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Purple Plaque In Honour of RCT Political Figure

A Purple Plaque to honour local political activist Rose Davies has been unveiled at the Cynon Valley Museum, Aberdare. 

Mrs Davies is recognised for her outstanding contribution to public life. The Purple Plaques campaign was created in 2017 to improve the recognition of remarkable women in Wales to commemorate their achievements and cement their legacy in Welsh history. 

Councillor Ann Crimmings, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Cabinet Member For Environment and Leisure, said: “Rose Davies was passionate about her community and the whole of Wales and played a huge part in public life at a crucial time in history. 

“Just like the rest of her family, she started her career in education but became a very prominent political activist and influential in many big decisions that were made at the time. 

“I am delighted that Rose Davies is to be forever remembered with the unveiling of a Purple Plaque in her hometown to mark her huge contribution and legacy.” 

Purple Plaques in Wales

Born in Aberdare on September 16, 1882, Florence Rose Davies led a full and active life in the world of politics, Government, political movement, and civil administration. 

One of seven children born to local tin worker William Henry Rees and his wife Fanny, Rose followed all her siblings into the teaching profession. A former child monitor at Aberdare Town National School, she went on to become a teacher and assistant mistress at the school. 

Although her family were not politically active, Rose spent her formative years in the distinctive political atmosphere engendered by the long and bitter 1898 Coal Strike and the election of Keir Hardie, founder of the Labour Party and its first-ever MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare between 1900 and 1915. 

In 1906, after attending one of Keir Hardie's election meetings in Merthyr Tydfil, Rose joined the Labour Party and married local teacher and activist with the Co-operative movement Edward (Ted) Davies two years later.

She became the first secretary of the Women's Co-operative Guild in Aberdare and was soon co-opted onto the Education Committee of Aberdare Urban District Council. She was also appointed onto the governing bodies of both Aberdare Boys Grammar School and Aberdare Girls Grammar School.

By 1915, Rose, a mother-of-five, was chair of the local authority’s education committee and had a great passion in developing the provision of school facilities for learners with disabilities.

Over the years, Mr and Mrs Davies became friends with Keir Hardie MP and both were actively involved in his election campaigns, including two General Elections.

During the First World War, Rose took on further public responsibilities, including her local Military Service Tribunal and by 1918 she was elected as Chair of the Aberdare Trades and Labour Council - the first female to take on the role.

She became a Justice of the Peace in 1920 and was also elected as a Labour councillor for the Gadlys ward in Aberdare, strongly campaigning for improved maternity services and birth control.

Five years later she was elected as the Labour councillor for the Aberaman ward in Aberdare at Glamorgan County Council, becoming the authority’s first female member. From 1919 until 1926 she was also a member of the Board of Health Welsh Consultative Council.

During the early 1920s, Rose Davies played a major role in establishing the Labour Party organisation in the newly created parliamentary constituency of Aberdare and was elected the first secretary of the East Glamorgan Labour Women's Advisory Council.

She became a passionate advocate of greater political education for women and also became active in the Women's Co-operative Guild, the array of peace movements in the 1920s and various women's movements throughout Wales. She also played a major role in the preparation of the peace memorial from the women of Wales to the women of the United States.

In the 1929 General Election, Rose stood as the first-ever Labour candidate for the Honiton division of Devon, and although unsuccessful, she celebrated having ‘sown the seed for the Labour Party in unchartered territory.’

She remained a prominent public figure within Aberdare and Glamorgan County for the rest of her days. In 1925 she became a governor at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire. She was also prominent in the affairs of the Welsh National Memorial Association and chaired every single committee of the Glamorgan County Council at various times, later being elected Chair of the Council.

Following her husband’s death in 1951, Rose Davies continued her public life and was awarded the MBE in 1934 and the CBE in 1954. She sadly passed away on December 13, 1958, aged 76. The funeral service took place at St Elvan’s Church, Aberdare, and Glyntaf Crematorium, Pontypridd.

A Purple Plaque in her honour was unveiled at the Cynon Valley Museum, Gadlys, Aberdare, on Friday, May 12, where she will be forever remembered for her outstanding contribution to public life.

The Purple Plaque for Rose Davies was led by the Council’s Heritage Service and forms 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.

The ‘Forgotten Voices’ project aims to commemorate the long history of female activism on the South Wales Coalfield.

Posted on 18/05/2023