Object of the week- Leonora Cohen’s dress
Last week, Leeds marked a century since the first women in the country won the right to vote.
Among those who fought so hard for that right was local Suffragette Leonora Cohen, whose remarkable life was remembered during the city’s celebrations.
This eye-catching dress was a key part of one of the more memorable episodes in her extraordinary story, and was worn by her to the Leeds Arts Club Ball in 1914.
Covered in Suffragette symbols, the dress carries the logo of the Women’s Social and Political Union, a militant branch of the Suffrage movement founded by the Pankhursts.
The dress would have been worn by Leonora as a powerful political statement at a time when the Suffrage movement began to become more and more active.
In 1911 Leonora had thrown a rock at the window of a government building and was subsequently arrested and jailed.
Then, in 1913 she was again arrested and jailed, this time for hurling an iron bar through a showcase at the Tower of London in front of a crowd of startled schoolchildren.
In later life, Leonora was eventually appointed OBE, living to the age of 105, and remained a force for women’s rights right up until her death in 1978.
The dress is currently being protected and preserved at the Leeds Discovery Centre, but other items relating to Leonora’s life can be found on display at Leeds City Museum.
Leonora’s WSPU badge is also on display at Kirkstall’s Abbey House Museum as part of A Woman’s Place?, which explores the changing roles of women over the past 150 years.