For the past couple of months, our new social media series has been celebrating the wonderful, inspirational #WomenOfWoking throughout history! From sportswomen to artists, there's a lot of stories to share, especially in the year we celebrate 100 years since the first women in the UK were allowed to vote. So in honour of these great women, here's a round-up of who we've featured so far.
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A keen sportswoman, Amy was one of the foremost golfers of her generation, winning the British Ladies’ Golf Championship in 1896.
She is described as being tall, slim, mannish in her choice of clothes, but still elegant. She was an exceptionally able woman, and a good all-round sportswoman, taking up golf when adult and developing an obsession for it. She was captain of Surrey Ladies’ County Golf Association in 1900. After a falling-out, her friend Dame Ethel Smyth the composer, named an unsympathetic character ‘Pascoe’ in her opera ‘The Wreckers’. Eugénie, the former French Empress living at Farnborough Hill, was also part of Amy’s circle of friends.
In 1951, Woking schoolteacher Joyce Pearce (pictured with the Dalai Lama, 1984) started Ockenden Venture, providing shelter, training, education & hope for thousands of refugees across the world.
Over half a decade, Joyce Pearce at Ockenden Ventures set up schools for Tibetan refugees in India, sponsored education of South African students, set up refugee schools in Pakistan, Thailand & Cambodia, & resettled Vietnamese refugees in Britain.
After she left St Katherine's School in Hook Heath Woking in 1914, Mairi Chisholm bonded with Elsie Knocker over their love of motorbike riding, soon competing in sidecar trials together.
With the outbreak of WW1, Chisholm & Knocker went to the front in Belgium to "do their bit", providing first aid to injured soldiers and saving thousands of lives. Realising that the hospital bases were miles from the front lines, Elsie and Mairi decided to take things into their own hands, and set up their own first aid base in the heart of battle zone in Pervyse. Soon the pair were dubbed the 'Madonnas of Pervyse'.
Adelina de Lara
Adelina de Lara's musical talent was clear from an early age. She moved to Frankfurt-am-Main in 1886 to become Clara Schumann’s pupil, working alongside Brahms and Dvorak, and much of her childhood was spent playing piano world tours.
Adelina settled in Woking in the 1920s, and had a successful career as a piano teacher. She would often play privately to local society such as Dame Ethel Smyth and Gerald and Betty Balfour. As WW2 was ending, she discovered a new career in broadcasting, giving talks on Clara Schumann and recording many of Schumann’s works. She was still broadcasting and recording up until the 1950s.
Lady Margaret Beaufort
Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, lived at Woking Palace from 1466 until at least 1471. Lady Margaret was a fierce matriarch in the House of Tudor, and a key figure in the Wars of the Roses. After her son won the crown, she gained the lofty title of “My Lady the King’s Mother”.
Having fit in four marriages by her late twenties, Margaret enjoyed the independence she was granted as King’s mother. She was given the right to hold property separate from her husband, and even given a special commission to administer justice in the north of England.
Lady Margaret Hall, the first Oxford College to admit women, is named in her honour.
Dame Ethel Smyth
Dame Ethel Smyth was one of Woking’s most famous former residents. She was determined to devote her life to music (despite her father’s protests), becoming an acclaimed opera composer.
Ethel was also a friend of the Pankhursts, and a passionate supporter of the Suffragette movement. So passionate in fact, that she left music for two years to devote her energies to the movement! She is pictured below with Emmeline Pankhurst sat on her lap as a policeman came to arrest them at her Hook Heath Home.
Ethel was sentenced to two months in prison in 1912 for smashing the window of an anti-suffrage politician’s office, & composed a battle song for the movement ‘The March of the Women’. On top of all this, she even trained as a radiographer during the First World War and subsequently was attached to the XIIIth Division of the French army at a large military hospital in Vichy.
“I am an informal sort of person, more at home on a doorstep than a dais.”
Rhoda McGaw was a socialist activist and local politician, proud to be the first Labour chairman of Woking Council. Having worked as an active Labour Movement member for over 25 years, one of her ideas was to get a Youth Committee together, to hear young people’s ideas on the Woking of the future.
The Rhoda McGaw Theatre was named in memory of Rhoda, as she had campaigned for Woking Council to fund the local dramatic community.
To celebrate #Suffragette100, we've got a talk coming up about the formidable Dame Ethel Smyth - composer of the suffragettes' anthem March of the Women Join us 8 March to learn more about this inspirational woman.