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Black Dress

circa 1904

This black dress belonged to Sarah Lees who was a prominent Oldham citizen. It has a crossover bodice and slightly bustled skirt.but its key feature is the colour black. Sarah Lees lost her husband at a relatively early age and wore black as a sign of mourning for over 40 years.

The label is from a fashionable and expensive retailer – J. White, of 252-254 Regent Street, London.

The early death of Charles Lees in 1894 left Sarah with two young daughters and a large inheritance. She used much of her wealth to fund public works within Oldham whilst also becoming increasingly active in local politics.

She became Oldham’s first woman councillor in 1907 and the first woman mayor of the town in 1910 – only the second woman in England to take such a role. Also active in the Women’s Suffrage Movement she was later awarded the KCGB and became Dame Sarah Lees.