Tell us a little about you 


I came to Tyneside (originally from Birmingham) in 1973 to work for the North Tyneside Community Development Project, one of 12 Home Office funded projects aimed at eradicating poverty.  The government expected these projects to tackle the lifestyle of the poor;  we (collectively) very quickly shifted focus away from individuals and their culture to the economic structure, low wages, part-time work  and the way in which capitalism was moving production away from Britain to cheaper sources of labour elsewhere.  We supported tenants and residents to campaign around housing and welfare rights issues,  developed playschemes and playgrounds for children and young people,  produced  lots of research-based information on local history, the local economy and housing and contributed to national publications on similar themes.


I had been abroad for several years, including Canada, and I came back to Britain looking for feminist activity as well as a job, and found both here on Tyneside.  So while my daytime job involved working with people organising around community issues, most of my other time was involved in working with women around women’s issues.  The early 70’s saw constant attacks on the 1967 Abortion Bill and we had a very active Women’s Right to Choose Campaign on Tyneside.   I was also involved in establishing a women’s refuge in North Tyneside and Tyneside Rape Crisis both of which still exist and support women who experience domestic and/or sexual violence.  I was involved in other campaigns too such as the Working Women’s Charter which was a trade union based campaign for equal pay, equal opportunities, maternity leave, childcare etc


During these years I was involved in producing  'Scarlet Women' –“ the newsletter of the socialist feminist current” (of the Women’s Liberation Movement). Scarlet Women was produced in North Shields and had an editorial group made of women from North Shields and the north west.  It produced 12 issues on a range of topics including Reproductive Rights, Violence against Women, socialist feminism/revolutionary feminism, the 

struggle in Northern Ireland and Imperialism.  


Tell us about your work 


Although I am no longer in paid employment I am still involved in several women’s and community activities.  These include being a trustee of Rape Crisis Tyneside & Northumberland and a member of the steering group of the North East Women’s Network.  





I am still passionate about promoting women’s independence and freedom from sexual exploitation and violence. Unfortunately although the position of women is considerably better now than it was 40 years ago there is still a long way to go to create a better and more equal society for everyone.

 

 

What inspired you to do the work you do?


I would say I came from a politically aware rather than politically active family.  My mother made sure that I and my sister had a good education so that we would be able to have choices about what we did with our lives.   I always had a strong sense of justice – especially when concerning me!   Then when I was a student in London I got pregnant unintentionally.  This was 1965 – abortion was illegal.  I traipsed round lots of GPs all of whom refused to help me and I ended up having a backstreet abortion – a very frightening experience.  In fact I had to have 2 abortions for the one pregnancy because the first one didn’t work, but fortunately by the time I realised I was still pregnant I was in Trinidad and had contacts who could arrange an induced miscarriage for me.  Little wonder then that on my return to England in 1973 the first campaign I got involved with was to protect women’s access to safe abortion on the NHS.  


My years abroad – the Caribbean, southern Africa and Canada – also gave me a perspective on racism, colonialism and my experience as a woman which contributed to my understanding as a feminist.


 

What would you tell young women today? 


Learn from experience.  If you feel angry about what is happening to you, it may well be because you are being discriminated against, exploited or patronised.  Talk to other women about it.  Translate anger into action, preferably with others.  Remember:  the personal is political.  Feminism is deeply revolutionary – it attacks the basis of patriarchy by challenging the male right to control and exploit women which will only be got rid of by changing the structures – including the economic structures – of our society.  That old slogan of the WLM – “No revolution without women’s liberation” is as true today as it ever was.