WOMEN OF WORTHING, be proud of where you come from! At Here & Now to mark International Women’s Day we’ve looked at some of the inspiring women who’ve lived, studied and worked in our town and surrounding areas. Each of these women has argued, fought, strived or campaigned for something they believe in, and we are proud to celebrate every one of them.
Now we want to hear from you about the women in Worthing today who you feel will influence the next generation. Get in touch at email@example.com or tag us on social media @hereandnowmag #StuffThatMatters #WomenThatMatter
“One big tragedy may save many others”
One of the most famous suffragettes, Emily Wilding Davison fought for votes for women in Britain in the early twentieth century. Her father’s death ended her education early, and she worked as a governess so she could afford to enrol at Oxford for one term to sit her finals, earning first class honours although the university didn’t permit women to graduate. She then taught at a Seabury private school in Worthing on Heene Terrace for two years. A member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, she was arrested ten times, went on hunger strike seven times and was force fed on 49 occasions. She was known for her daring militant action, including hiding in the Palace of Westminster overnight and setting fire to postboxes. She died after being hit by the King’s Horse at the 1913 Derby when she walked onto the track during the race. Her coffin was accompanied by 5000 suffragists through the streets of London, with 50,000 people lining the route. Her death was a turning point in the campaign, and five years later Parliament granted the vote to women on limited terms. One of the suffragette’s flags that she was allegedly carrying on the day of her death hangs in the Houses of Parliament.
“I am the same crusading, anti-philistine woman I ever was”
English writer, poet and literary critic whose firebrand reputation was forged by her prolific work as co-editor of influential periodical The New Age. She led a defiant and unconventional life, with lovers including Katherine Mansfield, Wyndham Lewis and Amedeo Modigliani, whose portraits of her hang in the Tate Modern. In 1914 she moved to Paris, where she became known for acts such as partying in a dress painted on her naked body. She wrote provocatively about feminist politics, arguing against marriage and maternity as constraints on women’s imaginations and creativity, and was a vocal critic of capital punishment. She committed suicide in 1943 after destroying all her personal papers, and was found in her gas-filled flat in Worthing cradling her pet mouse.
“My advice is: Never peel potatoes. Think of the time that would be saved in this country if nobody peeled potatoes.”
Fame called later for Liz Smith, who at nearly 50 went from selling toys in Hamleys to working with Mike Leigh. Early life saw her serve with the WRENS in WWII, before struggling to bring up two children alone at a time when divorce was frowned upon. Taking odd jobs such as plastic bag quality controller, she never stopped performing, and became a much loved character actress with roles in 2point4 children, The Vicar of Dibley, The Royle Family and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She received an MBE in 2009 and died at her home in Worthing in 2016.
Dame Anita Roddick
“There’s such a poverty of praise in our society, towards women anyway. Women aren’t taught how remarkable they are.”
Pioneering businesswoman and human rights campaigner who set up The Body Shop. Born in Littlehampton, where the Body Shop HQ (designed by Worthing architects Michael Cook Associates) is still based, she had a lifelong link to Sussex which included attending school in Worthing. Her work on social and environmental issues embraced charities such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace, and on her death she gave away her entire £51m fortune to good causes.
“I am, I can, I ought, I will”
Taught for more than ten years at Davison School, where she developed a vision of “a liberal education for all”. Co-founded the Parents’ Educational Union (PEU) to offer resources to parents educating their children. Her philosophy has had a longstanding impact on homeschooling around the world. Baden Powell credited her with recognising the educational potential of Scouting for children, leading to the formation of the Scouting movement.
“[My mother] early on instilled in me that the one thing they can’t take away from you is education”.
Poet, playwright and author who is a lifelong socialist, humanist and activist on issues including gay rights and animal welfare. Born in Worthing, she won her first poetry prize at 17, and her career has included nine collections of poetry, 16 plays for stage, screen and radio, non-fiction biographies and editing poetry magazine ‘the sixties’. She is noted for her inclusive and diverse themes. She came out publicly in the early 60s and is often referred to as one of the first gay women in British public life to be open about her sexuality. She is also internationally respected for her vigorous campaigning for authors rights.
Joined a touring theatre company whilst still at school, and enjoyed great critical success on the London stage and screen. She founded the People’s Theatre together with JT Grein in 1930. She also established the English School Theatre Movement which toured Shakespeare productions around working class schools. Brought her family up in Findon where she lived until her death.
First woman to run for election to Worthing Borough Council, first woman councillor in 1910, and one of the first woman councillors in England. In 1920 she became the first female mayor of Worthing, and indeed anywhere in Sussex. She was rejected as a candidate for mayor in 1914 when the all-male selection committee ruled “it would be inadvisable to have a woman mayor while the country is in a state of war”. She was also a suffragist, who took a leading rule in the local campaigns for votes for women, and a benefactor to the poor.
Born in Hove, Alexandra starred in The Champions and is often cited as a sex symbol of the 60s and 70s. Multilingual, her career included co-presenting Miss World in the 80s, a turn on the cover of The Smiths album Rank, and later roles in Batman Begins and Eastenders. A committed vegetarian, she was a patron of Compassion in World Farming and Greyhounds in Need amongst others and founded the ABC animal sanctuary at her home in West Chiltington which still runs today.
“We need to give hope and to encourage people to realise that each and every one of us can make a difference”
Pioneered a new approach to constructive journalism by focussing upon the good in the world. She founded Positive News in 1993, the first media organisation dedicated to quality independent reporting about what’s going right, and remained editor-in-chief until her death in 2012. She attended Worthing High School for Girls, worked for the Arts Council and established Shoreham Youth Workshop in 1970, a charity that ran arts and drama projects for young people. She spent time as an independent local councillor and formed Save Our Saltings to protect the Adur estuary.
“I can’t let things be this way. We can be wonderful. We can be magnificent. We can turn this s**t around.”
By Zoe Rhodes