A Wirral nurse who fought for women to get state pensions at a time when most women were not allowed to vote become known as the "first female mayor and first socialist mayor".

Mary Ann Mercer lived in Birkenhead and was known as a "pioneer" for working class women when she was elected as councillor in 1919 and Mayor in 1924, at a time when women under 30 were denied the right to vote.

From 1914, Mary lived at 103 Norman Street in Birkenhead North, where her historic role as a campaigner for state pensions for women who worked to ensure children were fed was honoured in 2018 with a blue plaque outside her home.

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Speaking at the time about the nurse, who was originally from Newport in Shropshire before moving to Birkenhead, former Wirral Mayor Ann McLachlan said: "She was a pioneer for women at a time when working class women were not usually in public life, and women generally did not have the vote.

“She unveiled the Cenotaph in Hamilton Square in 1925 in front of thousands of people, including all the Generals from the First World War, and she held lots of events in Birkenhead Town Hall for children, ensuring they were fed."

In 1918 the Representation of the People Act had allowed women over the age of 30 to vote, but it was not until the Equal Franchise Act in 1928 that women achieved the same voting rights as men.

Mary Ann Mercer's gravestone in Flaybrick Cemetery, Wirral
Mary Ann Mercer's gravestone in Flaybrick Cemetery, Wirral

Mary Ann’s father died when she was just three years old, with the struggles her mother went through playing a key role in shaping her political views.

Her interest in politics led to her joining the Labour party while working in Belfast and she later moved to Wirral, in 1914, marrying a Labour activist and journalist.

In 1919 she was elected as councillor for Argyle ward, and continued to represent the Birkenhead district for nearly 30 years until 1945.

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She was the first woman to be elected as an alderman of the council in 1926, a position she held for four years, also becoming a magistrate in 1929.

When she became Mayor of Birkenhead, she was also only the second Labour female mayor in the country, although the epitaph on her grave described her as "“First woman Mayor and first Socialist Mayor 1924-25 deeply mourned by her children and towns people.”

In 1935 she stood for Parliament and contested the Liberal-held Birkenhead East Division for Labour but was defeated, coming third behind the Liberal and Conservative candidates.

She died on September 26, 1945 and was buried at Flaybrick Cemetery.

Many years later, her legacy was acknowledged o the Wirral when Mercer Road in Bidston & St James Ward was named after, with the blue plaque in her honour now proudly adorning the bricks outside her north end home, Mary is remembered as one of Wirral's pioneering heroes.

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