WI Meeting 2nd September, 2019

Back in Action and Inspired by Angels of the North

Report / Minutes by Kathryn Archibald – Sept 4th 2019

WI Business

  • A warm welcome was extended to all after our summer recess, including a potential new member and a visitor, by Kathryn Archibald who stood in for Janis Crook, who had sent apologies. Our sympathy and love goes out to Tina Shroud who has suffered a bad fall and has broken three ribs. We all wish Tina better very soon.
  • Kathryn confirmed that the Minutes from our July meeting had been emailed and with no objections, are agreed and filed.  Kathryn asked for members who wish to contribute to our WI Centennial Reflections to sign up as we will be finalizing content in October. Anecdotes of notable trips, WI events and photos will be most welcome.
  • The embroidered WI clothing that has arrived was made available, more will be available at the next meeting and if anyone wants to place an order please let Janis know.  Please note that the gilet, polo shirt and rugby shirt sizing is very small so order at least TWO dress sizes more than you normally would.
  • Moving to our Summer Events, Kathryn thanked everyone involved in the preparation, baking and serving at the Hullabaloo on July 13th.  Special thanks to Ethel Cook and Judith Williams who were the masterminds of our Strawberry Themed Afternoon Tea.
  • The lunch at Foxton Hall was held on August 21st and was enjoyed by everyone. Kathryn mentioned that she had sent a card to chefs Lee and Natasha, plus Ally, Jo and all the team who served us, to express our thanks for an excellent meal and good service.
  • All arrangements are in place for the trip to Norfolk in September and attendees will receive the full itinerary shortly.
  • Some members have raised questions regarding the service provided by Daft as a Brush and a letter has been sent seeking clarity of their policy, coverage and requisites for service.
  • The Birthday Flowers were won by Jenny Beck and Lesley Long and attending members were asked if they wished to join the newly established Birthday Register.

Upcoming WI Local & Federation Events 

  • Kathryn highlighted some of the forthcoming events including a planned visit to Whitley Bay for a meal and a visit to the Playhouse to see ‘The Music of Elvis’ on November 21st 2019.  Members wishing to attend signed a new ‘Event Register’ that Kathryn has set up – contact Kathryn if you wish to attend.  Thanks to Claire Smith for arranging the special price tickets.
  • The Hindmarsh Hall Trustees invite WI members to join an Unveiling of the Restored Village Map on October 5th, at 11.00am.  Refreshments will be served from 10.30 am.
  • Judith Williams mentioned the arrangements for baking for the MacMillan Cancer Coffee morning on September 27thThe Hall will be open from 9am so please bring cakes and contributions at 9am or arrange with Judith if you wish to deliver earlier.

Meeting Speaker : Moira Kilkenny & The Angels of the North

Kathryn introduced Moira Kilkenny who joined us to will talk about the heroines of the book she has co-authored with Joyce Quin, ‘Angels of the North’ about 40 remarkable women. Did you know that their book is the first publication to celebrate the lives and achievements of brave, heroic or innovative women.   No, not many of us did but isn’t it great that the unsung hard work and dedication of these women is being brought to new audiences and a younger generation?

  • Moira highlighted some of the lesser known heroines and she started by talking about Margaret Bondfield who became MP for Wallsend and was the first woman to have a seat in Cabinet, to become a privy counsellor and to chair the TUC.  All this at a time when the ‘Establishment’ thought that higher education or positions of public responsibility were unsuitable for women as they produced ‘monstrous brains, constipation and the withering of women’s breasts and wombs!’  She was a highly skilled politician who became a past master at ‘playing the game’ and broke many glass ceilings for which we are indebted.
  • We heard about Parisian born Lady Louisa Waterford, a talented Pre-Raphaelite artist, philanthropist and a muse for some of her contemporaries including Rosetti, who described her as a ‘swell and a stunner’.  John Rushkin however did not join share Rosetti’s view and called her the ‘Rainbow Coloured Iceberg’, but she had the measure of him when she retorted that he was ‘The antithesis of everything she admired in a man’.  We can all use that one when we need a good riposte.  After marrying the 3rd Marquis of Waterford she used her talents to transform Ford Castle with huge murals and often asked local children to sit for the scenes, paying them a silver sixpence for their time. So, in one action she not only made them feel special but paid them handsomely for their time.
  • Milfield born, Josephine Butler, was a remarkable woman who was one of the greatest social reformers of the last two hundred years.  She challenged the Establishment to end the discrimination and shocking treatment of prostitutes who were physically abused and degraded under the auspices of the Contagious Diseases Act.  Sadly, Josephine’s daughter died young and her quest for improving the basic rights of women to education and respectful treatment became her driving force for 20 years.
  • Moira moved on to enlighten us about Emily Wilding Davison from Newcastle who joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1906 and became a dedicated and formidable campaigner.  She, along with many other suffragettes, was imprisoned after they stepped up their protests by causing damage to property and public disorder.  Emily powerfully publicised the abhorrent treatment in the prisons including force feeding after the women went on hunger strike.  She ultimately died for the cause when she was killed as she ran in front of the King’s Horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913.
  • We then heard about Alnmouth born Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Marsh who was a contemporary of Emily and indeed was one of the protest banner carriers at her funeral in Bloomsbury. Charlie is our very own suffragette heroine who became a professional Organiser in 1909 and radically transformed the approach to protesting.  She suffered terrible abuse during three spells of imprisonment, where her hunger strike was countered with brutal force feeding which was a totally fruitless exercise as it triggered tremendous sickness and weight loss.  The authorities were so terrified that a death of a suffragette would create a martyr they passed the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act in 1913 which mandated the prisoners release for a sabbatical from their sentence to fatten up before their sentence continued.  Hence the nickname as their sentences were like a game of Cat and Mouse. The outbreak of the First World War prompted the release of the suffragettes who promised to dedicate themselves to the War Effort.  Ironically, Charlie went on to become Lord George’s chauffeur.
  • Lastly, Moira share the courageous acts of Ida and Louise Cook who attended the Duchess school in Alnwick and became known as the Heroines of the Holocaust.  Under the guise of travelling to visit Opera productions across Europe (their ‘Leisure Pleasure’) they were proponents of the Guarantor Scheme which enabled Jews to relocate if they could ‘pay their way’.  Ida funded their life-saving activities by writing romantic novels for Mills and Boon under the pseudonym Mary Burchill and Louise learned German to guide refugees through the paperwork.  Their bravery and determined efforts resulted in at least 29 people being saved and they helped hundreds of others.

As you can tell from the short summaries above, the talk from Moira was captivating and was delivered with great eloquence and gentle humour.  Kathryn gave a heartfelt thanks to Moira and, when questioned if she would write another book about great Northern women, responded that ‘it would be hard not to’.

Moira’s final task was to judge the competition ‘Your favourite Northern Woman and Why’.  Congratulations to the winner Celia Collinson for her excellent summary of Ella Pease, and runners up, Di Spark, for her tribute to Mo Mowlam and to Martha Hitchcock for citing Dorothea Sinton.

The informal Coffee Morning is on September 19th from 10 am at The Old School Gallery.

Supper Thank You

Thanks to Ethel, Judith and Margaret for an excellent supper of home-made sausage rolls, sandwiches and chutney (fabulous recipe Judith) followed by cake.  Thanks also to Anne for the birthday flowers and for doing the raffle, and a final thanks to everyone who contributed to the Baking Basket.

All in all, a most enjoyable evening which once again showed how much fun you can have with a lovely group of ladies and in the old saying – Every Day is a School Day’ – when you have such an accomplished speaker.