremony attended by residents and dignitaries.

It has taken pride of place next to the existing plaque on the Grade Two-listed Werneth Park Community Centre which honours Marjory’s mother – another leading borough politician and activist, Dame Sarah Lees.

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

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. She joined 50,000 suffragists and supporters of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) in Hyde Park for a rally calling for votes for women.

In 1919, she was elected to Oldham Council following her mother’s resignation from the same seat. She served as a councillor until she stepped down in 1934.

Following the death of her mother in 1936 Marjory donated Werneth Park, site of her family home, to the people of Oldham – a gift that is appreciated to this day.

Marjory died in 1970.

Cllr Shah said: “I was honoured to be asked to unveil this blue plaque for Marjory.

“She, and her mother, were real pioneers in the fight for women’s rights. They stood up for what they believed in and made a real difference.

“Even today women across the country owe both of them, and the thousands of brave women who joined them in their fight for the vote, so much.

“Locally, residents continue to use the facilities they donated on a daily basis, so it is only fitting we remember Marjory and Sarah so future generations know what they did for the borough.

“Marjory and Sarah are just two of the inspirational women the borough has recognised over the last years. Others include Annie Kenney and Olive Claydon and there will no doubt be more in the future.”

The wording on the plaque reads: “The home of Marjory Lees 1878 – 1970. Suffragist, philanthropist, social welfare activist. Donated this house and park to the borough, 1936.”

The idea for the plaque was first suggested by a resident on Facebook and was paid for by the Werneth ward councillors.

The unveiling was carried out during the Oldham Council’s Histories Festival and Heritage Open Days. There is still time to find out more and book on events and activities by visiting www.oldham.gov.uk/histories_festival

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

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