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History of our club

Soroptimist International Canterbury was established in 1961 by a group of like-minded women who wanted to make a difference.

Our regalia was designed and created by students at the Canterbury Art College in that same year. The main emblem signifies the city, the cathedral and the world and the links of the chain are engraved with the names of our presidents across the years.


Historically presidents are entitled to stand for two years in our SIGBI federation. We’ve had amazing Presidents at SI Canterbury, who’ve led and supported our work and projects.

Agatha Okwudinka – President 2022-23

Agatha has been a Soroptimist for over twenty years. She joined SI Apapa, Nigeria in 1999 and was club secretary and President during her time with the club.

On moving to Kent Agatha joined SI Canterbury and took over the presidency in April 2022.

Carol Reed – President 2021 – 2022

Carol moved to Canterbury in 1984 and joined Save the Children Canterbury. She  became chairman in 1994, the year that marked STC’s 75th Anniversary Year and continued in that role for over 36 years.

In 2000 she was invited to a Soroptimist International Canterbury club to receive a cheque for Save the Children. She joined the club soon after, the beginning of a long and active membership of Soroptimist International.

Carol held the role of secretary for 14 years and President twice. During that time SI Canterbury and Save the Children Canterbury formed a successful partnership. One of Carol’s biggest contributions has been organising events and fundraising. She helped organise Golden Anniversary celebrations in 2011 and in 202 ,60th Anniversary Celebrations, Pamper & Well Being Days, a Fashion Show, an ABBA tribute at the Marlowe Theatre, International Women’s Day Dinners, Via Francigena Walks and many more events. She also performed a rap on membership at a Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland conference. Carol is also active in SI South East England and became Regional Secretary in 2017.

Carol has received two awards for service to voluntary work. In 2010, a Community Service Award attending Buckingham Palace to receive an engraved vase for 25 years of service to STC. In 2019 the British Empire Medal for services to Save the Children. This was also the Centenary of the organisation and an active fund raising year with a gala dinner and service in the Cathedral. 

Dawn Lilford – President 2020 – 2021

Dawn was born and raised in Canterbury. Typical of Canterbury in the 80’s her first job was with BT where she worked in Network Planning during the change over from analogue to digital. She left to have two children and found herself unable to leave them for a career so began her much loved time working in Primary and Secondary schools with children with special needs. This was incredibly rewarding and she is still in touch with young people she had the privilege of working with.

She now manages one of the Lilford Art Galleries which her husband opened 20 years ago, however her passion still remains with trying to make a difference. This is why she became a Soroptimist in 2016. Dawn also volunteers at Dogs Trust Canterbury by doing home visits, supporting fundraisers and deep cleaning tasks.

Millie Brierley – President 2019 – 2020

Millie was born in London but grew up in Detroit, Michigan. She returned to the UK in the late 1960’s aged eighteen.

She joined SI Canterbury after moving to Whitstable in 2014 and became Communication Officer and Club Photographer. She enjoyed volunteering on projects including the Meru Women’s Garden Project, Canterbury Women’s Refuge and the ‘Wellbeing Through Creativity and Art’ project for the elderly.  Millie is particularly concerned about our global environment, isolation amongst the elderly, domestic violence and homelessness amongst women.

Millie’s early married life revolved around her children and GP husband in Cambridge. As a GP’s wife she became aware of the care and commitment by people in the community.  After completing a BA (Hons) and MA in Photography she worked on several projects at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.  These were sensitive collaborations between Millie and patients, medical staff, social workers, care workers and families aimed at exploring experiences within the NHS.  They included large, black and white photographic portraits with key phrases contributed by the participants, including:  ‘Unsung Heroes’ (about General Practice), ‘The Power of Care’ (about Addenbrooke’s), ‘Care at the Leading Edge’ (about rare diseases), ‘Because They Cared for Us’ (about the elderly), and ‘Who Cares’ (about homelessness). These were exhibited at Addenbrooke’s,  Queen’s College, GP surgeries and made into booklets.  They raised awareness and celebrated the many people who care for others. Millie also exhibited photographs at the Royal Academy of Art Summer Exhibition for Age UK and an exhibition about ‘Fragility’ at the Zoology Department, Cambridge.   Millie lectured in photography in further education and on an undergraduate photography module for Natural History students at Anglia Ruskin University.

Carol Townsend – President 2017 – 2018

Carol became a Soroptimist in 2014 on her retirement from a career in education. She quickly took on the roles of Friendship Link Coordinator and Website Administrator then worked with others to prepare and secure the bid for the SIGBI Federation Project 2016 – 2019. She became Region Ambassador for this project; the Meru Women’s Garden Project, in 2015 and was privileged to visit Meru as part of the SIGBI study tour in 2018. She was President of SI Canterbury 2017 – 2018.

During her career, Carol taught in secondary and primary schools in Northamptonshire, Canterbury and surrounding villages. She became Deputy Headteacher of Lady Joanna Thornhill Primary School, Wye in 1997 then Headteacher of St Peter’s Methodist Primary School in Canterbury in 2003.

In retirement, as well as her role as a Soroptimist, Carol carried out voluntary work with the Youth offending Team. She also enjoys travelling and exploring new cultures.

Yvonne Freeman – President 2016 – 2017

Yvonne joined SI Canterbury in 2009 and held office as Friendship Link Co-ordinator and Regional Representative before becoming President in 2016.

Yvonne’s theme for her year as President was ‘Wellbeing for Women’ and she formed links with a number of organisations in order to achieve this including Kent & Canterbury Hospital and Target Ovarian Cancer.

Following her year as President, she became Programme Action Officer for the club and subsequently took on the role for the South East Region serving on the United Kingdom Programme Action Committee (UKPAC) for SIGBI. She then went on to serve as Partnership Assistant Programme Director for SIGBI.

Yvonne had a wide and varied career having worked in the petrochemical industry prior to starting her family. She then went on to study for her degree at Canterbury Christ Church University and began work in the news industry. She finished her working life in education as a School Business Director for a large academy in Kent during which time she set up a full day care nursery school and a pre-school. Following retirement, she continued her involvement with the latter as Company Secretary, Director and Trustee.

Jane Webb – President 2015 – 2016

Jane became a Soroptimist in 2000, originally in Northwich, Cheshire, where she served as Press Officer, Programme Action Officer and President. Her special interest was in women in the criminal justice system and she began a project to make links with women at HMP Foston Hall.

She moved to Kent and transferred to Canterbury in 2014. She joined the work to Reduce Women’s Imprisonment and was part of a team working with Kent, Surrey and Sussex Probation Trust. Jane became President in April 2015 wanting to continue the RWI work as well as being more aware of Soroptimists around the world by marking UN and Soroptimist days such as International Women’s Day & the UN Day of the Environment. The highlight of the year was the September Friendship Link weekend with guests from around the world. Jane went on to serve as Region President in 2017-18 and continues to be  an active member of our club.

Jane’s working life was in the public sector, both in criminal justice and social care, and she retired as the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman in 2011. She then became trustee of several charities and enjoyed making new friends and exploring Kent.

Carol Salter – President 2014 – 2015

Carol was attracted to SI Canterbury because she wanted to give something back to the community by supporting women and girls.

Carol began her NHS career as a Cadet Nurse at the Royal Sea Bathing & Hill House Hospital before undertaking Enrolled Nurse training in 1977. She worked in Ramsgate covering a range of specialities and attended night school to qualify for RGN training. Carol completed the first Post-Enrolled conversion course (PECC) in Eastbourne in 1987 and secured a position as staff nurse at Kent & Canterbury Hospital. She later became Charge Nurse seconded from the NHS to the community drug team. In 1993 she qualified as a Health Visitor and worked in this role in Hastings.

Moving nearer home Carol becoming the lead HV and breast feeding coordinator for Domestic Abuse, homeless and army families in Dover. She then worked in Thanet and Herne Bay before joining the Thanet School Nursing Team.

Carol retired from the NHS after 40 years in 2014 returning to work as an Independent School Nurse for a secondary school. In her spare time she enjoys writing contemporary fantasy and Science Fiction novels.

Liz West – President 2012 – 2014

 Liz joined SI Canterbury in October 2007. She worked as a Film Continuity Editor.



Jacque Emery – President 2011 – 2012

 Jacque was a member of SI Bootle for 17 years and Club President in 2003/4 before transferring to SI Canterbury. She became President then Regional President in 2013 – 2014.

Jacque was a fellow student at the Royal College of Music studying opera. She went on to become a music teacher and later an Education Adviser with Sefton Borough Council. She later became Chief Examiner at LAMDA, London School of Music and Dramatic Art.

Jacque contributed greatly to Soroptimism with her greatest achievement the publications; Voices in Verse and Teller of Tales. Both raised thousands for Soroptimist global causes. These included the ‘Big Project’ , improving maternity care for women in the Gambia, and our partnership project, Help and Homes for Children, re-homing orphaned children in Sierra Leone. The success of these projects also united the Soroptimist world. From Canada to New Zealand we received interest and thanks for the publications. Some clubs even utilised them in their new member and publicity events.

Helen Madzokere – President 2010 – 2011

Helen transferred to SI Canterbury from SI Bulawayo.  In her working life she was a Consultant Physiotherapist.




Hazel Braithwaite  – President 2008 – 2010

Hazel joined SI Canterbury in 2003 attracted by the prospect of involvement in community activity with a group of like-minded women. She found the friendship and easy team working a welcome relief. She became Programme Action Officer and then Club President and went on to become Region Programme Action Officer and a member of UK Programme Action Committee for South East Region.

Hazel began her career in IT as a Business Systems Analyst and progressed into Project Management and then General Business Management, running the professional services division of a software company for several years.

In her mid-thirties Hazel took a Masters in Occupational Psychology, qualifying as a Chartered Occupational Psychologist. She then became a Work Performance Coach supporting people, teams and organisations to achieve business goals and improve well-being. In parallel, for some years, she lectured on a postgraduate programme in Business Psychology at University of Westminster.

Hazel retired in 2014. Her community activities included committee member of the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Justices of the Peace (Kent), a director of the District of Canterbury Credit Union, and an active school parent.

 Maria Grieve – President 2nd time 2005 – 2008
Carol Reed – President 2004 – 2005

Carol moved to Canterbury in 1984, the year the world got to know about famine in Ethiopia, the worst for a century.  She said, “It was the first time I ever remember seeing anything like it on television!  The thought of not being able to feed my children still makes me tearful today.” She joined Save the Children (STC) Canterbury branch.

In 1994 Carol became chairman of Save the Children Canterbury in the year that marked STC’s 75th Anniversary Year.  During 2000 Carol was presented with a cheque for Save the Children by Soroptimist International and was asked to join the club.

In her time as a Soroptimist she was an extremely active, efficient member holding the role of secretary for 14 years in total and President.

In 2010 Carol received a Community Service Award from the Canterbury Rotary Club for her services to voluntary work and attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace receiving an engraved vase for her 25 years of service to STC. She remains Chief Executive of STC Canterbury.

 Maureen Keppler – President 2003 – 2004

Maureen was a member of SI Ashford and SI Canterbury.  In her working life she was a Company Director.


Nancy Burroughs – President 2002 – 2003

Nancy prides herself on being, “Born and bred in Yorkshire….God’s own country”. She transferred to SI Canterbury from SI Dewsbury where her main interest was Domestic Violence and she led teams/projects in this field.

Nancy qualified as a teacher in English, Speech and Drama. Having a strong interest in theatre, she taught and promoted drama in the mainstream and special schools in which she worked in West Yorkshire. Over 27 years, she became arts coordinator, staff tutor, Deputy Head and led a team of multi-disciplinary specialists in a profoundly multi-handicapped unit. Nancy also volunteered in youth clubs where she admits she learnt more about life than she taught.

Her interest in theatre led her to wardrobe mistress at a prestigious amateur theatre where she met her husband. On retirement the couple moved to Canterbury to be nearer their children.  Here she volunteered at the Women’s Resources and Rapeline and became a member of the Domestic Violence Forum and Refuge. Nancy was also a trustee to a set of Alms-houses. Her interests continue to lie in theatre, art, sewing, embroidery, cooking, literacy.

Pat Wood – President 2001 – 2002

 Pat joined SI Canterbury in May 2000 transferring from SI Ashford . She worked as a Postmistress at Mersham and as a Shop Mobility Co-ordinator.





Maria Grieve – President 2000 – 2001

Maria was a member of SI Ashford and SI Canterbury until 2014.

She worked in Freelance Secretarial Services.



Janice Pryor – President 1999 – 2000
Heather Nightingale – President 2nd time 1998 – 1999
Diane Adkins – President 2nd time 1997 – 1998


Christine Browne – President 1996 – 1997

Christine worked for the Inspection & Registration Department of Social Services.


Anne Henley – President 1995 – 1996

Anne worked for Canterbury City Council. She organised a service in Canterbury Cathedral to mark 75 years of Soroptimism.


Rosemary Kingsworth – President 1994 – 1995

Rosemary worked as an office Manager at Neeves & Leyland Solicitors.



Janice Pryor – President 1993 – 1994 

Janice worked as a Legal Secretary at Gardner & Croft Solicitors.



Jenny Bough – President 1992 – 1993

Jenny was a Barrister and lecturer in agricultural law at the University of Kent.




Joan Thomason – President 1991 – 1992

Joan worked at the Strode Park Foundation


Margaret Allen – President 1990 – 1991

Margaret was Chief Administrator at the Strode Park Foundation


Jill Wickens – President 1989 – 1990

Jill was a legal secretary for Canterbury City Council


Jean Byers – President 1988 – 1989

Jean was headmistress of Barton Court Grammar School


Su Rennison – President  1987 – 1988

Su was a Tutor Librarian and a dominant figure n Canterbury Cathedral work.

She passed away in April 2015 whilst still a club member,

Shirley Barlow  resident 1986 – 1987

Shirley was Head of Classics at the University of Kent and a Master of Eliot College.


Heather Nightingale – President 1985 – 1986

Heather was Chief Nursing Officer at Kent & Canterbury Hospital.

Mary Starbuck – President 1984 – 1985

Mary was Chief Consultant Opthalmic Surgeon for Kent & Canterbury hospital. She wasalso  a volunteer surgeon for SightSavers. She passed away in January 2016.

Diane Steltner – President 1983 – 1984

Dianne was a solicitor. She was a SI Region President.


Greta Albery – President 1982 – 1983

Greta was Inspector for PE in Kent.

Diane Claisse – President 1981 – 1982

Diane was Principal of the School of Radiology at K &C Hospital. She passed away after a short illness in December 2014 aged74.  This is the first photo, found online, of an SI Canterbury President wearing the initial official Chain of Office before it was adapted.

Elizabeth MacNamara – President 1980 – 1981

Elizabeth was a Postmistress in Herne. Her father owned a rubber plant in Malaysia and the family were interned by the Japanese in the 2nd World War.

Su Rennison – President 1979 – 1980

Sue was a Tutor librarian at Nonington College.


Diane Adkins – President 1978 – 1979

Diane was Principal Lecturer in Education at Christchurch University.

Betty Davies – President 1976 – 1977

Betty was Deputy Head at Frank Hooker School (now Canterbury High School).

Betty Davies & Diane Adkins divided the following year 1977 – 1978, each serving eighteen months. The timings changed to harmonise with the SIGBI calendar.

Nancy Hazel – President 1975 – 1976

Nancy was a Research Fellow in the School of Social Work at the University of Kent. In 1974, she was part of a working group from the Council of Europe that reporting on child placements. The following year she developed the Kent Family Placement Project (KFPP), forerunner of all modern foster care across the UK. She was a pioneering figure in the development of professional fostering in the UK in the 1970s and 80s writing three papers on the subject. Today, many of her innovations, such as voluntary family placement and empowerment of foster caregivers, are commonplace.

Helen Heim – President 1974 – 1975

Helen was the proprietor of the Queen Elizabeth Restaurant, 44 & 45 high street, Canterbury (the original Club meeting venue)

Rose Everett – President (second time) 1973 – 1974

Bunty Duncombe – President 1972 – 1973

Bunty owned a shoe shop in Whitstable.


Audrey Grey – President 1971 – 1972

Audrey was Chief Administrator/Director of nursing Services at Kent & Canterbury Hospital


Pamela Langley – President 1970 – 1971

Pamela transferred from SI Cambridge. She was Almoner for 13 years at Addenbrooks Hospital and Chief Almoner (Medical Social Worker) at Kent & Canterbury Hospital. She was sponsored as a SIGBI & SI President.


Francesca Palmer  – President 1969 – 1970

Francesca was born in 1915 and died at 91 years in 2006. She was a professional musician having studied classical music in Dijon and Paris then at Oxford. She played the cello and viola de gamba, a Baroque instrument and performed for BBC radio and on tours of Australia in the 1950’s.Her father was the artist, Alfred Palmer (1877 – 1951).


Greta Hawkins – President 1968 – 1969


Greta held a senior staff position with the National Coal Board, covering all Kent coal fields from the late 1940s until she retired in the 1970s, at 55 years old.

She was a key member of the Dover Business and Professional Women’s Guild until the 1970s. She frequently spoke about her Soroptimist membership and after her retirement kept in contact with a number of members. Greta passed away in April 2015. ( Information kindly received  from Julian Randall, long-time friend and neighbour via SIGBI.

Mary Bailey – President 1967 – 1968

Mary was Headmistress at Simon Langton school. She was also the first woman to be flown into Berlin after the 2nd World War with the remit to improve education services in Germany


Rose Everett – President 1966 – 1967

Rose was Principal of Science, at Nonnington College.

Dorothy Edwards – President 1965 – 1966

Dorothy (Dolly) grew up in Dover moving to Canterbury aged 23. She was an executive officer at DHSS in her adult life.

She claimed that her dog “Sweep” saved her life during bombing in World War 2, by leading her away from a shop that was going to be bombed.

She often spoke about her time with Soroptimists International and had fond memories of the Soroptimists’ trip to County Kerry in 1972, and the warm reception they received. She mentioned that many of the local shops had notices in the windows saying “Welcome To The Soroptimists.”

Enid Blackith – President 1964 – 1965

Enid Blackith was Headmistress at Barton Court School, Canterbury retiring in 1967. According to Tim Jeal, editor and writer of Baden-Powell: Founder of the Boy Scouts, Enid was one of Ethel Baden-Powell’s nieces. She was the 2nd wife of Lord Baden-Powell founder of the Boy Scouts.

Edith Thynne – President 1963 – 1964

Edith was an Occupational Health Sister

Ellinor Margaret Hinks – President 1961 – 1963

Ellinor, who died aged 91 in 2004, was an example to women and a well-chosen Founding President.  She was one of the most visionary physical educationists of the 20th century, transforming PE in Britain.

Ellinor attended Bedford College of Physical Education and taught at various girls’ schools and IM Marsh College, Liverpool. In 1952, she became deputy principal of Nonington College of Physical Education, Kent, and principal seven years later. She developed Nonington’s reputation for gymnastics and dance and all curriculum areas flourished. A keen photographer, she made the ‘Movement in the Making’ films used as teaching aids in schools and colleges.

In the 1960s student numbers increased from 200 to nearly 600 and she expanded facilities to include two state-of-the-art gymnasia, a performing arts centre and a library. After a long battle with the Ministry of Education, she inaugurated the country’s first coed PE course in 1966. Beyond the college, she was an influential national figure in PE/Movement circles.

After retirement in 1974, she continued to support Dance and Arts related activities and co-founded the Lisa Ullmann travelling scholarship fund. Following her death two awards were initiated in her memory allowing visits to British Charities’ centres to offer workshops on providing opportunities to dance for those with handicapping conditions, and in particular to work with children.