The first female mayor of a Welsh community is to be celebrated in Brecon on International Women's Day - Friday, March 8.

A special evening is being staged at y Gaer Museum, Art Gallery and Library from 5:30pm to honour Gwenllian Morgan, who became Mayor of the town in 1910. 

The event will see the launch of the ‘Shining a Light on Gwenllian Morgan’ campaign to have a permanent memorial to Gwenllian, who was a nationally respected activist, philanthropist, and scholar. 

The event takes place at the 2024 Brecon Women’s Festival on International Women’s Day.

Following Gwenllian Morgan’s term as Mayor, 910 women contributed funds to a subscription to commission a life-sized oil portrait of her. This painting now resides in Brecon’s Guildhall and the subscription book is on display at y Gaer.

Brecon enjoys a rich history, going back to the mid-5th century. While women have played key roles in that history, their stories have not been well researched or celebrated.  The Brecon Women’s History Group, an association of women who live in and around Brecon, would like to correct this.

Brecon’s y Gaer Museum, Art Gallery & Library opened its doors in 2019, and included the restoration of the 1842 Shire Hall. Central to the project was the restoration of the old Court Room which currently displays oil portraits and busts, exclusively of men. 

This project will focus on bringing y Gaer’s historic courtroom to life by commissioning a bust of Gwenllian Morgan to acclaim her story as Wales’s first woman mayor. 

It will also facilitate a local history project to research the women who signed the 1912 Subscription Book.

A contemporary subscription will be launched to fund further activities such as an education case study and a video to raise awareness of her story. 

She was a woman responsible for breaking boundaries and widening the horizons of women everywhere. She was elected an Alderman in 1907, 10 years before women achieved the national franchise.

Cllr Michaela Davies, Brecon’s current Mayor, said: “I feel honoured to follow in Gwenllian Morgan’s footsteps, she was an extraordinary woman and an inspiration to women everywhere.”

The group’s goal is to ensure that future generations of women can learn and enjoy the stories of the accomplished and pioneering women of Brecknock through highlighting those stories in talks, events and actions.

Commemorative items such as plaques, sculpture, video and educational case studies are being planned. They currently have the support of a wide variety of groups who recognise the importance of raising the profile of Gwenllian and telling her story. 

These include the curatorial team at y Gaer, the Brecknock Art Trust, Women’s Archive Wales, Brecon Cathedral, Theatr Brycheniog, Brecon U3A, Brecon Local and Family History Society, Found Gallery, The Muse, Brecon Town Council, Neath Port Talbot Community College and the Brecknock Society and Museum Friends,

The organisers, Brecon Women’s History Group, is a committee of the Brecon Story Network which was founded in 2018 to provide a cohesive and coordinated approach to increasing the awareness of Brecon’s rich heritage and the vibrancy of its cultural and artistic life. 

The co-founders, Carla Rapoport and Elizabeth Jeffreys, have both written and given talks on local women’s history topics ranging from Sarah Siddons and y Gaer’s statue of Boudica and have extensive backgrounds in both the arts and community initiatives, as well as bringing projects of this scale to life. 

The event will take place on Friday, March 8 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. For further information contact Carla Rapoport or Elizabeth Jeffreys at [email protected] or via mobile on 07870 610068.