International Women’s Week in Keighley Local Studies Library

International Women’s Week in Keighley Local Studies Library was celebrated with another popular talk by Irene Lofthouse in full costume. Over 50 people ignored any remaining difficulties of ice and snow to hear about some of the inspirational women of Keighley at the turn of the century.

Margaret Winteringham (first British born female MP in Parliament, child and family welfare campaigner); Rachel Leach (early Dalton mill owner and business woman); Lady Ethel Snowden (campaigner, speaker for women’s rights, ILP member, BBC Board of Governors); Frances Smith (mill worker, councillor, champion of child welfare and public health and first woman director of the Co-op Society Ltd); Margaret Pickles (a Keighley Guardian, a member of the Keighley Union Relief Committee who championed better conditions for the poor and taking children’s upbringing outside the workhouse environment) were just some of the women brought vividly to life by this entertaining actor-historian Irene Lofthouse, who, we are proud to say, does much of her research here in Keighley using our renowned Local Studies’ collection. Our holdings include the Lady Ethel Snowden Library, Down Memory Lane articles by the late Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE, news cuttings, local histories and archives, including a large collection of resources on local mills and their owners. Please see our leaflet guides on this site.

Women in Publishing

Keighley Local Studies also put on a display about women in publishing with reference to an excellent online article on the British Library website by Dr Margaretta Jolly, Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex. This examines the progress made by women in the world of publishing, alongside women’s suffrage and rights’ movements that inspired publications such as the Spare Rib magazine and the establishment of Virago press whose archive is now held at the British Library. The article also notes the emergence of greater diversity in the industry to be inclusive of the working class and also minority ethnic representation with a look at Margaret Busby OBE Hon. FRSL, the youngest and first black woman director of a publishing company. There is plenty online about Margaret Busby who is a patron of Independent Black Publishers and was appointed Chair of Judges for the Booker Prize in 2020. Her latest book New Daughters of Africa (ISBN: 9780241997000), an international anthology of writing by women of African descent, is available from Bradford Libraries.

There is a great reading list attached to this article but check out the following sites for more information:

We also featured the emergence in Bradford of two female Asian publishers at Bradford based Fox & Windmill, Habiba Desai and Sara Razzaq.

This is the first independent book publishing company for British South Asian writers, established in 2021. Their inspiring collection of short stories and poetry from British South Asian writers, Into the Wilds, bridges the gap in the publishing industry for writers from a different background.

Women in the Printing Industry

The printing industry itself was also covered with reference to another article about women’s experiences in the printing industry today but also the first woman to have her own printing press and to employ and to train the first young women in the industry, Emily Faithfull (1835-1895). Emily, a vicar’s daughter, trained as a printer and typesetter and launched the Victoria Press in London in 1860. Its aim was to promote women’s rights to skilled and decently paid employment. The Press printed The English Woman’s Journal, considered the first British feminist periodical, edited by activist-poet Bessie Rayner Parkes. Emily was appointed publisher-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria in 1862. The full article can be read at the following site:

Keighley Local Studies also holds a small selection of 19th century broadsides (single sheets of commentary, song or poetry) and previously has collaborated with Piston, Pen & Press an AHRC-funded project that aimed to “understand how industrial workers in Scotland and the North of England, from the 1840s to the 1910s, engaged with literary culture through writing, reading and participation in wider cultural activities”. Check out their web site for more information please:

It just goes to show that inspirational women are everywhere, should be celebrated and their struggles and achievements recorded. We are pleased that Bradford Libraries and Archives on their bookshelves, displays and in their Local Studies’ departments can share in their journey past, present and future.

Gina Birdsall, Local Studies & Archives Assistant

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