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Blue plaque unveiled for Colchester’s first female mayor Catharine Alderton

William Alderton, great-grandson of Catharine Alderton, and Jenny Stevens unveil the blue plaque to Catharine Alderton. Picture: Rosemary Jewers

William Alderton, great-grandson of Catharine Alderton, and Jenny Stevens unveil the blue plaque to Catharine Alderton. Picture: Rosemary Jewers

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A blue plaque has been unveiled to commemorate Colchester’s first female mayor.

A painting of Catharine Buchanan Alderton by Frank Daniell, which hangs in Colchester Town Hall. Picture: COLCHESTER & IPSWICH MUSEUMS SERVICEA painting of Catharine Buchanan Alderton by Frank Daniell, which hangs in Colchester Town Hall. Picture: COLCHESTER & IPSWICH MUSEUMS SERVICE

Catharine Alderton was first elected to the borough council in 1916, and was mayor between 1923-24.

Born in 1869, the Suffragist and mathematics teacher joined the Liberal Party and campaigned for women’s rights.

As a female councillor she had not been allowed to attend the traditional Oyster Feast, which was an all-male affair, but as mayor she presided and invited who she wanted, male and female. She was succeeded by Catherine Hunt, who did likewise, and Cllr Alderton also became the first deputy mayoress – at a time when the mayor become deputy after, not before, the top role.

Cllr Alderton also became the first female Essex county councillor, in 1928, and went on to be awarded an MBE for services to local government in 1944.

The blue plaque to Catharine Alderton. Picture: Rosemary JewersThe blue plaque to Catharine Alderton. Picture: Rosemary Jewers

Alderton Road, off Ipswich Road in Colchester, is named after her.

The plaque has been installed at 26 Cambridge Road, where she lived when she was mayor and until she died, by the Colchester Civic Society. It was unveiled by former mayor Jenny Stevens and William Alderton, great-grandson of Catharine.

Rosemary Jewers, spokeswoman for the Colchester Civic Society, said: “Cllr Alderton was so important because she was the first woman to have become a councillor here when the majority of women still didn’t have the vote. She was a beacon for other women to follow.

“When the five former female mayors came to the unveiling they came to honour Catharine because she had inspired them – they were so pleased she had a plaque because she was a role model.”

Five former female mayors of Colchester at the unveiling of a blue plaque for Catharine Alderton. From left to right, Sonia Lewis, Jenny Stevens, Mary Fairhead, Mary Frank and Janet Fulford. Picture: ROSEMARY JEWERSFive former female mayors of Colchester at the unveiling of a blue plaque for Catharine Alderton. From left to right, Sonia Lewis, Jenny Stevens, Mary Fairhead, Mary Frank and Janet Fulford. Picture: ROSEMARY JEWERS

Cllr Alderton’s other achievements including being the first woman on the committee of the Essex County Hospital, president of the Women’s Liberal Federation in 1931-32, president of the National Congregational Women’s Guild of England and Wales in 1926-28 and 1928-30.

Her husband, Archibald – with whom she had one son – served one three-year term as a councillor in the 1930’s.

Cllr Alderton, who also served as a magistrate, died in 1951.

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