Held annually on 8 March, International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women throughout history and across nations.
The Special Collections at the University of Southampton holds material for a range of women whose contribution in many spheres is worthy of mention. For this blog we will focus on Sarah Laski (née Frankenstein). Born in Manchester in 1869, Sarah Laski married Nathan Laski in 1889, becoming the mother of two sons – Neville John, the future QC, and Harold, who became Professor of Political Science at the University of London – and a daughter Mabel. Her husband played a prominent part in Manchester Jewish life and its welfare and Sarah Laski was to dedicate considerable time and effort throughout her lifetime to social work in the city of her birth.
Initial work confined to Jewish charities, such as the Ladies Visiting Committee and Soup Kitchen, but in 1914 Sarah Laski became a member of the Manchester Board of Guardians, and was its chairman, 1926-9. From 1926 onwards, she served as a member of the Manchester City Council representing Cheetham ward. She was elected an alderman in 1942.
Sarah Laski was remembered as one of Manchester’s “foremost citizens”, for her “fine record of [40 yrears of] quiet, unselfish, public service”” and her “wide and understanding sympathy with the problems of poverty.” [MS 134 AJ 33/51]
She was particularly interested in the welfare of women and children, in youth and in education. She was an advocate of education opportunities for women, urging girls, in an address in October 1916 to “learn to fit ourselves for the new era that is slowly but surely dawning” [MS 134 AJ 33/39].
The University of Southampton will be hosting a number of events to mark international women’s day and details can be found at the following links: