Honiton's Juanita: a woman ahead of her time

PUBLISHED: 10:44 04 August 2009 | UPDATED: 23:55 15 June 2010

BORN LEADER: Juanita Maxwell Phillip

BORN LEADER: Juanita Maxwell Phillip

A CELEBRATION of the life of one of Honiton's greatest ever benefactors has attracted wide support from the community. The organiser of the Celebrating Juanita series of events,

A CELEBRATION of the life of one of Honiton's greatest ever benefactors has attracted wide support from the community.

The organiser of the Celebrating Juanita series of events, Tony Simpson, says he has received a large number of documents, photographs, old press cuttings, theatre posters and programmes.

Collectively, the items are painting a fuller picture of the life of Juanita Maxwell Phillips, former 11 times Mayor of Honiton and a woman ahead of her time.

Two talks and an exhibition will take place on September 3 and 10 in Mrs Phillips' former Little Theatre, now Meadow View Chapel.

The events will mark the 70th anniversary of the start of World War Two and showcase 80 years of Mrs Phillips' life.

Mr Simpson, who has been researching her history as part of a Honiton Senior Council project, says many of the documents he has sourced were previously considered "lost".

"Some show signs of being burned," he said.

"The collection goes back over 80 years and includes the celebrations in Honiton for the Jubilee and the 1936 Coronation, the opening of the Glen and Allhallows Playing field, Honiton Fair, hot pennies, a signed programme from the cast of a Little Theatre production and the first Honiton Summer Carnival.

"Mrs Phillips persuaded people to hold Honiton carnival in the summer. It included a superb programme of entertainment.

"Some of the sports, like public boxing, probably could not happen today, but there is much that will be familiar."

Documented are bids by early sports clubs for use of Allhallows and the refurbishment of Honiton Methodist Church in 1930, which is happening again now.

Mr Simpson said: "We have also located some political papers, including Mrs Phillips' original nomination as the first woman elected to Devon County Council and her Freedom of the Borough documents from 1938, when she became the first and only woman to receive the honour alongside men like Bomber Harris.

"We plan to show a superb political cartoon, by Stil, showing many of the leading characters who ran Honiton, including Juanita, as mayor, surrounded by men!

"Some of the items show what it was like to be the lone female councillor - for example, putting forward proposals on unmarried mothers, on cupboard space needed in new council houses, on employing women in key positions and when she established a school chemistry prize for girls."

Memorabilia on display will include letters from Buckingham Palace, Anne Chamberlain, of 10 Downing Street, various lords and former suffragettes, as well as VIP invitations.

The Celebrating Juanita events will take place during Older People's Week and will take the form of coffee mornings.

Both events will start at 10.30am.

Voluntary donations will be accepted for Dementia Care in memory of the late Mrs Phillips.


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