Rose Davies: local socialist feminist honoured with a Purple Plaque at Cynon Valley Museum

Rose Davies 1882 – 1958: A Purple Plaque to Honour Local Activist

The Cynon Valley Museum is pleased to announce that a Purple Plaque in memory of Welsh Labour activist, local Alderman and Councillor Rose Davies has been unveiled at the museum in Aberdare. She was a prominent public figure in her lifetime, sadly largely unknown now. Purple Plaques were launched on International Women’s Day 2017, by a group of volunteers who felt the need for more recognition for the contribution women make to Welsh life and to make Rose Davies better known again (Purple Plaques, 2023). This plaque was produced as part of a wider project funded by Welsh Government, through the Museums, Archives and Libraries Division; and the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales.

Rose Davies had a long and illustrious career in politics and public administration, working to improve education, maternity services and birth control; firstly, in Aberdare and later in Wales as a whole (Jones, 2013). She was the first woman to hold various posts, including Chair of the Aberdare Trades Council in 1918 and election to Glamorgan County Council in 1925 (Jones, G. 2013). There are numerous accounts of her achievements in the newspapers of the day, as far afield as Pennsylvania (The Tribune Scranton, Pennsylvania 1915).

DXIK/46/1: Keir Hardie, Rose Davies and group, 26 March 1910. Image reproduced with kind permission from Glamorgan Archives.

Early Life & Journey Towards Political Activism

Born in the Aberdare area in 1882, Rose Davies became an infant teacher and developed an interest in socialist and feminist politics (Bruley, 2010). This coincided with the election of Keir Hardy as the MP for Merthyr Tydfil at a time of political struggle in the mines (Jones, G. 2013). She had to resign her post on marriage, and she turned her energies to politics (Jones, G. 2013). Until the Sex Disqualification Removal Act was passed in 1919, no married women were allowed to work as teachers (BBC, 2011). However, many local authorities circumvented this and so-called Marriage bars in teaching weren’t lifted until 1944 (BBC, 2011).

Rose Davies joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP), a party which would go onto help create the Labour Party alongside other labour activists and organisations (Webb, 2023). Davies was one of the founders of the women’s branch of the ILP in 1908, demonstrating her commitment to getting women involved in labour movement politics (Bruley, 2010). However, Davies was also very active in other areas of public life, as detailed below (Bruley, 2010).

DXIK/46/2: Mrs Rose Davies and group, no date, c. 1920. Image reproduced with kind permission from Glamorgan Archives.

An Impressive Campaigning Record

By 1915 this impressive campaigner was the chair of the local education committee, and another important campaigning area for her was support for children with special needs (Bruley, 2010). She also became a member of the board of governors of both Aberdare Boys and Girls Grammar Schools shortly after joining the education committee (Jones, 2013).

DXIK/46/5: General Election 1929, Honiton Division, Alderman Rose Davies, J.P. (First Labour Candidate), and supporters, 1929. Image reproduced with kind permission from Glamorgan Archives.

In addition to these duties, Rose Davies would go on to campaign for a seat in local council elections, gaining a seat in 1921 (Jones, 2013). She then stood as the first ever Labour candidate for the Honiton division of Devon in the election of 1929; although she lost her deposit, it opened the door for the Labour Party in the area and demonstrates the pioneering role she played for the party (Jones, 2013).

Meanwhile in other areas of public life, Davies was selected as a governor of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth in 1925 and of the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, Cardiff (Jones, 2013). She was also prominent in the Welsh National Memorial Association (Jones, 2013).

A committed activist, Rose Davies was a member of many public boards and committees (Jones, 2013). Indeed, she chaired every single committee of the Glamorgan County Council at various times, and she was later elected the chairman of the council (Jones, 2013). Then, after her husband’s death in 1951, this dedicated woman increased her commitment further by helping to set up a school for ‘deaf and dumb’ children in Penarth, (Jones, 2013).  Her services received recognition when she was awarded the MBE in 1934 and then the CBE in 1954 (Jones, 2013).

DXIK/46/4: Mrs Rose Davies and group, no date, c. 1940. Image reproduced with kind permission from Glamorgan Archives.


Rose Davies understood the important contribution women could make as social and political activists (Hannam, 2009).  In ‘Women and Labour Politics’ author June Hannam considers Rose Davies’ significance to women activists during a period of great social and political change and upheaval post World War 1, a time when most women over 30 in the UK could now vote for the first time because of the campaign for women’s suffrage (Hannam, 2009). Hannam quotes Davies from notes this pioneer made for a speech in 1923 (here is a shortened extract):

‘Women has come into power just when all the world movements and questions concern her most vitally – and here is her opportunity’ (Rose Davies quoted in Hannam, ‘Women & Labour Politics’, 2009, p)

This optimistic quote from Rose Davies demonstrates the scope of her vision and her belief in the difference women could make as political activists (Hannam, 2009).

As well as the new Purple Plaque in Rose Davies’ honour, you can view an image of this inspiring woman on an illustrated banner on display in our main gallery. This artwork was created by Rosie Sayer, a third-year illustration student at the University of South Wales who was inspired by Rose Davies’ campaigning legacy. Rosie states ‘I love to create work around subjects I’m incredibly passionate about and this project was perfect for this! I have always felt incredibly strongly about women’s rights and their continued fight for suffrage.’ (RCT Heritage Services, 2023). Finally, Rosie Davies, Labour Activist and campaigner for women and children, is getting the recognition and honour she deserves.

Blog post written by volunteer, Sarah Bryant


Jones, J. G., (2013). DAVIES, (FLORENCE) ROSE (1882-1958), Labour activist and local alderman. Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Retrieved 18 Apr 2023, from

Bruley, S (2010). The Women and Men of 1926: A Gender and Social History of the General Strike and Miners’ Lockout in South Wales (University of Wales Press 2010) p90

Hannam, J (2009).  “Women and Labour Politics” in Matthew Worley, ed., The Foundations of the British Labour Party: Identities, Cultures, and Perspectives, 1900–39 (Ashgate Publishing 2009): 171–192


The Tribune Scranton, Pennsylvania · May 15, 1915, p10


  1. Purple Plaques. [viewed 18 April 2023]. Available from:

BBC, 2011. Women and Teaching.[online]. Waleshistory. [viewed 18 April 2023].

Available from’marriage%20bars,of%2063%20married%20women%20teachers

Webb, P.  Britannica. 2023. ‘Labour Party’ {viewed on 26 April 2023}.  Available from:

Labour Party | History, Facts, Policies, & Leaders | Britannica


Reproduced by kind permission of Rhondda Cynon Taff Libraries


  • Syd Morgan

    Excellent article. Of course, she was also commemorated in the naming of the new housing estate, Rose Row. Not sure if it’s still there

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