Selina Cooper

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Selina Cooper (4 December 1864 – 11 November 1946)[1] was an English Suffragist and the first woman to represent the Independent Labour Party in 1901 when she was elected as a Poor Law Guardian.

Early life[edit]

Born in Callington, Cornwall, in 1864, her mother moved to Barnoldswick, Yorkshire in the north west of England when she was a child, after her father Charles Coombe died of typhoid, and left the family destitute.

She began her working life in 1876 at the age of 12 in the local textile mills of Barnoldswick, where she was employed as a 'creeler' whose responsibility it was to ensure that there was a constant supply of fresh bobbins for the cotton emerging from the card frames. When Selina reached the age of thirteen she was able to leave school and work full-time in the Barnoldswick Mill.

Trade Unions[edit]

She became active in trade union activities and also taught herself basic medical skills, as most of her co-workers could not afford doctors. In 1910 she was chosen to be one of four women to present the case for women's suffrage to H. H. Asquith, the then Prime Minister.

During the First World War Selina developed first ever Maternity Centre in Nelson. She was later elected to the town council and went on to become a local magistrate. In the 1930s Selina Cooper played a proud and prominent role in the campaign against fascism.

National Union of Suffrage Societies[edit]

Cooper joined the North of England Society for Women's Suffrage in 1900.

Cooper wrote about women roles in work at the time saying;

"(a) That in the opinion of your petitioners the continued denial of the franchise to women is unjust and inexpedient. (b) In the home, their position is lowered by such an exclusion from the responsibilities of national life. (c) In the factory, their unrepresented condition places the regulation of their work in the hands of men who are often their rivals as well as their fellow workers."'[2]


Selina Cooper was awarded a heritage blue plaque in 1996, which is sited at 59 St Mary's Street, Nelson.


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ "Selina Cooper". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 2016-03-05. 

Read 'Selina Cooper - The life and times of a respectable rebel' by Jill Lidington for a full biography on Selina. Jill Lidington and her co-author Jill Norris discovered Selina's story whilst researching for their book 'One arm tied behind us' the story of suffragists in North East Lancashire.

External links[edit]