By Rita Greenwood

This blog is one of a series by members of the Manchester and Lancashire and Family History Society in celebration of our female ancestors in the centenary year of the Representation of The People Act of 1918.

In this blog Rita Greenwood, of the Bolton Family History Society, writes about Sarah Reddish who improved women’s lives in the Bolton area.

Sarah_ReddishThe name of Sarah Reddish is well-known in Bolton, as an indefatigable pioneer for women’s rights. She was born in 1849 in West Leigh, near Bolton and died on 19th February 1928 in Townley’s Hospital, Bolton, thus missing full emancipation by a short time. As an only child, Sarah was influenced by her father who was employed by and very involved in Bolton Co-operative Society.

Sarah left school aged 11 and started work in a cotton mill, working her way up to a responsible position. During this time, she supported the Manchester Society for Women’s Suffrage following its inception in 1867. From 1899 to 1901 she was full-time organiser for the Women’s trade Union league and in 1900 instigated the Women Factory Workers’ Petition for Suffrage, travelling around Lancashire, persuading women to sign the petition.

She was President of Bolton Women’s Co-operative Guild for 15 years, including being National President in 1897. She was a founder member of Bolton Independent Labour Party in 1892 and founder member of Bolton Women’s Suffrage Society in 1908.

Always concerned for the poorer members of the community, she was elected one of the first women Poor Law Guardians, serving until 1921. She established a “Babies Welcome” social group for Bolton mothers, where they could be instructed in childcare.

When you consider that Sarah never married, she did all this whilst supporting herself with her work in the mill until she retired and then by taking in lodgers, her achievements are particularly noteworthy.


 By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use.

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