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You are here: Home » News » Eliza Brierley, Rochdale Pioneers

Remembering Eliza Brierley, first female member of the Rochdale Pioneers, on International Women's Day


To coincide with International Women's Day, which is celebrated annually on 8 March, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) is reminding members of co-operatives that the movement has a long history of empowering women, allowing women equal voting rights almost a century before most parliaments of the world did.

Dame Pauline Green, the first female president of the ICA, points out that the Rochdale Pioneers were ahead of their time in allowing women to become members from the start, at a time when women were still excluded from owning property. This was 88 years before British women got the full vote. Dame Pauline said: "Eliza Brierley lined up with a queue of male mill workers to hand over her one pound to become a full member of the Rochdale Pioneers Equitable Co-operative Society in 1846. On a day when women were still the property of their father or husband, and had no legal rights and with votes for women still more than 80 years away in the UK, Eliza forced the Pioneers to make a decision – whether or not to accept women members. They did."

Today, women manage successful co-operatives around the world, including The Argan Tree, Cocoki, and the co-operatives which form part of the SEWA network in India.

Read an article by Dame Pauline Green, and watch her International Women's Day address, at

Read case studies of women in co-operatives at