Farewell tributes to Sunderland women’s champion

SPEAKER: Harriet pictured speaking at an engineering workers' conference in Eastbourne in 1970.

SPEAKER: Harriet pictured speaking at an engineering workers' conference in Eastbourne in 1970.

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TRADE union members formed a guard of honour as a women’s rights campaigner from Wearside was laid to rest.

Harriet Vyse, better known as Harriet Hopper, died two weeks ago at the age of 84.

The funeral of women's rights campaigner Harriet Vyse, better known as Harriet Cooper, at St Luke's Church, in Pallion.

The funeral of women's rights campaigner Harriet Vyse, better known as Harriet Cooper, at St Luke's Church, in Pallion.

Harriet was on first name terms with prime ministers and trade union barons in her heyday – winning the Woman of the Year award in 1973.

She was the first woman on the national executive of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering and Foundry Workers (AEF) – despite suffering life-long pain from curvature of the spine.

Becoming the first woman on the union’s National Executive Committee in 1971, Harriet was named Woman of the Year in 1973, and became a household name on Wearside when she led a women’s sit-in at Plessey.

In the 1980s she set up a disabled workers’ co-operative delivering office services, one of the projects initiated by Wearside War for Work Campaign, which ran for 10 years to combat unemployment. In later years Harriet raised money for cancer charities after she underwent treatment for breast cancer.

RECOGNITION: Harriet being presented with a Labour long-service award by Julie Elliott MP last year - her last picture.

RECOGNITION: Harriet being presented with a Labour long-service award by Julie Elliott MP last year - her last picture.

She died on March 7 – just short of her 85th birthday.

Councillors, led by Sunderland’s deputy mayor Barry Curran, union members and members of the Labour Party and former MP Chris Mullin all gathered at Harriet’s funeral, which was conducted by the Reverend Geoff Driver at St Luke’s Church, in Pallion.

Tributes were led by Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott, while Unite officer and city councillor David Allan announced that plans were being made to commemorate the life of Harriet for future generations.

HAPPY DAY: Harriet pictured with her husband Bob Vyse in Mowbray Park after their wedding in 1980.

HAPPY DAY: Harriet pictured with her husband Bob Vyse in Mowbray Park after their wedding in 1980.