York Civic Trust plaques

Edna Annie Crichton (1876-1970)

First woman Lord Mayor of York

Location of plaque: 30 Clifton

Edna Annie Crichton was more than 'just' York's first woman Lord Mayor. She was also the inspirational leader who, as Lord Mayor, led York through its greatest wartime crisis, the Baedeker raid of April 1942. As chair of the city council's housing committee she also oversaw a massive slum clearance programme.

Edna was born in Gloucester on May 8, 1876, the fourth child of Quaker Joseph Marshall Sturge and his wife Anne.

From 1892 until her marriage in 1901, she lived with her sister, May, in East London. There she met her husband David Sprunt Crichton. Although David was not a Quaker, the couple married at the Quaker Meeting House in Charlbury, Oxfordshire. They then moved to York, where David became the first ever welfare officer at the Rowntree Cocoa Works.

Edna had a daughter, Vida, in 1902, followed by a son, David, in 1906. She stood for election to York City Council in 1919, arguing that women were more knowledgeable than men ‘in such questions as housing, education, maternity and child welfare’. She topped the poll in the Bootham ward.

She had served only a year when her husband died suddenly in 1921, aged 51. She was returned again in Bootham in 1922, and then for the new Clifton ward in 1925. She moved from St Mary’s to 30 Clifton to be amongst her constituents.

Edna was elected chair of the housing committee in 1931, and chaired the committee for 20 years. By April 1939, 5,063 houses and flats had been built and well over 1,000 slum properties demolished.

War broke out in 1939. In 1941, Edna's son David, a subaltern in the Gordon Highlanders, died of cancer in a German military hospital. That same year Edna was elected York’s first woman Lord Mayor.

Her year in office was the most dramatic York's modern history. In April 1942 York was bombed. Up to a third of homes were destroyed or damaged, as many as 90 people were killed and about 200 injured. Unperturbed, the Lord Mayor visited bombed home after bombed home. The Yorkshire Evening Press said she had been ‘an inspiration to citizens.’

She remained on the council for 10 years after the war before retiring. She died in a York nursing home in March 1970, aged 93.