For she’s a jolly good Oddfellow

This Saturday (23rd) marks 50 years since Florence Frecknall became the first woman in the region to be voted into a senior management position in the local Branch of the Oddfellows Society - a social group that has been meeting in the town since 1826. Achievements like this have now become commonplace thanks to remarkable women like Florence leading the way.
This Saturday (23rd) marks 50 years since Florence Frecknall became the first woman in the region to be voted into a senior management position in the local Branch of the Oddfellows Society - a social group that has been meeting in the town since 1826. Achievements like this have now become commonplace thanks to remarkable women like Florence leading the way.
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A REMARKABLE Sheffield woman is being praised for leading the way – 50 years after she claimed a female first in the city.

In 1963 Florence Frecknall became the first woman in the region to be voted into a senior management position in the local branch of the Oddfellows Society.

This Saturday (23rd) marks 50 years since Florence Frecknall became the first woman in the region to be voted into a senior management position in the local Branch of the Oddfellows Society - a social group that has been meeting in the town since 1826. Achievements like this have now become commonplace thanks to remarkable women like Florence leading the way.

This Saturday (23rd) marks 50 years since Florence Frecknall became the first woman in the region to be voted into a senior management position in the local Branch of the Oddfellows Society - a social group that has been meeting in the town since 1826. Achievements like this have now become commonplace thanks to remarkable women like Florence leading the way.

Today members believe achievements like this are only commonplace now because of women like Florence.

Known as Florrie to her friends, she became the first woman in the region to hold a senior position after she was voted in by local delegates at the Sheffield AGM.

The decision was a momentous one for the 2,000-strong membership organisation which had been meeting in the area since the 1820s. It reflected the wider changes taking place across society and at Oddfellows branches nationwide in the 1960s.

Florence, who had been a member through her family since she was just a month old, went on to become district chairman and secretary over the next decade.

These two achievements contributed to the evolution of the society viewed as a forerunner to the NHS and Welfare State.

The group welcomed its first female CEO Jane Nelson last year and Lorna Bower has been elected South Yorkshire District Chairman for 2013.

Florence was born in Mansfield Woodhouse in 1905 and moved to Sheffield in 1922, aged 17.

She began working in ‘service’ as a housekeeper for wealthy families around Ecclesall Road.

Florence met her husband Horace – a veteran of the Great War and Sheffielder born and bred – in Scarborough in 1924.

They married in Victoria Hall Methodist Church on Eldon Street and had daughter Margaret two years later. Margaret, now aged 79, got engaged to her husband Norman at the 1953 Oddfellows AMC in Folkestone in 1953 and they pair were also married in Victoria Hall.

They live in Woodhouse and are both still members today, along with their daughter Sheila Weselby, her husband Kevin and their grandson Neil, 29 – an accountant who was helped through university by one of the Oddfellows Educational Grants.

Margaret said: “Mum was just so proud and there wasn’t any resistance from other members because my mother and father were such a popular couple – so generous with their time for everyone. Church and the Oddfellows were mum’s life and we’re all carrying on her memory at the society today.”

Florence became the region’s first district chairman in 1964 and represented the region at the Oddfellows national conference in 1964 with Horace by her side.

She worked as a cook at Lodge Moor Hospital on Redmires Road before its closure in 1994 and she was a foster parent to 12 boys. She continued to be an active member of the local Oddfellows management committee until 1971.

Horace died in 1973 and Florence in 1987, aged 82.

* Call Paul on 01709 838673 or email paul.eyre@oddfellows.co.uk for details of events.