Rhoda Frances McGaw

Rhoda McGaw is probably best known for the 230 seat theatre in Woking named after her.
Rhoda Frances Pears was born on 3 July 1908 at Rolvenden Kent to Francis, a planter, and Isabel Rhoda née Drabble.  She was the 5 times great-granddaughter of Andrew Pears who invented the famous clear Pears soap.

Her family moved to Lanadron (now Barricane) St Johns Hill Road soon after her birth and was educated at Malvern College. In 1929 Rhoda married William Anderson McGaw an export-import merchant. They lived in Hampstead and had one child, Rhoda Christine Anderson born in 1930. By the beginning of the Second World War they had moved to Woking.

During the war there was considerable support for the Soviet Union in their fight against the Nazis. In 1942 the Anglo-Russian Friendship Committee was formed. A meeting was chaired by Rhoda McGaw who later received a letter from the Ambassador of the Soviet Union to Great Britain, Mr Ivan Maisky. He thanked her for a message of greeting received on the 35th anniversary of the founding of the USSR.

Throughout the war events were held to raise funds for Stalingrad Hospital and in 1943, beds were provided and named after the towns or groups which had raised the money. The following year Rhoda received another letter from Ivan Maisky saying that some money received had been used to purchase a Westinghouse mobile x-ray machine.

After the war Rhoda pursued her political interests by successfully standing as a Communist candidate in local elections and as a Labour candidate in the 1960s when she became the first and only woman chair of Woking Urban District Council.

Rhoda McGaw died on 5th July 1971.

In 1975 a new 230 seat theatre opened in Woking as part of the new Centre Halls building and was named the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, it remains in its original position and is now part of the entertainment centre.