In 2018, as part of the celebration of the centenary of some women becoming enfranchised, the Brighton & Hove Women’s History Group was established to raise awareness of the contribution women have made to the history of Brighton and Hove over the last 150 years. One of the ways we have achieved this is to campaign for Blue Plaques on the homes and other buildings that featured in the lives of some of these women. 

The first women we uncovered were members of the Suffrage Movement in the early years of the 20th Century. These include, Minnie Turner, Clementina Black, Elizabeth Robbins & Octavia Wilberforce and we supported others in their campaign for plaques for Margaret Bondfield and the Women’s Social & Political Union office (the Suffragettes). These plaques can be found around the City.

Campaigning for Blue Plaques is a time consuming and quite costly endeavour so it is useful to work with other individuals and groups to share costs and experience. The next two plaques we have been collaborating on are for Mary Hare, a suffragette who was also a key player in setting up a school for the Deaf and the formation of the Women’s Police force at the beginning of the twentieth century. Her plaque will be unveiled in St Michael’s Place on 23 March 2024. The next great woman that we are campaigning for with the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra is Mary (Molly) Paley who was a leading light in orchestral music in the City after World War One and for the next 40 years. 

There are other women who we hope to memorialise in this way and we are always open to suggestions for others. But Blue Plaques are just one way to celebrate these women. We also campaign for names on buses. We have a book, Women of Brighton & Hove: An Anthology and a website where we publish new research.

by Gerry Holloway