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Victorian feminist Mary Taylor celebrated at Red House
Mary Taylor and fellow mountaineers
Gomersal's Mary Taylor (left) was a 19th century adventurer and feminist

The extraordinary life of a Victorian woman who is seen as one of Britain's first feminists is being celebrated at her former home in Gomersal.

Mary Taylor, who was born and lived in the Red House at Gomersal, flouted the accepted norms of 19th century society.

During her life, Mary ran a business, led mountain climbing expeditions and advocated feminist views.

The exhibition remembering Mary's pioneering achievements marks 100 years of International Women's Day.

Born in 1817 into a woollen merchant's family at Red House, Mary Taylor gradually grew away from her traditional West Riding roots.

She became a friend and inspiration to Charlotte Brontë and attracted international attention for her unusually independent lifestyle.

Challenging the strictures of the time she taught boys in Germany, she emigrated alone to New Zealand in 1845, and she wrote three books.

When she returned to West Yorkshire in 1860, Mary contributed to the history of the women's movement by writing articles for a magazine called The Victoria.

In her articles Mary outlined her feminist views, for instance calling on women to earn money to look after themselves so they were not dependent on men.

Strong-minded woman

The exhibition at Red House, called Mary Taylor: Strong-minded woman, explores her life and examines her views.

Helga Hughes, museum officer at the Red House, said: "It is easy to see why Mary was so admired.

"Even by today's standards, hers was an adventurous life.

"For a woman to do it in the 1800s was extraordinary."

The exhibition has already been shown at the Petone Settlers Museum in Wellington, New Zealand - the city where Mary settled.

Red House
Mary spent her early years at Red House, formulating her radical views

Mary even has a place in New Zealand's Hall of Fame.

The exhibition was created in partnership with Joan Bellamy, a former lecturer in English Literature and founder of the Woman in the Humanities research group at the Open University.

Liversedge-born Joan researched and wrote the exhibition and she is also the author of Mary's biography More Precious Than Rubies which was published in 2001.

Mary Taylor: Strong-minded woman is on show at Red House Museum, Oxford Road, Gomersal until Sunday 3 July. Red House is open 11am - Mon - Fri, 12pm - 5pm Sat - Sun. Admission is free.

West Yorkshire's first feminist?
21 Jan 10 |  History


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