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Forgotten Women – Alderman Mary Fisher MBE JP 1884-1972

On this year’s International Women’s Day the  Club celebrated the lives of local Women who were trail blazers. This included our First Club President Dr Kathleen Rutherford and Dr Laura Veale the First Woman from Yorkshire to qualify as a Doctor.  We also celebrated the life of Alderman Mary Fisher, the First woman to become  Mayor of Harrogate in 1949.  Dr Kathleen and Dr Laura are both celebrated with Harrogate Civic Society plaques. Mary Fisher has a local Care Home named after her. Though the death of this ‘much beloved’ woman made  front page news in the local papers  in 1972 she is now all but forgotten.


Who was Mary Fisher MBE JP?

It was pure chance, whilst waiting for a funeral of a Club member that Club President Val noticed a grave at Stonefall Cemetery in Harrogate. She  had never heard of Mary Fisher, this woman,  whose grave cited  was the first Lady Mayor of Harrogate, an Alderman,  Justice of the Peace and Member of the British Empire. Further enquiries revealed  a Care Home for people with Dementia named after her in Cold Bath Road. Information of the  Care Home’s website stated that the  then Councillor Fisher and other Councillors had founded the home in 1946.

But who was she? –  this first Lady Mayor and when was she the Mayor?


Google searches revealed a photo of her being presented to the then Princess Elizabeth at the Majestic Hotel in July 1949 when she was the Mayor.  This was the only information on Google directly about her.  To find out more about who she was and what she achived required further research. –  Facts and Figures

Where to start – helped provide some of  the answers. The gravestone provided her name, year of birth and death and also that of her husband – though no indication of her maiden name.

Mary is the daughter of Swiers and Jane Stott. She was born on 6th June 1884 in the village of  Kirby Hill, just north of  Boroughbridge.  She had two brothers and two sisters.  By 1901 the  family had moved to Harrogate and lived just off Skipton Road in Grove Park Walk. Her father’s occupation was a Gardener.  She married Frank Fisher in 1913. Frank was a butcher with a shop was on Commercial Street in Harrogate.  They lived near the shop on Mount Parade.  Mary and Frank had two children Arthur and Clara, she was widowed in 1938. She then ran the butchers shop with her son Arthur. Sadly, both her son and daughter died in the 1960s.  She had 5 grandchildren.

Mary died in 1972. She was living with her son and his wife on 20 Ripon Road at the time of her death

These are bare facts but what of the woman herself.

National Newspaper Archive –  Girl Guides, the Bench and Politics

Searching the National Newspaper Archives revealed that she was instrumental in bringing the Girl Guide movement to Harrogate in the late 1920s and was very involved in Community life. In 1939, a year after her husband’s death she was appointed to the Magistrates’ bench in Harrogate and became a Justice of the Juvenile Court in 1943. This was the year she was also elected as Coucillor for the West Ward in Harrogate. The beginning of her political life.

Post World War Two Era

During her time as Mayor, she attended many functions including welcoming 20 Austrian children and meeting and being interviewed by Richard Dimbleby for the radio programme ‘Down your Way.

It is interesting though how patronizing the local papers were in reporting her activities.   Indeed, the Institute of Journalist, whist at Conference in Harrogate, described her and the Mayoress thus, The grey-haired, spectacled Mayor (Mrs. Mary Fisher) and her niece, the chubby-faced Mayoress (Mrs. Kathleen Mary Niner), became great favourites with the conference. They were personifications of a homely Yorkshire welcome. A London delegate described them as a ” couple of dears.”

A visit to Harrogate Library

A visit to Harrogate  Library’s microfiche collection of the local papers revealed much more information about her year in office as the Mayor in 1949 and  her obituary. This  included photos. So, at last, a photo of Mary in all her Mayor Regalia.

Cllr Mary Fisher, Mayor of Harrogate

Her death on the 28th ofFebruary 1972  made the front page of the Harrogate Herald.

Front Page Obituary marks the death of Mary Fisher

Her obitury revealed that she was:

  • appointed a JP in 1939.
  • Appointed to the juvenile court in 1943, also elected to the Town Council that year and
  • elected the first woman the Mayor in May 1949.
  • 1954 She became the First Woman Alderman and
  • Presented with the MBE in 1958.
  • In 1970 she was elected to the roll of Honorary Aldermen and given the Freedom of the Town.

 It is very likely Alderman Fisher will have known Dr Kathleen and Dr Veale. They shared common interests with regard to the wellbeing of children.  They were all women who made a difference in the 1930/40/50s. Today we take for granted that women can become Doctors and Politicians, but it is not so long ago that this wasn’t the case. An even now there are places in the world where education isn’t available to women or very limited. Women like  Mary Fisher should be remembered for being the First Lady Mayor of Harrogate as well as for all the work she did on various committees particularly with regard children, older people and the blind and deaf.  

Contact with Harrogate Civil Society

The Harrogate Civic Society have Alderman Mary Fisher in their sights. She is one of  the twenty people/places being considered for a Brown Plaque in Harrogate

Article in Harrogate Advertiser

In March, Club President Val Hills contacted Graham Chalmers at the Harrogate Advertiser about our quest to remember forgotten women as we approached International Women’s Day. Sharing the information we’d already gleaned provided sufficient information for Graham to write an article and hopefully prompt peoples memories about Mary. This was published online in time for International Womens Day with a full page article  in the paper the week after.

What next?

It is important to collect information about Mary and her achievements.   We hope the evidence will result in a Brown Plaque.   Please email  if you have any information or anecdotes.