top of page

Catherine Booth

Catherine Booth, the daughter of a coachbuilder, was born in AshbourneDerbyshire, on 17th January 1829 was the co-funder of the Savation army. When she was a child the family moved to BostonLincolnshire and later they lived in BrixtonLondon. Catherine was a devout Christian and by the age of twelve she had read the Bible eight times. She had a social conscience from an early age. On one occasion she protested to the local policeman that he had been too rough on a drunken man he had arrested and frog-marched to the local lock-up.

Catherine did not enjoy good health. At the age of fourteen she developed spinal curvature and four years later, incipient tuberculosis. It was while she was ill in bed that she began writing articles for magazines warning of the dangers of drinking alcohol. Catherine was a member of the local Band of Hope and a supporter of the national Temperance Society.

Catherine Booth and William Booth had eight children, all of whom were active in the Salvation Army.William Bramwell Booth (1856-1929) was chief of staff from 1880 and succeeded his father as general in 1912. Catherine's second son, Ballington Booth (1857-1940), was commander of the army in Australia (1883-1885) and the USA (1887-1896). One of her daughters, Evangeline Cory Booth (1865-1950) was elected General of the Salvation Army in 1934.

Elizabeth Petty

The first woman 'Lord' Mayor in England was art collector Ethel Mary Colman (1863 - 1948). Ethel Colman was the daughter of the famous mustard manufacturer, Jeremiah James Colman. She was appointed the first Lady Lord Mayor of Norwich, 09 November 1923. Her lady mayoress was her younger sister, Miss Helen Caroline. Ethel was also a director of a missionary society and one of the first women deacons at Princes’ Street, Norwich.

Meanwhile although there have been Mayors in Derby since 1835 the first woman 'Lord Mayor' Elizabeth Petty (1875–1947) was not appointed until 1936. Elizabeth Petty was  a Conservative, former Poor Law Guardian and the second woman elected to Derby City Council, winning Dale Ward in 1922. She was Derby's most successful female politician of that era due to her longevity. She returned to the Council 6 times, 4 times unopposed. She was a Councillor at the outbreak of WW II. Reports of her political concerns including her work with Belgian Refugees in 1914 and again with Basque child refugees fleeing Franco's Rebel army in 1937, her concern for women and children are indicative of early 'feminist sympathies' and suggests that she was a liberal Conservative. Source: Derby Daily Telegraph 2 Nov. 1922 and 26 Oct 1928.

Olave Baden-Powell 1889-1977

Olave St Clair Baden-Powell, Baroness Baden-Powell, (22 February 1889 – 25 June 1977) was born in Soames in Chesterfield, England. Olave was co-founder of the Scout and Guide Movement  and accordingly was the first Chief Guide.

Barbara Castle

Barbara Anne Castle, Baroness Castle of BlackburnPCGCOT (née Betts, 6 October 1910 – 3 May 2002) was brn in chsterfield Derbyshire was a British Labour Party politician who was the Member of Parliament for Blackburn from 1945 to 1979, making her the longest-serving female MP in the history of the House of Commons, until that record was broken in 2007 by Gwyneth Dunwoody. She later became the Member of the European Parliament for Greater Manchester from1979 to 1989. One of the most significant Labour Party politicians of the 20th century, she served in the Cabinetunder Prime Minister Harold Wilson in a number of roles, including as Secretary of State for Employment,Secretary of State for Health and Social Services, and First Secretary of State.Barbara Castle born in Chesterfield, 1964 M. for Overseas Dev.; 1965 M. for Transport, 1968 S. of State for Labour and Productivity: 

First World War Pioneer 'Duckies'

The First World War marked  the beginning of a major social revolution, which among other developments, saw women enter the realm of what had previously been seen as 'mens work', in argriculture, industires and transport. In the transport sector for example this meant that the public encountered women working on trains and buses on a daily basis and were the most visible example of the aforementioned revolution.


Mrs G. Duncan  was the first woman conductor in London. She started work with Thomas Tilling Company on 1 November 1915 ( source: In Derby the circumstances which led to the first opportunities for women to work as conductors 'Duckies' were also begining to emerge. The War had taken its toll and some  70 to 80 of the tramways committee employees , though not yet conscrioted, were "in khaki", so a decision was made on November 20, 1915, to advertise for female conductors aged between 21 and 35 and, surprisingly, at wage rates the same as for the men.


Florence Dawson, of Wimbush Avenue, Allenton, was one of the first six women to be recruited in  1915. She completed her training and first stood on the tram platform ready to carry on with the job independently  on Christmas Eve 1915.

Amid unfounded ‘concerns’ that women would have problems climbing the stairs o tramcars would end in disaster worries about the decency and safety of omen getting home after late shifts  and beng nicknamed the ‘fare sex’ women should whould their capabilities

Another Derby Corporation female conductor, Gertrude Harris, led a revolt by the newly-recruited women against part of their uniform the long skirts, totally impracticable for climbing the stairs, liable to get sodden and filthy with the ordure that covered the streets and dragging in every puddle when it rained, these skirts were an obvious encumbrance. Gertrude and others decided to cut off a few inches, thus heightening the hem, and were disciplined for doing so.

Despite the fact that the number of women taken on swelled to 62, all were "displaced" (what a marvellous euphemism) on November 1, 1919. So came to an end the first phase of female employment on Derby's public transport system. In January 1940, female conductors were once more employed on a "temporary basis" after 72 men left the department to fight for their country. 

In addition, one must make it clear that the employment of women in these traditional male roles as conductors etc, was largley expedient rather than and real recognition of women as equals.  Indeed women would not considered for emplyment as bus inpsectors, even when vacance remained unfilled,  until much later. However what had begun was a change that was slowly but surely built on and by the event of WW II in May 1943 the decision was made to employ women in Derby as trolley bus drivers.


Thus collectivey these women like Grace Lloyd, Gertrude Harris, Florence Dawson and their 59 colleagues were indeed pioneers who helped to pave the way for the many genrations of women who would come after them.


Mrs. Marjorie Hilda Kenning, O.B.E.

Little is known about Marjorie Kenning in her own right, except that she was in the Womens Auxilliary Air Force and was awarded several medals, was awarded and O.B.E, became he first woman High Sherrif of Derbyshire in 1988 and that she  lived at grade 11 listed, Great  Longstone Hall. Great Longstone Hall was built in 1747 by John Wright and is one of the more attractive of the smaller country houses in Derbyshire. This brick built building remained with the Wright family for many years. The historical snippet on the house also notes that it was also once home to Francis Kenning, son of the Clay Cross motor trade pioneer Sir George Kenning.

Additional research uncovered that Marjorie's husband,  George Kenning, was High Sheriff in 1971 and her daughter, Fiona Cannon, in 2010.  Indeed, exploring the list of previous High Shriifs tells a story of Halls, titles and several genrations going on to take up the post. In Fiona Cannons case she used her mother's buttons and her jabot for her own outfit

Subsequent  Women High Sheriffs n Derbyshire:

1994: Mrs. Gillian Mary Hutchinson, of Somersal House, Somersal Herbert

2000: Mrs. Margaret Jean Boissier, Ithersay Cottage, Idridgehay, Belper.

2001: Jane Katherine Walker-Okeover of Okeover Hall

2002: Mrs Dianne Jeffrey

2010: Fiona Mary Cannon of Ashbourne

2016: Elizabeth Fothergill Hon D Univ. CBE DL

For information on the functions of the High Sheriff click this link


Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP

Margaret Beckett MP is a British Labour Party politician who is the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Derby South.

Mrs Beckett was first elected to Parliament in 1974 and held junior positions in the governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan. She lost her seat in 1979 but returned to the House of Commons in 1983 and became a senior member of the Labour Party. She was elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in 1992 and was briefly its leader in 1994 following the premature death of John Smith, the first woman to occupy either role.

After Labour's victory in the 1997 general election, Mrs Beckett became a member of Tony Blair's Cabinet. Initially the President of the Board of Trade, she was later the Leader of the House of Commons and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In 2006, Mrs Beckett was appointed British Foreign Secretary, making her the first woman to hold the position, and, after Margaret Thatcher, the second woman to hold one of the Great Offices of State.

Margaret Beckett is currently a member of the Top Level Group of UK Parliamentarians for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation.



Parkash Ahluwalia

Beth Seymour

Dame Hilary Mary Mantel, DBE FRSL 

Dame Hilary Mary Mantel, DBE FRSL  born Thompson, 6 July 1952 Hadfield, Derbyshire,England), is an English writer whose work includes personal memoirs, short stories, and historical fiction.

She has twice been awarded the Booker Prize, the first for the 2009 novel Wolf Hall, a fictional account of Thomas Cromwell's rise to power in the court of Henry VIII, and the second for the 2012 novel Bring Up the Bodies, the second installment of the Cromwell trilogy.

Born into a working-class Roman Catholic family, Mantel attended convent school before embarking on a law degree at the London School of Economics. She finished her studies at the University of Sheffield in 1973 and found work first as a social worker and then as a store assistant. After moving to Botswana with her husband, a geologist, Mantel turned her attention to creating fiction, driven to write by the cultural isolation she experienced in Africa as well as by the inactivity imposed on her by a chronic medical condition, later diagnosed as endometriosis. In 1983 she and her husband relocated to Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, where she completed her first novel, Every Day Is Mother’s Day (1985), before eventually moving back to England. Mantel was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 2006 and a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in 2014.

Prof Cecile Wright

Delia El-Hosayny

Delia El-Hosayny – thought to be Britain's first female bouncer – is celebrating 25 years working on the doors of Derby nightspots. Delia became a "doorman" in 1985 at the age of 18 after a friend who was a bouncer was involved in an incident that she thought would have been better handled by a woman. Despite being stabbed and shot in the neck during the line of duty she’s still bouncing at the age of 42 (June 2010)

Please reload

bottom of page