Catharine Alderton

Catharine Alderton was the first lady Mayor of Colchester, the first lady member of Essex County Council and stood for Parliament in 1922 and 1929 at a time when women MPs were very unusual.

Catharine Alderton was the first lady Mayor of Colchester, the first lady member of Essex County Council and stood for Parliament in 1922 and 1929 at a time when women MPs were very unusual.

Catharine was the daughter of Rev. Thomas Robinson, a Congregational Minister and was educated at Milton Mount College in Kent. She became a teacher until her marriage in 1897 to Archibald Alderton, also a teacher and Headmaster of several schools in the area and they had one son.

Catharine had joined the Liberal Women’s Suffrage Union in 1913, becoming its President in 1920. The first known time she spoke in favour of women’s suffrage was in 1911 at Maldon, Essex and in 1913, she led a ‘pilgrimage’ of suffrage supporters from all over Eastern England to a rally in Hyde Park. She did not favour militant action, nor did she leave the Liberal party as others did when it failed to give unequivocal support to women’s suffrage.

Catharine led by example and would have inspired the women of her day. In Colchester today around one third of the borough councillors are women and around one third of the Mayors are women. There is a need to remind people that such freedoms had to be fought for.

In 2017, a blue plaque was unveiled at Catharine’s home in Colchester that bears the inscription: ‘Suffragist and first women to become Mayor of Colchester, 1923/24’

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