“Mrs Hartree Elected Mayor of Cambridge”

What our first woman mayor said about town planning in her acceptance speech in November 1924 at The Guildhall, Cambridge.

NPG x17439; Eva Hartree (nÈe Rayner) by (Mary) Olive Edis (Mrs Galsworthy)

Cambridge Hero: Mayor Eva Hartree – the first woman to be Mayor of Cambridge. 

I first wrote about Mayor Hartree here, and further information hasn’t been easy to find. That said, I managed to recover (from & courtesy of the Cambridgeshire Collection) an article written in the Cambridge Independent from November 1924. Unfortunately it’s not a transcript of who said what. A shame as the article loses a little something when compared to that of Florence Ada Keynes’ acceptance speech.

The importance of town planning

It was around this time that we started seeing the first ‘strategic town plans’ – and Mayor Hartree reportedly commented about them. I quote:

“The town of Stockport [where she was from], like all Lancashire towns, suffered very badly during the industrial revolution of the last century. It grew up hap-hazard; numbers of mills, with their attendant streets of cottages, being built without any thought for the future or of the amenities or even reasonable conditions of life for the inhabitants. Those things, she thought, should serve as a great warning to those who were responsible to future generations for the development of Cambridge not to allow such a thing to happen here.

All town councils had this terrible, this difficult problem of seeing that future generations did not suffer from want of town planning as they had been suffering in those Lancashire towns. She thought that the question of town planning was one of the most important matters before the town councils of the present day, because the work left undone was so permanent, and she thought they ought to be very grateful to those people who managed to obtain through Parliament the Town Planning Act.

In conclusion she could only say that she accepted that high honour as a representative of the women of Cambridge who desired to work side-by-side wit the men of Cambridge in service of their town. She appealed to the Council to give her all the support in their power to help her to carry out her great responsibility. (Applause).”

Just as with Florence Ada Keynes’ acceptance speech, this one also stands the test of time. We ignore both of their advice at our peril. Indeed, with some of the speculative applications passed by the council’s planning committee under duress from Central Government policies and legislation favouring developers, I get the sense that far too often that advice has been ignored.






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