On May 13th 2018 Soroptimist International of Halifax celebrated its 90th Anniversary with a celebration lunch attended by 75 members and friends from other Yorkshire Clubs. They were pleased to welcome members from their Friendship links, two from SI Deventer, Holland and six from SI Staffordshire Moorlands. The Mayor and Mayoress of Halifax, Councillor Ferman Ali and his wife Mrs Shaheen Ali, SIGBI President Sue Biggs, Yorkshire President Chris Clark , Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Mrs Christine Harris, and Mrs Geraldine Carter all spoke at the lunch celebrating the Club’s many achievements over the years.
SI Halifax was formed on the 11th May 1928. Its first President had once been a Suffragette who had battled to get the vote for women. Mrs Laura Willson was arrested at a Suffragette Rally at Westminster in London and sentenced to 14 days in Holloway Prison. During the Great War Laura managed the Women’s section of her husband’s firm and supervised the welfare conditions and organising, including crèche facilities for workers children. She was awarded the MBE for her service in the field and went on to become the first President of the Association of Women Engineers.
Under Laura Willson’s leadership the club started in full swing and sent 6 unmarried mothers and their babies to the Withensea Home each year. Another interesting project was a ‘Scheme set up to help the Unemployed.’
Halifax soon became involved in the wider Soroptimist network and in 1930 sent a resolution to Conference ‘That a portion of the time shall be devoted to considering some service schemes of such general interest as will be helpful to all Clubs in drawing up their programmes.’ The Club’s influence on Soroptimist International was taking hold!
In 1933 SI Halifax saw the start of the Soroptimist Housing in Halifax, led by the Club President Jessie Dickinson when they formed a joint Housing Association with Rotary. It became apparent that the great need which was not being met by government or the local authority was that of women living alone. A scheme was launched on Halifax to build 40 single person’s flats for the occupation of single women and widows. Jessie felt that if the need was so great in Halifax it must be equally so elsewhere and so in 1937 she sent her first contribution ‘ Housing and the Single Woman’ to the Soroptimist Magazine. She was bombarded with requests for information and to speak to other clubs. Jessie became a Housing Consultant to the Federation of Soroptimist Clubs of Great Britain and in 1960 she published a book detailing the work done either by Clubs by their own efforts or with help from other organisations. One member Mrs E. Cockroft MBE JP served as SIGBI President in 1936/37.
SI Halifax has strong links with SI Yorkshire and Miss E.M.Thompson, Club President, became SI Yorkshire’s first Secretary. Two of our current club members, Mrs Irene Peaker and Mrs Rosi Gemmell have both been past Yorkshire Presidents and Irene has also been a Yorkshire Treasurer.
SI Halifax has a long and proud history and is a Club that quietly gets on with its Programme Action Work. With a current membership of 18 there is a total of 496 years of Service between them, including two active members each having an astonishing 48 years’Service. The Club looks proudly back on its history and continues to work towards the future, Empowering, Enabling and Educating Women and Girls.
Click on the link below for a short life history or our first Club President: