Second purple plaque recipient announced at Merthyr’s Redhouse

The Merthyr-born feminist historian and scholar, Ursula Masson, is to be commemorated with a purple plaque in the town it has been announced at the old town hall or Redhouse today (Monday 5th November 2018).

At an event at the old town hall – Redhouse in Merthyr, Jane Hutt AM and Julie Morgan AM from the purple plaque steering committee officially announced that the next person to be commemorated with a plaque is the founding member of the Department of Gender Studies at the now University of South Wales and of the Women’s Archive of Wales – Ursula Masson. The steering committee met with Ceinwen Statter, one of the people who nominated Ursula Masson.

The Purple Plaque campaign was launched on International Women’s Day 2018, by a group of volunteers to commemorate the late Assembly Member Val Feld. The campaign, which is run in partnership with gender equality charity Chwarae Teg, aims to improve the recognition of remarkable women in Wales and award them with a purple plaque to commemorate their achievements and cement their legacy in Welsh history.

Born into the Merthyr Tydfil Irish community, Ursula O’Connor attended Cyfarthfa Castle Grammar School and Cardiff University. She worked as a journalist on the Sydney Morning Herald from 1969 to 1972. She did her MA at the University of Keele, funded by a bursary from Margaret Stewart Taylor, Merthyr’s first female chief librarian. Her dissertation was on Irish immigration to Merthyr. After working in adult education in Swansea she moved to Treforest. Here she had particular interest in women’s history and feminism.

Following the announcement regarding the next purple plaque, the steering committee chair, Jane Hutt AM, said:

“Following the unveiling of the first Purple Plaque in memory of Val Feld at the Senedd we received a large number of very deserving nominations for women from across Wales for future plaques.

“We were struck by the incredible impact that Ursula Masson had on securing the presence of women in historical and political writings and records. Ursula was a feminist historian whose main interest was the political history of women in Wales. As she was someone who wrote widely about the women’s suffrage movement in Wales, it is apt that we are making this announcement in year that is the 100th anniversary of some women getting the vote.

“We are now looking forward to working with the community towards the unveiling of the Purple Plaque in Merthyr Tydfil to commemorate Ursula and her important work.”

Ceinwen Statter who nominated Ursula Masson for a Purple Plaque, said:

“I am delighted that Ursula Masson is to be commemorated with a purple plaque as her story is one that needs to be told again and again, it shows the young women of Merthyr that they can do anything! There are two main reasons why I nominated Ursula – one professional and one personal.

“Professionally she achieved outstanding results in promoting the role of women in Wales, both currently and historically. Her work with Llafur – the Welsh Working Class history organisation, with the Women’s Archive Wales and setting up the Centre for Gender Studies at the then University of Glamorgan were outstanding achievements. These deserve recognition ten years after Ursula died.

“Personally, Ursula’s mother and my mother attended Quakers Yard Grammar School together, where they were taught by Sephora Davies, another woman whose contribution to Merthyr was outstanding.

“Although there is some recognition of Ursula’s work at Merthyr’s Old Town Hall, the Redhouse, it is not widely known. I’m pleased that there will be a Purple Plaque erected in her memory in Merthyr to make more people aware of her remarkable story.”