Civic leaders attend launch of book about Juanita Maxwell Phillips

Suffragette became record 11 times Mayor of Honiton and was Devon’s first female county councillor.

A book about the life of a trailblazing former Mayor of Honiton received an enthusiastic welcome when it was launched in the town last week.

Viva Juanita!, written by Dr Julia Neville, charts the rise of suffragette Juanita Maxwell Phillips, who stood for office as soon as women were given the vote and went on to serve as Honiton’s civic leader a record 11 times as well as becoming Devon’s first female county councillor.

The book was launched at a coffee morning, hosted by Honiton Senior Voice in the Methodist Church on Wednesday, before Dr Neville attended a book signing event at Honiton Library.

Speaking about the research that went into producing the book, Dr Neville told the Midweek Herald: “I really enjoyed doing it, because she was a wonderful woman.

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“Above all, I was inspired to write the book by Juanita’s determination to make a difference.”

Dr Neville said Juanita’s interest in serving the public was rooted in her time at the War Office during World War One.

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She went on to ensure big projects were delivered in Honiton, including the introduction of a mains water supply, but also strongly supported social causes.

“She didn’t forget that life has got its emotional and dramatic side,” said Dr Neville.

“She wanted women to enjoy fun events and she ensured they did through things like the Women’s Institute, pageants and theatre productions.”

Senior Voice chairman Vic Bowsher opened last Wednesday’s coffee morning, before Honiton’s current mayor, Councillor David Foster, the youngest council leader in the town’s history, and Councillor Jerry Brook, the chairman of Devon County Council, gave warmly-received speeches about Juanita and the book.

Mr Foster spoke about the little kindnesses that are often overlooked when people reflect on Juanita’s many achievements, in particular her consideration for the young, old and those disadvantaged by illness or poverty.

Tony Simpson, the former secretary of Honiton Senior Voice who has researched Juanita’s history and been closely involved with the production of the book, introduced the author to a gathering of around 40 people.

Dr Neville told the Herald: “People said some very kind and appropriate words.

“Juanita is such a local hero, I don’t want her to be forgotten.”

Viva Juanita! is on sale now at Honiton Tourist Information Centre, priced �10. It can also be ordered online -

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