A blue plaque to mark the centenary of the first Lady Mayor of Worthing and prominent member of the town’s suffrage campaign, Ellen Chapman has been unveiled at the Town Hall.
She was Lady Mayor from 1920 to 1922, having first been rejected in 1914 by members of the council who vetoed the role believing it was not appropriate for a lady to hold such a high position during a time of war.
She played an active role in the women’s right to vote campaign and founded the Worthing branch of the Worthing Women’s Franchise Society (WWFS). A suffragist group, the WWFS used peaceful and non-confrontational campaigning methods, which contributed to a change in the law in 1928 granting women the right to vote in elections.
Prior to being the first Lady Mayor of Worthing, Mrs Chapman (who lived in a house on the edge of Broadwater Green where the fire station stands today) was the first female councillor in England. She was also the first lady elected to Worthing County Council.
Following her appointment for a second year as Mayor of Worthing, she led an initiative to raise thousands of pounds to help rebuild the town of Richebourg in France after it was destroyed during the Battle of Boars Head, which resulted in the death of 21 men and boys from Worthing.
The plaque in honour of Ellen Chapman was unveiled by His Worshipful the Mayor of Worthing, Councillor Lionel Harman and the Mayoress Councillor Karen Harman and was paid for by a Crowdfunding campaign they set up at the beginning of his Mayoralty.
In her introduction to Ellen Chapman, Cllr Karen Harman said: “People like Ellen (men and women) have been instrumental in securing all the rights and freedoms we enjoy today…and we should make sure that our young people know and recognise the accomplishments… and be inspired by their achievements as we are.”