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History

The club badge was designed and made by Ernestine Mills, a craftswoman of national distinction. She also took an active part in the Suffragette movement.

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Soroptimist International of Tunbridge Wells & District was chartered in 1946

  • In the early days, after WW2, the club helped refugees with food, clothing and shelter.
  • Over the years the club has raised funds for three housing projects for elderly women, established a social club for the elderly and refurbished a local women’s refuge
  • Practical help for children has included befriending those in orphanages, help for families to develop parenting skills and building self esteem among young girls
  • Since 1946 members have always been willing to ‘roll up their sleeves’ and try something new to make a difference to the local community, national and international projects.

      Charter Certificate with signatures.

First President

The Club’s first President was Lilian Croskery in 1946. She said that what particularly attracted her to Soroptimism was its international aspects.

History in detail:

Shortly after World War 2 had ended, Dr Muriel Abelson, President of Sevenoaks Club, approached Miss Alice Lunn, headmistress of Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar School,  for help in setting up a ” daughter Club” in Tunbridge Wells. Miss Lunn invited a cross section of local business and professional women to meetings in Spring 1946 in the school library and in July the first meeting of the new Club was held, annual subscription fees then being set at 1 guinea.

The Charter Dinner was held at the Royal Mount Ephraim Hotel (now the Royal Wells) on 26th October 1946, with important people of the town and other high-ranking guest present. By February the following year the Club had 32 members and was well and truly in business.

Tunbridge Wells’ daughter Club, East Grinstead,came into being and was chartered in 1963.

 

President 2016

In April 2016 a Friendship Weekend was held to celebrate 70 years of the Club. Guests came from Beneden Maas, Netherlands, Corona, USA, Kirkcaldy, Scotland and Wiesbaden, Germany. A welcome reception was held at 86 Warwick Park, Tunbridge Wells with supper and a birthday cake. On the Saturday, the Club and guests visited Hever Castle and gardens and in the evening attended a Women in Harmony event at King Charles Hall for entertainment and supper. On the Sunday, everyone attended the Presidents Lunch held at the Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells and in the evening a farewell evening was held at 86 Warwick Park.

Obituary

Barbara Bradford : Died 17th September 2017. She was a member for 25 years and actively fostered the Club’s international links as the Club Friendship Link Coordinator.

#WhoIsShe? Award

As part of the celebration of the first centenary of Soroptimist International in 2021, local member June Bridgeman has been selected as one of more than 100 Soroptimists in the United Kingdom to be commemorated as part of the #Whoisshe? Campaign.

June Bridgeman joined SI Tunbridge Wells in 1966 while working at the Prices and Incomes Board. Senior Whitehall appointments later included the Cabinet Office Think Tank and Transport Director for London. She was made a CB (Companion of the Bath) to mark her national and international achievements for road and vehicle safety.

As Deputy Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, she built up close working relations with many women’s organisations. In 1995 she was the Fawcett Society delegate at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York and the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing. She then sat as one of the trio of Commissioners conducting the three-year BSE Public Inquiry. In 2001 she received a Woman of Achievement Award from the European Union of Women in recognition of an outstanding contribution to pan-European understanding and progress.

Until her marriage to Michael Bridgeman, and arrival of the first of their five children, she served as a Territorial Army Signals Officer, driving heavy lorries and acquiring rifle-shooting skills. Her years as a Bishops’ Selector for the Advisory Council on the Church’s Ministry included selecting the first women to be trained as deacons. Reflecting her interest in girls’ education, she was a council member of the Girls’ Public Day School Trust, governor at several schools and honorary Fellow of Queen Mary Westfield College.

As SI Tunbridge Wells Club President 1996-1997 and Club Programme Action Officer for many years, she used her experience in public policy-making to further the work of Soroptimist International. In Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society and the Town Forum she promoted women’s perspectives. Following a street survey, asking women to identify local problems for themselves and their children, she led the South East Region Rail Project, investigating rail travel and personal safety through women’s eyes, resulting in a number of national improvements. Fact-based reports tackled other issues including safety in car parks and taxis, spiked drinks, facilities for teenagers, recycling provision, design of public lavatories, and reducing litter. She was a founder member of the Kent Advisory Committee on Domestic Violence. Reflecting a lifelong interest in local history, she helped found Edenbridge Historical Society, Friends of Woodbury Park Cemetery and Friends of Tunbridge Wells Cemetery to encourage historical, environmental and educational engagement, especially by local school children.

 

Caroline Auckland President Elect Soroptimist Tunbridge Wells said: “We are delighted that June Bridgeman has been selected as one of these wonderful women being celebrated to mark the centenary of Soroptimist International. June is a great asset to our club. Her astuteness, drive and focus have taken issues to the top and have indeed done much in raising the profile of our organisation. She is interested in everyone and always asks the most thought-provoking questions of our speakers. She is a great orator herself with a brilliant insightful mind, often anticipating issues which need investigation before they become national issues. She also has a great sense of community spirit and always knows the right person to make connections with, and gently encourages others with those connections.”

The centenary of the organisation seemed a fitting opportunity to recognise and celebrate the professional and personal commitments made by these outstanding members through the years. These #Whoisshe? campaign members, both past and present, from Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland have all been nominated by Soroptimist Clubs for their noteworthy contribution to society in the furtherance of the aims and objects of the organisation. A certificate signed by the Federation President will be presented to each of the #Whoisshe? women through their Clubs.