Dorothy and Penny Chaloner – Mayor and Mayoress of Preston
‘Equality is still a myth – women have to do twice as well to get half as far’. Dorothy Chaloner, 1984
A fascinating set of scrapbooks and photographs covering the tenure of Mrs Dorothy Chaloner and Dr Penny Chaloner as Mayor and Mayoress of Preston in 1983–1984 has been deposited at the archive.
Prior to her election as Mayor, Dorothy had represented Greyfriars Ward since 1970 and had been a member of Fulwood Unitary District Council and Preston Borough Council. As Chairman of the Housing Committee from 1976 to 1980, she pioneered schemes to meet Preston’s housing needs and sheltered accommodation for the elderly was doubled. She was a founder member of the Ladies Charity Committee which raised thousands of pounds and had acted as Chairman for the Preston Conference for Women’s Organisations. Dorothy was also a local JP and took a year’s break from the bench and resigned from various committees to focus on her mayoral role. Her husband had died four years earlier so her daughter Penny stepped in to support her mother as Mayor.
Examples of events attended
The scrapbooks contain a huge range of items – invitations, photographs, newspaper articles, programmes, brochures and other items. The list of engagements attended is astounding, and the appointment diary extremely busy. The events and occasions Dorothy and Penny attended were numerous. A few examples include:
- Official opening of the Royal Preston Hospital by H.R.H. Princess of Wales
- Preston Standing Conference of Women’s Organisations
- Garden Party at Buckingham Palace
- Battle of Britain Service of Remembrance
- St. Ignatius 150th Year Anniversary celebrations
- Preston & District Philatelic Society Maritime Convention
- Boys Brigade Centenary Gala
- Grimsargh Village Hall opening
- Recklinghausen visit
- Licensed Victuallers Association Banquet & Ball
- Preston Royal Naval Association Annual Dinner
- Opening Townbrook House
- Remembrance Day Service
- Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Presentation
- UK Snooker Championship
- International Battle of the Bands hosted by DJ David Jenson, filmed by the BBC and judged by Kim Wilde, Robin Gibb and Paul Gambaccini
Dorothy was awarded a Polish gold cross of merit by Mr M. Wojnerowski, representing the Polish government in exile, when she attended the Polish 65th Independence Day Anniversary celebrations. This cross was a civilian award, given to people who help the Polish cause, recognising that Dorothy had been a good friend to the Polish community in Preston for many years.
Woman of the Year
Dorothy organised the first Woman of the Year awards, requesting people to nominate women who undertake work for the benefit the community – the many ‘unsung heroines’ volunteering and working in charities, setting up new initiatives or as scientists researching something for the benefit of all. Dorothy commented that ‘we live in a changing world and I hope this event will highlight the changing role of women in this new world’, believing that every nominee also deserved to win the award.
Dorothy’s Thoughts on the Role
In an interview with the Lancashire Evening Post in 1984 after completing her year as mayor, she stated ‘we have a queen on the throne, a woman Prime Minister, a woman as Lord Mayor of London and women leading parties at county and local level but equality is still a myth – women have to do twice as well to get half as far’.
Dorothy also added: ‘It isn’t easy for a woman mayor, as you don’t have the support of a wife at home. In between functions, I have had to do the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, the ironing – for the simple reason that if I don’t do these, no-one else will.’ During her year as a woman in a man’s world, she was often the sole woman present at functions, attending many all-male dinners.
She also commented on the weight of the Preston town chain declaring that wearing the chain was a literal burden as well as a metaphoric one: ‘you have no idea how tiring it can be wearing that chain for long periods … It also does nothing for your clothes. The chain was designed with a man’s suit in mind, so I had to buy clothes to suit the chain. Now I have a wardrobe of dresses that I don’t really like.’
As can be seen from the scrapbooks and photographs, Dorothy and Penny worked tirelessly promoting Preston and Lancashire and representing local people at the many events they attended. Together, they played a notable part in preserving and developing this important role as well as helping the many charities and causes Dorothy promoted.