Women who shaped Leeds and the world - Megan Dobbyn
Women who shaped Leeds and the world is a project by Leeds based illustrator and arts educator Megan Dobbyn. As well as working commercially and artistically as an illustrator, animator and designer, Megan has taught on programmes for young people through Leeds Arts University and Leeds Art Gallery. Megan has a passion for informal family learning and so has created a series of animations and children's worksheets to educate families on influential women of Leeds. Megan has also included family friendly biographies of the historical figures, for anyone who'd like to learn more.
Take a look at the animations below, and the previews of the worksheets. Click on the PDF icons to get a downloadable version of the worksheets to print at home.
If you live in LS12 we will be offering free, printed version delivered to your home. Just fill out this form.
Nicola Adams Bio Nicola Adams is an exceptionally inspiring woman from Chapeltown in Leeds. She is the first female boxer to represent England in the Olympics, winning gold after competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics. She went on to win gold again in 2016 at the Rio Olympics. Continuing to smash records, Adams also became the first openly LGBT person to win an Olympic gold in boxing. Adams got into boxing by a turn of fate; her mum couldn't get a babysitter and brought her along to a children’s boxing class at her gym when she was 12 - Adams loved it and history was made. Adams first fight was aged 13 at a working mens club in East Leeds which she won. However, Adams found it really hard to find any other women to spar with, not being allowed to box boys. She had the drive and commitment to keep on training which she still loved. Adams’ trainer Alwyn Belcher has memories training Adams at Chapeltown Park bandstand while the gyms were closed over a bank holiday. She struggled to continue her boxing career due to a lack of financial support for female boxing. She worked as a builder and even acted in Eastenders and Emmerdale for a while! Women’s boxing was finally introduced to the Olympics in 2012. In England it was actually banned for over 100 years because women were apparently too ‘unstable’ to box due to premenstrual syndrome. Adams has hung up her professional boxing gloves now, but continues to be a wonderful source of joy, inspiration and activism to the world. Adams and her girlfriend currently use the
social media platform TikTok to raise awareness of the abuse they receive as an interracial same sex couple, Adams is also outspoken about the discrimination and predjudice she has experienced in sport.
Leonora Cohen was a suffragette born in 1873 in Hunslet, Leeds. She later moved to 2 Clarendon Villas near Woodhouse Square where you can now find her blue plaque. Leonora met and married her husband Henry Cohen, a Jewish immigrant and jewellers assistant in central Leeds. Henry was supportive of the fight for women's rights but Leonora’s mother disapproved of the marriage, believing she should instead devote her life to activism. Cohen was known as ‘Tower Suffragette’ due to her smashing a display case in the Tower of London using an iron bar, with a note attached including the words ‘Deeds Not Words. Votes for Women. 100 years of Constitutional Petition, Resolutions, Meetings & Processions have Failed.’ Cohen was arrested multiple times and went on hunger strike at Armley Gaol. She even went on thirst strike too - a drastic measure that was rarely taken. Suffragettes often went on hunger strike in prison as it meant they legally had to be released temporarily to regain their health, lest they die. This was called the ‘Cat and Mouse Act’. Cohen and her husband set up a vegetarian boarding house in Harrogate, where suffragettes who had been on hunger strike in prison could rest and recuperate or seek refuge if fleeing from police. Cohen also went on to become one of the first female magistrates in the 1920s. A magistrate is someone who listens to criminal cases in a court of law and helps to make decisions about the sentence that a criminal might receive. Cohen worked as a magistrate for over 30 years and received an OBE for her services. Cohen lived for an impressive 105 years and saw a second wave of feminism in the 1970s. She was a dedicated hardworking person who helped change the rights of women in the UK through her committed activism.
Barbara Hepworth was an artist born in Wakefield in 1903. Her father was a county surveyor and she accompanied him on many trips around Yorkshire. The Yorkshire landscape greatly influenced her; ‘All my early memories are of forms and shapes and textures. Moving through and over the West Riding landscape with my father in his car, the hills were sculptures; the roads defined the forms’. Hepworth won a scholarship to study at Leeds School of Art, now known as Leeds Arts University, before going on to study sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London. Hepworth’s sculpture work mainly focused on smooth abstract forms and looked into people's relationships with one another, as well the human figures' relationship with the environment. Hepworth was an extremely prolific sculptor and made more than 600 sculptural works from 1925 - 1975. She was very successful in her lifetime and gained international recognition for her work. Hepworth has been appointed both a CBE and a DBE which are British orders of chivalry rewarding contributions to the arts or sciences. As well as this she was awarded honorary degrees from Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Oxford, London and Exeter as well as having two museums in her honour; the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield and the Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Gardens in St Ives. Hepworth lived to 72 but sadly died in a fire at her studio in Cornwall. Her legacy lives on through her beautiful sculptures which you can see examples of locally at Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.