In the same year (1979) that Margaret Thatcher was elected as Britain’s first ever female PM, the Red Rhondda upheld its radical tradition by appointing Annie Powell as Britain’s first ever female communist mayor. Powell held office for a year – Thatcher, unfortunately, lasted a lot longer than that. My favourite fact about Annie Powell is that while attending a conference in Moscow as a delegate of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1960, she impressed Soviet leader, Nikita Kruschev, with her rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.
Powell was born at Ystrad, Rhondda, and grew up in a Welsh-speaking, Nonconformist home. She attended Pentre Grammar where the school motto was Hog Dyd Fwyel (Wet the Battle-Axe) – an old Chartist rallying cry. She first became interested in politics while completing a teacher training course in Barry. During the General Strike of 1926 she became radicalised, initially joining the Labour Party and then later, in 1938, the CPGB. Before becoming mayor in 1979 she had served as a communist councillor in the Rhondda for twenty years. She died in 1986.