We recently awarded a Blue Plaque to a Birmingham legend who made a difference to everyday people, changing lives for the better, making history while making waves.

She is hugely important in the history of Birmingham and in the progression of women’s rights, but not only is she important, she was a well-loved and hugely respected individual who was always humble, always strong, forthright, compassionate, a people person, a role model, an inspiration who always got things done, even if it was unpopular.

A woman that always made time for everyone –  and that is Theresa Stewart.

The first female leader of Birmingham City Council in 1993 until 1999, being elected as the Labour Councillor for the ward of Billesley in South Birmingham in 1970 and holding that position for 31-years.

And after nearly 25-years Theresa Stewart is still the only woman to hold the post of leader of Birmingham City Council, the biggest council in Europe. Also, serving as the Lord Mayor from 2000 – 2001, only the sixth woman to hold that post.

Theresa was the councillor for the ward of Billesley until she retired in 2002. But retirement for Theresa didn’t mean slowing down, in fact she was still out campaigning for the Labour party aged 87 in 2017 in the run up to the general election. A woman who believed, ‘she could do for poor people what lawyers do for rich people.’ And she did, again and again!


A passionate campaigner for women’s rights, she fought to get family allowance payments paid to women, not husbands and not partners –  knowing it might’ve been the only income they received.

Theresa Stewart was a founding member of the Birmingham Pregnancy Advisory Service, ensuring women always had the right to choose and that every child should be wanted.

So, it was only right that Birmingham Civic Society honour such an important figure in Birmingham’s rich history with a Birmingham Civic Society Blue Plaque.



Theresa Stewart continues to be an inspiration to everyone that knew her – and many people that didn’t. Having the honour of being at the ceremonial unveiling of the blue plaque at Warstock Community Centre, in the heart of the community she loved so dearly was an absolute honour and delight to everyone who was lucky enough to be there.

Cllr for Ward End and a former Lady Mayoress of Birmingham Bushra Bi says: ‘I’m completely inspired by Theresa, she was a pioneer and a very humble person, it’s lovely for us all to get together to honour her memory, she inspires the next generation and I’m so pleased to see the blue plaque unveiling.  I’d also like to say thank you to the Birmingham Civic Society for today.

Cabinet member for Children, Young People and Families, Councillor Karen McCarthy says: ‘Theresa as a political leader has been an inspiration to so many people in the room. To any of us who have taken on roles in health, or working in women’s rights, the impact of Theresa’s work is immense. She showed us that you can be a Councillor for a ward that demanded your full attention and still knit socks in meetings.

‘She led the largest authority in Europe and still got the bus to the markets to ensure that her legendary Sunday lunches went well. From the first time, I met her, up to when her health started to fail, she never ceased to encourage other women to step up. She took on unpopular causes, being one of the first politicians in the city to support gay rights and individuals who were being disadvantaged by discrimination. We look at her portrait in the council house and we know what she expects from us and we hope we aren’t letting her down.’

Maureen Connolly, from Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid says: ‘Theresa was our ambassador, she had commitment, integrity, she was courageous and she was a champion for all things women. You can’t talk about Theresa without talking about her impact on women. She understood the inequality that women experience, she was there at the beginning at the first women’s refuge in Birmingham. She campaigned for the opening of rape crisis. She was always there at the right moment doing the right thing. When we talk about Theresa at Women’s Aid we say, ‘she was one of us,’ but really we are all one of her and we are so proud to be part of her legacy.’

Geoff Cole, former Chairman of the Birmingham Trees for Life Project, a Birmingham Civic Society Trustee and Deputy Chairman says: ‘I just remember Theresa as my former councillor, she was the first councillor I ever met, every election there was always a knock on the door. No matter who you were.

‘Theresa always had time for you. People out leafleting with her, always lost her and had to knock on every door asking if she was there having a cup of tea with local people talking about local issues. She was a trailblazer and I’m delighted today through the Birmingham Civic Society to be here to remember someone who wasn’t just special to me, but to Birmingham and to everyone that knew her.’

Theresa’s daughter, Selina Stewart says: ‘It’s wonderful to have this event today and we’d like to thank Birmingham Civic Society, especially for making an exception in Mom’s case and awarding her a blue plaque despite her only having died in 2020.

‘Mom was elected as a councillor in 1970 after a bi-election and she was elected again and again and again in good years for Labour and in bad until she stood down in 2002. She couldn’t have retained this seat without an incredible personal vote this was built up by commitment, hard slog and devotion to the people, but she never took the votes for granted.

‘As a councillor, she was determined to respond to every letter, phone call or contact, ensuring that everyone received all the services they were entitled to. She worked incredibly hard 365 days of the year, even on Christmas day when a call may come from someone in crisis or those that were very lonely. Mom was very fond of the people of Billesley and she got to know generations of residents over the 32-years she represented the ward and many people still remember Mom with great fondness. In Billesley and across the city I am often told, she was the best councillor this ward has ever had.’

The women and indeed the people of Birmingham have been lucky to have a council leader like Theresa Stewart as a leader and as part of this city’s great legacy. And her legacy will continue to live on as so many female councillors have said, ‘Theresa has been a huge inspiration to me, there is no better way to celebrate a life than to know that lie brought so much inspiration.


Birmingham has lots of heroes and many of them have been honoured by the Birmingham Civic Society. Theresa Stewart is a modern-day hero to us all and her blue plaque unveiling is testament to the huge changes she made to improve so many lives, with such passion and determination to do the right thing by everyone who asked for her help.

A politician- and a people’s person through and through!”