Not the character from Jane Eyre, but a prominent figure in Tameside’s political history.

Bertha Mason was born in Ashton under Lyne in 1855, the elder daughter of Hugh Mason, an Ashton mill owner. Her father was also a wealthy Liberal who, in 1880 as MP for Ashton under Lyne, introduced a resolution in support of women’s enfranchisement and who, until he retired from parliament in 1883, was the MP responsible for helping the Central Committee for Women’s Suffrage in 1886, the year of his death.

In this forward thinking household, Bertha became a worker of the suffrage movement in 1890 and by 1899, she was chairman of the North of England Women’s Suffrage Society, a position she held until 1903.

She was also the first woman member of the Board of Guardians in Ashton under Lyne Poor Law Union, and president of the Lancashire Union of the British Women’s Temperance Association.

By 1900, she moved to London and her place on the Ashton Board of Guardians was subsequently taken by Hannah Mitchell, another prominent campaigner for women’s rights.

From 1902 to 1910, Bertha was the honorary treasurer of the NUWSS (National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies) and from at least 1910 until 1911, the parliamentary secretary.  She was also one of twenty woman suffragists in a deputation to the then Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith.

After the First World War, Bertha became chairman of the Women’s Local Government Society and by 1934 was a vice-president of the National Council of Women of Great Britain.

She died on 18 July 1939 having never married.

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Posted by Laura