Wales’ second purple plaque to be unveiled

8th March 2019

Plaque for Merthyr’s Ursula Masson unveiled at International Women’s Day ceremony

Wales’ second purple plaque was unveiled at Merthyr Central Library

A Purple Plaque for Merthyr-born feminist historian and scholar, Ursula Masson, was unveiled in the town at midday on International Women’s Day – Friday 8th March.

In partnership with Chwarae Teg and Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust, Plaques for Women unveiled the second Purple Plaque from the campaign created to improve the recognition of remarkable women in Wales at Merthyr Central library.

The plaque commemorates Merthyr born feminist historian, Ursula Masson who achieved outstanding results in promoting the role of women in Wales, both currently and historically.

Ursula was the founding member of the Department of Gender Studies at the now University of South Wales and of the Women’s Archive of Wales. Born into the Merthyr Tydfil Irish community, Ursula O’Connor attended Cyfarthfa Castle Grammar School and Cardiff University. She worked as a journalist on the Sydney Morning Herald from 1969 to 1972. She did her MA at the University of Keele, funded by a bursary from Margaret Stewart Taylor, Merthyr’s first female chief librarian. Her dissertation was on Irish immigration to Merthyr. After working in adult education in Swansea she moved to Treforest. Here she had particular interest in women’s history and feminism.

The unveiling event in Merthyr on 8th March included speeches from Jane Hutt AM, Julie Morgan AM and local Assembly Member Dawn Bowden AM.

The plaque was unveiled at Merthyr Tydfil’s Central Library by Helen Molyneux, Niece of Ursula Masson and member of the Monumental Welsh Women group.

“Following the unveiling of the first Purple Plaque in memory of Val Feld at the Senedd, we received a large number of very deserving nominations for women from across Wales for future plaques.

“We were struck by the incredible impact that Ursula Masson had on securing the presence of women in historical and political writings and records. Ursula was a feminist historian whose main interest was the political history of women in Wales. As she was someone who wrote widely about the women’s suffrage movement in Wales, it is apt that we are making this announcement in the year that is the 100th anniversary of some women getting the vote.

“Ursula is very deserving of this Purple Plaque at Merthyr Central Library commemorating her as a woman and her important work.”

Jane Hutt
Deputy Minister and Chief Whip
Ceinwen Statter who nominated Ursula Masson for a Purple Plaque, said:

“I am delighted that Ursula Masson is being commemorated with a purple plaque as her story is one that needs to be told again and again, it shows the young women of Merthyr that they can do anything! There are two main reasons why I nominated Ursula – one professional and one personal.

“Professionally she achieved outstanding results in promoting the role of women in Wales, both currently and historically. Her work with Llafur – the Welsh Working Class history organisation, with the Women’s Archive Wales and setting up the Centre for Gender Studies at the then University of Glamorgan were outstanding achievements. These deserve recognition ten years after Ursula died.

“Personally, Ursula’s mother and my mother attended Quakers Yard Grammar School together, where they were taught by Sephora Davies, another woman whose contribution to Merthyr was outstanding.

“Although there is some recognition of Ursula’s work at Merthyr’s Old Town Hall, the Redhouse, it is not widely known. I’m pleased that there will be a Purple Plaque erected in her memory at Merthyr Central Library to make more people aware of her remarkable story and legacy.”