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Nowadays we do not bat an eyelid at women on the Council, in fact at present  the Council is evenly split between men and women. However, even before woman got the vote there were lady councillors.


The Southend and Westcliff Graphic of February 1908 reports the amazing rumour that a lady was intending to stand for the Town Council.


Mary Spencer Warren lived in Avenue Road, but had been born in Northampton in about 1873.  On the 1911 census she is a single lady sharing the house with another single woman, Ellen Murrell Hammond, a teacher of shorthand from Fulham.


Miss Spencer Warren was the founder and Secretary of the local branch of the Primrose League*.


On being asked if the rumours of her intended candidature were true Mary was rather coy but confirmed that the  suggestion had been put to her that she should stand and that given the recent reports in the press about the male contingent’s behaviour in Council she felt a woman’s opinion would be of value and a woman’s presence would have a calming effect with the men curbing their behaviour in front of a lady!!!


She believed very strongly that women should take their full share in the constitutional privileges of the country (although she did not expand on what she thought these were, given they did not have the vote). She supported the aims of the Suffragettes, but not their methods.


Mary had travelled widely and had studied the local government in many countries, including the United States. She was well known and respected in Leigh and  it was felt that should she enter the race for the Town Council she would no doubt add interest to the proceedings.














way from any political ambitions, Mary was a reasonably prolific and well respected author of a number of articles which appeared in national press, the Strand Magazine and the international press, giving an insight into the lives of the rich and famous. These are some examples of her articles –


How Ireland Is Governed

Memories of Holyrood

Queen Alexandra. Her Jubilee Amongst Us

The Queen of England and Her Sandringham Cottages

The Vatican’s Prisoner – How the Pope spends his days


At the moment it is not known whether Mary did stand for election to the Town Council –  that’s for another day in the library.


In 1914 Mary was at Antwerp and narrowly escaped injury from a shell.  She endured great hardship including a tramp of 35 miles having given up her car to the wounded.




The primrose was the favourite flower of Benjamin Disraeli.  A small group had for some time discussed the means for obtaining the support of the people for Conservative principles and it was decided to found a ‘primrose league’, membership of which included Lord Randolph Churchill.  The League had branches all over the country.


The information contained in this article and the photograph are taken from the Southend and Westcliff Graphic newspaper.

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