Edna Annie Crichton (1876 – 1970) was a remarkable woman. At the age of 25 she came to live in York, which was to be her home for nearly 70 years. Edna stood for election to York City Council in 1919. A Quaker, she sat as an Independent Councillor and for 15 years was the Chairman of the Housing Committee when, it was said, she visited every house that was due to be demolished through the Council’s slum clearance programmes.
War broke out in 1939 and two years later Edna Crichton was elected by her colleagues to be York’s first woman Lord Mayor. The tradition of male mayors in York had lasted for more than 700 years. In 1941-2 there were 52 members of York City Council, only two of whom were women.
In the early hours of 29 April 1942 York was bombed by the Luftwaffe. Over 70 people were killed, 190 injured and 9,500 homes destroyed or damaged. The medieval Guildhall was hit by an incendiary bomb and burned for most of the next 24 hours. Lord Mayor Edna Annie Crichton, whose own son had died as a Prisoner of War only months before, toured the city the next day, speaking to the bereaved and visiting the wounded in hospitals.
Edna always stressed the need for women councillors saying “thoughtful men and women [should] elect a Council representative of all sections of the community.”
At her memorial service she was described as ‘a little woman with the heart of a lion’.
- Image: ©York Civic Trust
- Pat Hill, http://yorkcivictrust.co.uk/heritage/civic-trust-plaques/edna-annie-crichton1876-1970/
- ‘Lords of the City – The Lord Mayors of York and their Mansion House’ by Charles Knightly and Rachel Semlyen, published by York City Council, 1980.