Calderdale's amazing women celebrated in new rail tourism guide

Illustrations of Anne Lister, top, and Laura Ann Willson
Illustrations of Anne Lister, top, and Laura Ann Willson

Amazing women are being celebrated in a new railway guide that encourages people to explore history and new attractions on the Calder Valley line.

Discover Amazing Women by Rail’ is being launched today and is part of the Marvellous Days Out series.

The booklet highlights the extraordinary lives of women – both known and unknown – who have lived in 32 towns, villages or cities with stations along the Mid-Cheshire line (Chester to Manchester) and Calder Valley Railway Line (Leeds to Manchester).

This free guide, features write-ups and illustrations about the women as well as information about nearby attractions, some of which, like the women, are hidden gems waiting to be discovered. .

Jointly produced by the Mid-Cheshire Community Rail Partnership, Friends of Littleborough Station and Community Rail Lancashire with support from the Association of Community Rail Partnerships*, the booklet includes famous Calderdale women such Halifax’s Anne Lister (diarist and traveller) and Laura Anne Willson (engineer, house builder and woman’s campaigner) and Hebden Bridge’s Ethel Carnie Holdsworth.

Beautifully sketched illustrations of many of the women are by Cheshire artist, Nicky Thompson and the booklet has been researched by historian, Richard Lysons who gives information on where and how to do further research and follow-up reading.

Richard Lysons, also Chair of Friends of Littleborough Stations, said: “When you are sitting on a train it is not easy to appreciate what lies just beyond the station.

"Following the success of last Summer’s 1930s-style posters along the Chester to Piccadilly line, we wanted to find another way of encouraging people to step off the train and explore hidden histories, whether people’s lives or places.

"This eclectic mix of amazing women, who embody courage, intelligence, femininity and passion, was too good not to explore but so was the chance to highlight fantastic attractions place on the rail line, such as Rochdale’s Pioneer’s Museum, Elizabeth Gaskell’s house (Knutsford) as well as Halifax’s Shibden Hall, Calderdale Industrial Museum, Piece Hall and Eureka.”

Yorkshire-born, Dame Jenni Murray DBE, broadcaster, journalist and author, talks in the forward to the booklet about the ‘amazing women who were born with the grit of Cheshire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire and the great cities of Manchester and Leeds in their bones.”

These are the Calderdale women featured in the guide

Halifax: Anne Lister (1791 – 1840) Diarist and traveller

Anne was born in Halifax and moved to Shibden Hall in 1815. By 1836 she was the owner of the Shibden estate. In the 1820s and 1830s she travelled extensively in Western Europe, spending three years in Paris.

Her diaries amounted to 27 volumes, containing four million words, some written in a secret cipher. She died of fever in West Georgia, then a part of the Russian Empire,but her body is buried in Halifax Parish Church.

Halifax: Laura Annie Willson MBE (1877 – 1942) Engineer, house-builder & women’s rights campaigner

Laura was born in Halifax and started work at the age of ten in a local textile factory.

In 1899 she married George Henry Willson, a machine tool maker.

She became involved in the trade union movement and the fight for women’s suffrage.

She was imprisoned in 1907 after taking part in a weavers’ strike.

During the First World War Laura was manager of the women’s section of her husband’s factory.

In 1919 she co-founded the Women’s Engineering Society and went on to become the first woman member of the Federation of House Builders.

Hebden Bridge: Ethel Carnie Holdsworth (1886 – 1962) Writer, feminist & journalist

Ethel was born in Oswaldtwistle and worked in mills from the age of eleven. Her first book of poetry,

‘Rhymes from the Factory’, was published in 1907. This later came to the attention of Robert Blatchford of the Clarion, a weekly socialist newspaper.

He offered Ethel a job writing for ‘The Woman Worker’ newspaper.

She continued to write both poetry and novels.One of Ethel’s novels, ‘Helen of Four Gates’, was made into a film in 1920, using locations around Hebden Bridge.

Ethel lived near Hebden Bridge in the 1920s where she and her husband, Alfred, edited ‘The Clear Light’, an anti-fascist journal.

Hebden Bridge: Sylvia Plath 1932 – 1963 Novelist & poet

Sylvia was born in Boston USA and studied at Smith College and Cambridge University.

She married fellow poet, Ted Hughes in 1956. The couple moved to England in 1959 and had two children.

They separated in 1962 and Sylvia took her own life in early 1963, after suffering from depression for many years. Sylvia's novel, The Bell Jar, was published posthumously, as was her book of poetry, Ariel.

In 1982 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry to honour her Collected Poems. Sylvia's grave can be found in Heptonstall, a small village close to Hebden Bridge.