International Women’s Day: Have you heard of Sheila Hilda Walsh?
South Rugby's place in the women's rights movement
Walk through St Peter’s graveyard, Dunchurch, and you’ll find this gravestone:
The inscription reads:
Sheila Hilda Walsh
1913 - 1998
Here lies our beloved mother
A writer and artist
She made the world a better place
As a committed equal rights and socialist campaigner
Founder of the Women’s Movement in the 1960s
A committed equalitarian
As far as we can find out so far, Sheila Hilda Walsh was born in Manchester and moved to Coventry just before WWII. She started her own political movement in 1962, ‘The Committee for Civil Rights of Women and Children of Broken Families’ while she was seeking a divorce. She used her first-hand experiences of injustice in the law courts to campaign for change in the law; published a magazine called ‘Women’s Voice’; and built up a membership in Coventry.
Ms Walsh changed the name of the group to ‘Women’s Total Freedom Movement’ after the Matrimonial Homes Act was passed in 1967. Their main aim was to establish a women’s political party, giving women a voice in Parliament.
Our source for this article, sixties_women.fortunecity.ws/, also claims that Ms Walsh was one of the instigators of the first Oxford Women’s Liberation Movement conference at Ruskin College, Oxford, attended by more than 600 women. At the end of the conference the attendees voted unanimously on four demands: equal pay; equal education and job opportunities; free contraception and abortion on demand; and free 24-hour nurseries.1
The website sixties_women.fortunecity.ws/ concludes, saying:
“Through her was instigated a whole new era which provided the atmosphere for the birth of numerous socially conscious groups, including Battered Wives, Shelter, Virago publishers for women writers, nursery and Gingerbread groups…The cause started by Sheila Hilda Walsh has still to be fully achieved, and still needs the efforts of women worldwide to achieve it.”
SRN has contacted the website’s creators for more information.
Do you know anything about this campaigner? We’d love to know more! Get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org