Another blue plaque for Forgotten Women of Wakefield project

A trailblazing activist who led the charge against poverty, inequality and animal cruelty in Wakefield is to be honoured with a blue plaque.

Monday, 13th September 2021, 2:43 pm
Updated Monday, 13th September 2021, 2:44 pm
Forgotten Women of Wakefield

Ann Clarkson, who lived in the city in the nineteenth century, dedicated her life to supporting the sick and poor in their homes, raising money for the city’s House of Recovery, and standing up for the rights of animals in and around the city.

On a number of occasions, she was known to buy trapped birds from street urchins and pay boys pennies for every half drowned kitten they helped her rescue. In 1869, following years of work, she was able to convince nine other women to sign a document calling for an official branch of the RSPCA to be established in Wakefield.

Ann also played a huge role in educating young women, serving as school treasurer and teacher at the Unitarian Westgate Chapel for more than 30 years.

Trying to achieve blue plaque parity

Her incredible story has been uncovered by the Forgotten Women of Wakefield, a grassroots organisation dedicated to uncovering the stories of the historic women who helped to shape the city.

Sarah Cobham, who founded Dream Time Creative, the company behind the project, said that Ann’s work seemed even more poignant in light of the pandemic.

She said: “Ann has made a huge impact on me during lockdown. Her ability to carry on doing what she feels is right despite being seen as an outsider and ridiculed has been a reminder to me to keep a clear vision and act accordingly despite what has often felt like insurmountable challenges over this past 16 months.

“Ann was formidable in her actions to educate people about animal welfare, but her kindness and hard work underpinned everything she did and those qualities are admirable and inspirational.”

On set for Clara.

In the summer of 1888, just four months before Ann died, a fountain and trough was dedicated to her and installed outside the family home at the bottom of Westgate.

Funds for the fountain had been raised by public subscription and donations from RSPCA members.

The fountain moved to a number of sites, before being placed on Denby Dale Road, close to Clarence Park, in the 1970s.

Much of Ann’s story was uncovered by the team through the diaries of her cousin Clara Clarkson, who has also been honoured with a blue plaque, and a TV pilot chronicling her life.

In one diary entry, Clara wrote: “All her life Ann interfered when she saw anyone being cruel to animals and people deferred to her.”

Ann’s blue plaque will be unveiled in a formal ceremony in November, but in the meantime the FWW team have been working to create a series of photos depicting her life, as it is told in Clara’s diaries.

Sarah said: “I think people think here at Dream Time Creative all our projects are funded, and they absolutely are not.

“The majority of Wakefield’s Forgotten Women reach out to us from the past and show themselves time and time again until we have no choice but to tell their stories, funding or no funding.

“I am grateful to the team of volunteers, researchers, local historians and actors who have given their time and passion to this project and to Westgate Chapel for allowing us access to go in and use the chapel for the backdrop for our photoshoot.

“It was such a fun day and we made very special memories creating a series of tableaus of Ann’s life.”

The new plaques have been organised by the Wakefield Express-backed Forgotten Women of Wakefield project, which wants to see blue plaque parity for men and women.

Founded in 2018, the Forgotten Women of Wakefield project aims to uncover the stories of the remarkable women who helped shape the history of the city.