Object of the week- Leonora Cohen’s iron bar: leedm.e.1989.10.55.jpg

06 Mar 2019

Object of the week- Leonora Cohen’s iron bar

In 1913, famously passionate Leeds-born women’s right campaigner Leonora Cohen travelled to the Tower of London.

Concealed about her person were pieces of an iron bar with which she intended to carry out one of the eye-catching acts of public protest she became known for.

In front of a crowd of startled schoolchildren, Leonora smashed a display case at the tower with one of the metal pieces and was arrested and imprisoned for the second time in her life.

The label attached to the bar read: “Jewel House, Tower of London. My protest to the Government for its refusal to Enfranchise Women but continues to torture women prisoners- Deeds Not Words. Leonora Cohen.”

Whilst in Armley jail, Leonora went on hunger and thirst strike in protest and was released so that she could recover. Whilst on licence, she fled to Harrogate and, like many campaigners, put protesting on hold and joined the war effort.

One of the pieces of metal she took with her to the tower, a piece of cast iron fireplace grate, is currently on display at Leeds City Museum alongside other notable items illustrating Leonora’s long life and her many struggles and triumphs.

She remained a passionate force for women’s rights for the rest of her days she became the first woman president of the Yorkshire Federation of Trades Councils.

She stayed on the council for 25 years and by the mid- 1920s she was appointed an OBE for services to public life.

After the First World War, Leonora also became a Justice of the Peace and visited Armley jail in the 1920s. While she was there, she looked herself up and found that she was officially still on licence.

The Leonora Cohen display can be found at Leeds City Museum on Millennium Square.


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Leeds City Council Communications team