Alice Hudson

Alice Hudson

1877 - 1960
Eastbourne Town Hall was only 40 years old when it had it’s first woman councillor, Miss Alice Hudson in 1919. She subsequently became the first female Mayor of Eastbourne in 1926, this was a full 2 years before every woman had the vote.


Justice of the Peace and first female Mayor of Eastbourne


Alice Hudson’s life was formed by the times in which she lived. She was lucky enough to be born into a comfortable middle class Victorian family in 1877, she was actually born in Manchester & moved to the town in 1900 when her father retired. He is listed on the 1901 census as a retired East India Merchant (born in Ireland). Her mother was born in Germany. She had 2 brothers & a sister. The family settled at Meads Court, where they seem to continue their comfortable lifestyle continuing to employ 8 servants, including nursemaids, a butler, footmen, cook, etc.
I have not been able to find what education she received but it appears she could have been home schooled by a German governess. She was 23 when the family settled in Eastbourne. Sadly Alice’s mother dies suddenly in 1913 & Alice being the only remaining sibling still at home is left to care for her father.


Alice doesn’t have time to grieve for long as on the outbreak of WWI she joins the Eastbourne branch of the Women’s Emergency Corps as treasurer. The end of the war in 1917 sees her as treasurer of the National Union of Women Workers. Then in 1919 she is elected to represent Upperton ward on the town council. In December 1923 she was appointed a Justice of the Peace, being one of the town’s first lady magistrates.

Alice Hudson was president of the WCA (Woman’s Citizen Association) & also an independent councilor, Alice returned as councilor on 3 occasions for Meads ward, she then became Mayor, Eastbourne has had 15 lady mayors to date, but Miss Hudson holds the distinction of not only being the first one, but also holding the post, 1926-27, 1927-28, 1943-44, 1944-45.

The beginning of 1939 & the outbreak of the second world war, saw Alice living at Wootton Manor in Polegate. Meads Court having been sold on the death of her father in 1927. She resigned from the council on account of more pressing duties, & possibly because there had been some controversy about her not living within the borough boundary!! She organized the Eastbourne’s Women’s Voluntary Services & was a leading figure in the establishment of the Eastbourne & District Nursing Association of which she became president.
When the Eastbourne Business & Professional Woman’s club was founded in 1947, Alice Hudson was elected first president, then
with the start of the National Health Service in 1948 she sat on Eastbourne’s hospitals management committee & she was president of the patients association.

Alice was noted for her gifts as an organizer & administrator, but she was very modest & included in her duties personal front line work with the two mobile canteens during air raids, in which she was an inspiration to her staff. It was for this role that she was awarded the MBE in the New Years Honours List 1946 for services to civil defence.

On the 5th May 1952 Alice was made an Honorary Freeman of the town to which she had devoted 33 years of continuous service.

To read Jackie’s full research click here


Alice Hudson was 42 when she was first elected to the council, this was before woman got the vote, a great achievement in the days when woman had no official voice at all. Within 7 years she had become the first woman mayor of Eastbourne. That she was a women of deeds, as well as words, she showed by her active work as leader of the WVS during WWII. She was no mere figurehead but a worker in conditions that called for courage & a disregard of self.
Undoubtedly Alice Hudson was a woman of her time schooled to believe in service to the community through administrative, charitable & humanitarian work.

Jackie Gannon

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Alice Hudson. Sources of research

Image Can be used for non -commercial research or private study.

Eastbourne Pictorial History. By D.Robert Elleray. Phillimore & Co, 1978
Ladies Elect: Women in Local Government 1865-1914. By Patricia Hollis. Clarendon Press, 1987

Census records.
Newspaper articles from the Eastbourne Gazette as listed.
19/3/1952 p29
22/3/1952 p8
18/4/1956 front page
Also many many minor references too numerous to list, but noted.



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