Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Southport's first woman Mayor

A woman as Mayor is today scarcely remarked on-indeed Maureen Fearn has done it three times, but there was a time when such things were fiercely controversial. In deed in Bootle they didn't get around to having a woman Mayor until the 1967/8. Indeed there was only ever one woman Mayor of Bootle, Veronica Bray .

In Southport things were a little different. Liberal Women were elected to School Boards-Birkdale's Kate Riley was the first woman elected to anything when she joined the local School Board at its inception. The first Councillor was also a Kate with the quintessential Southport surname of Rimmer. But the most prominent (although one does get the impression that Kate Riley would dispute this) was Christiana  Hartley . She became the borough's first woman Mayor in 1921.

The Hartley family hailed from Colne East Lancashire. They were strong Methodists and worshiped at St Marks Church (now a medical centre) which was colloquially known as the 'Jam Chapel' because, as you may have guessed, the family wealth came from making Hartley's Jam. Interesting St Marks was laid out more like a Anglican Church than a Methodist chapel with a chancel and was very different from the Primitive Methodism of the family's Trawden past.

 Christiana's first political role was a a member of the Ormskirk Board of Guardians under the old Poor Law and she was involved in issues of social welfare all her life. In Southport her name is most remembered as one given to the Maternity Unity in Curzon Road which she gave to the town in 1932 and the accompanying nurses home which she gave in 1940.

So when the learned  Journal of Liberal History asked in its 2012 Quiz :

 Christiana Hartley was a Liberal social welfare and rights activist, business women and philanthropist. In 1921 she was elected the first female Mayor of which Lancashire borough?

.........there should not have been one Sandgrounder who got it wrong

If anyone has a decent photo of Christiana I'd be pleased to receive a copy.


  1. Christiana not Christina. Apart from that an excellent article. It is important we remember our pioneers.

  2. Thanks Nigel and Anon, I think I've got all the corrections sorted


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