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TO mark the centenary of the first British women to get the right to vote, Melksham News gathered the past and present female mayors of Melksham for a special photo and to talk about the role of women in local politics.
Since 1985 when the first Mayor of Melksham was elected by the town council, there have been seven female mayors, totalling 20 years in office between them. Of the seven mayors, six still remain in the town. Former mayor, Sheila Wilkinson, died in 2014, at the age of 90.
The first female mayor was Mavis Elcock who held the position for two years in 1987 to 1989. “It didn’t make any difference being female,” said Mavis. “It was just a brilliant time for me as I didn’t realise that there was so much going on in Melksham and I learnt about lots of people and lots of organisations. There is no need for anybody to say, there’s nothing to do in Melksham, because there is. I had a brilliant time, but I couldn’t manage it again, I’ll leave it to Adrienne!”
After Mavis the next female mayor was Sarah Cardy from 1991 to 1992; followed by Davina Griffin in 1992 – 1995 and again in 1998 – 1999; Sheila Wilkinson in 1995 – 1997; Terri Welch in 2003 – 2005 and again in 2014 – 2017; Margaret White in 2005 – 2007; and current Mayor of Melksham, Adrienne Westbrook who is currently in her fourth term as mayor, having previously served in 1997 – 1998, 1999 – 2000 and 2017 – 2018.
About the 100th anniversary of the women’s vote and the role of women on local councils, Adrienne said, “It’s incredibly important, I’m passionate about women voting, I’m passionate about women being in elected office as well and I’m really passionate for young women to become part of councils.
“I think that without that broad spectrum that you get from female councillors and female candidates, politics and councils lose a lot.
“I go in and I see a room full of middle-aged white men and I’m quite saddened that they are making decisions about young families and about all the things that women feel passionately about, but they (women) are not there to represent their views.
“I’m often asked what inspired me to become involved in local politics, and I think it goes back to the fact that I’m passionate about where I live and therefore I feel I can make a difference, and as a female voter I think that’s really important – it’s about women making a difference and I’m a huge feminist.”