A new exhibition opening 2 November at Armley Mills Industrial Museum celebrates the women who were standard bearers for a golden age in Yorkshire’s industrial heritage, and were once crowned the queens of their industries.
Industry queens rose to prominence in the 20th Century, with the first Railway Queens elected in the mid-1920s and the last Coal Queen being crowned in the early 1980s. Inspired by the idea of traditional May Queens in villages and towns, these queens flew the flag for their industry, county or even country in what often proved to be a life-changing opportunity for the chosen few.
Frances Lockett, the first Cotton Queen, met aging former Prime Minister Lloyd George in 1930. And Railway Queen, Audrey Mossom, visited Russia, where she met Joseph Stalin.
Doreen Fletcher (nee Kerfoot, above) who became Yorkshire’s Wool Queen in 1948, was selected to play the lead in ‘The Three Piece Suit’ a film aimed at inspiring young female workers to join the wool industry. She went on to enjoy a successful modelling, acting and singing career, becoming something of a forces’ sweetheart. Now approaching her 90th birthday, Doreen still lives in Yorkshire and organisers are hoping she can attend the exhibition opening later this year.
“Being named a Queen of Industry was an incredible opportunity, and those lucky enough to be given the title became celebrities in their own right”, said John McGoldrick, Leeds Museums and Galleries curator of industrial history.
“It was a chance for women to play a leading role in industries which had traditionally been male-dominated, providing inspiration for other young women. As well as paying tribute to those women, we aim to spark a discussion about how women today experience working in industry.”
As well as historic photos and films, the exhibition will feature rarely seen objects from Leeds Museums and Galleries’ collection and loans from major UK museums and private collectors.