Portrait of city’s first female leader unveiled at memorial service

A portrait of Birmingham’s first and only female leader was unveiled to celebrate her outstanding contribution to civic life at a memorial service earlier today (1 June 2022).

Alderman Theresa Stewart, who served Birmingham City Council as councillor for over 30 years as well Leader (1993-99) and Lord Mayor (2000-01), died on 11 November 2020, aged 90.

The colourful artwork was created by Birmingham-based illustrator Michelle Turton, who worked with the former Leader and Lord Mayor’s family to capture key aspects of her life ad personality.

During her long career in local government, Theresa Stewart consistently campaigned on behalf of the vulnerable, the poor and those who needed extra help in life.

Cllr Brigid Jones, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “It’s true to say Theresa Stewart, as a councillor, campaigner, Leader and Lord Mayor made a significant contribution to civic life in Birmingham.

“We worked with her family on this commission to help capture and commemorate her achievements, so it’s fitting that it is being unveiled as her family, friends and colleagues gathered to celebrate her life. She was an incredible woman.”

Alderman Stewart’s daughter, Selina Stewart, said on behalf of the family: “We are delighted that the city council has commissioned a portrait of Theresa to join those of 30 Birmingham women who have made a significant difference in their lives.

“As her family, we are very proud of all she achieved in her life and her determination to improve the lives of Birmingham residents, particularly those of women and children.”

Artist Michelle Turton, who created the commissioned portrait, added: “It was an honour and a privilege to create the portrait of Theresa Stewart, to learn about her work, celebrate her achievements and relive those experiences with her family.”

Alderman Stewart’s picture will be hung in the Ellen Pinsent Room in the Council House, which is a room named after the city’s first female councillor and dedicated to the city’s notable women and their achievements.  A framed copy was also gifted to her family.

It will join the 30 portraits in this room – which she and Dame Ellen Pinsent’s great-grandson, Randall Keynes opened in March 2018 – of the women featured in the book Once Upon A Time In Birmingham: Women Who Dared To Dream.

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