Louise Minchin on celebrating the achievements of women in Cheshire

Louise Minchin

Louise Minchin - Credit: Archant

Progress still needs to be made, writes the Chester-based BBC presenter, but since women got the vote great strides have been made. Just look around the county.

There have been so many reminders over the last month of the suffragettes’ and suffragists’ brave and tenacious campaigns to get what we all now take for granted, the right for women in the UK to have a vote.

On the one hundred-year anniversary of the first women being allowed to vote, there is still important work to be done, but in the intervening century many things have changed. If you look across the political landscape of Cheshire right now, what strikes me is the incredible legacy the suffragettes have left. Not only are there four female MPs including a Secretary of State, we also have a female Lord Mayor of Chester, female Sheriff of Chester, the High Sheriff of Cheshire is a woman, as are the heads of Cheshire East and West councils and their deputies.

Looking many years further back, I didn’t know that Chester has a very proud history of strong women leaders, and that the city was founded by one of England’s most charismatic and courageous female rulers, a staggering 1,111 years ago.

If you have been watching the BBC’s Last Kingdom, you may already be familiar with, Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians. She was the daughter of Alfred the Great and became the de facto ruler of Mercia after her husband died.

Over many years she fought and won fierce battles against the Vikings across swathes of land in the Midlands and the North West including a ferocious fight for Chester.

According to legend, Æthelflæd was a sharp strategist and inspiring military leader, and when a group of Vikings tried to take the city she chose to fight them outside the walls and then fall back and ‘draw’ them into the city. Once inside the city walls, the gates closed and the pursuing Vikings were cornered by her army hiding inside. It was a bloody and brutal battle and she was victorious.

It shouldn’t colour my view but now I know that it was Æthelflæd who fortified Chester’s walls, built and protected the city I love, it makes me feel emboldened and inspired as I walk through the ancient streets, and reflect on her determination and courage.

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