Feminist and diplomat’s efforts to be recognised

Blue plaque recognition

By Paul Ainsworth

TWO new blue plaques are set to be erected in South Belfast at the homes of a leading early feminist and a politician who confronted the Nazis over their persecution of the Jews.

The Ulster History Circle are in discussions with Belfast City Council to recognise addresses which once housed Isabella Todd, in Lower Crescent, and Séan Lester, on the Ormeau Road. It is hoped that both plaques could be in place later this year.

Isabella, who was born in Edinburgh in 1836 but lived in South Belfast later in life, became involved in the Suffrage movement, and famously campaigned to allow women to take exams at Queen’s University.

Meanwhile, Séan Lester, who lived in the Ormeau area for several years as a youth, went on to become a famous Irish diplomat, and was the last ever Secretary of the League of Nations (forerunner to the United Nations) before it disbanded in 1946.

Before that he was the League’s High Commissioner, and in the 1930s was involved in protesting against the rise of fascism in Germany. The Nazis boycotted his role during crisis talks in the then Free City State of Danzig over Hitler’s Polish ambitions, such was Lester’s stout defiance of their hateful persecution.

Speaking with the South Belfast News, Pat Devlin of the Ulster History Circle said the two figures and their roles in history have been overlooked in recent times.

“Isabella was very involved with politics, and was quite a strong unionist, opposed to Home Rule,” he said.

“Meanwhile Séan was the opposite, a Carrick-born republican, who became an international diplomat who it is thought the Nazis wanted to eliminate. He resided at 124 Ormeau Road, and in both cases it’s great to be able to resurrect the memory of these individuals who contributed so much in their time.”

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