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British Industrial History

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Laura Annie Willson

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Laura Annie Willson (1877-1942)

1877 Laura Annie Buckley was born in Halifax[1]

1891 A worsted weaver, living with her parents in Halifax[2]

1899 Married George Henry Willson, a machine tool maker

1907 Took part in a weavers’ strike at Hebden Bridge and was arrested on a charge of "violent and inflammatory speech" for which she was sentenced to 14 days in jail. In March she was one of 75 women arrested after a suffragette rally at Caxton Hall, Westminster, which ended with an attempt to gain access to Parliament. Found guilty of disorderly conduct, she was sentenced to fourteen days in Holloway prison, London. On their return to Yorkshire, she and the others were welcomed as heroes.

1911 Geoge Henry Willson 37, machine tool maker, employer, lived in Halifax with Laura Ann Willson 33, George Willson 10, Kathleen Vega Willson 9 months, and his widowed mother, Eliza Willson 67[3]

WWI Director of Smith, Barker and Willson which was producing munitions. As well as training the mostly female works, she set up a works canteen to ensure that the women were properly nourished.

The Willsons were asked by the Ministry of Munitions to give advice on recruitment and retention of women workers to machine-tool manufacturers in the Midlands.

1917 she was awarded MBE

1919 Founder member of the Women's Engineering Society[4] which was formed by a number of women who saw the injustice of preventing women working in companies where they had worked during the war but not before.

She later became a leading member of the Electrical Association for Women.

c.1925 Launched a scheme in Halifax to build 64 houses she had designed that were equipped with many labour-saving appliances. Several hundred more followed. These were rented to the occupiers.

1926-8 President of the Women's Engineering Society

1926 Elected as the first woman member of the National Federation of Housebuilders. She initiated similar schemes at Englefield Green and Walton-on-Thames in Surrey.

1927 Founder of Electrical Enterprise Ltd to take advantage of the opportunities in rural electrification offered by the new rules and to provide openings for women.

1939 George H Willson, builder, lived in Walton on Thames with Laura A Willson, builder[5]

1942 Died in Walton-on-Thames

1942 Obituary[6]

The death has occurred at the age of 62 of Mrs. Laura Willson, wife of Mr. G. H. Willson, Walton-on-Thames, and formerly of The Jumples, Halifax.
Mrs. Willson was a woman of unusual ability and attainment in many fields. She was one of the most prominent Halifax suffragettes before the last war.
During the war, when women dilutees were introduced into engineering, she took charge of the women's section of the firm of which her husband was a member, Messrs. Smith, Barker and Willson, machine tool makers. Halifax, and for this and other war services she was awarded the M.B.E.
Afterwards, Mrs. Willson figured prominently in the building industry, planning and erecting housing estates in various parts of Halifax and district and in the South.
She was the first president of the Association of Women Engineers and helped form the Leeds and West Riding branch of the Electrical Association for Women.'

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. BMD
  2. 1891 census
  3. 1911 census
  4. Companies House record
  5. 1939 register
  6. Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Monday 20 April 1942
  • National Probate Calendar