Look who’s com­ing to din­ner

Les­ley com­piles a guest list of in­spi­ra­tional women

EADT Suffolk - - It’s All About Suffolk - Les­ley Dol­phin

WOMEN have been mak­ing the news a lot re­cently and I’ve been asked sev­eral times which women have in­spired me. Well there have been so many here in the county that I thought I would play the din­ner party game this month and choose Suf­folk women, past or present, who I would love to in­vite round for an evening to­gether. I think I might need a big din­ner ta­ble.

The Gar­rett sis­ters, Mil­li­cent and Elizabeth must both be there. It’s 100 years since some women first got the vote and both the Gar­rett sis­ters played ma­jor roles in the suf­frage move­ment. Dame Mil­li­cent Fawcett, as she be­came, cam­paigned tire­lessly for women to have the vote (see page 16), and Elizabeth Gar­rett An­der­son put suf­frage into ac­tion. She was the first woman to qual­ify in Bri­tain as a physi­cian and sur­geon, and when she be­came mayor of Alde­burgh she was the first woman mayor in the UK. It would be fas­ci­nat­ing to hear what they think of women’s roles to­day.

We’d have to have or­ganic veg on the menu be­cause I would also in­vite Lady Eve Bal­four, one of the founders of the or­ganic move­ment, a co-founder and first pres­i­dent of the Soil As­so­ci­a­tion in 1946. She and her sis­ter used in­her­i­tance money to buy a farm in Haugh­ley Green where she launched the Haugh­ley ex­per­i­ment, a com­par­i­son of con­ven­tional and or­ganic farm­ing. Sadly Eve Bal­four died in the 1980s, but I would have loved to in­vite her to be one of my BBC Ra­dio Suf­folk af­ter­noon sofa guests.

At din­ner I would sit her next to a woman who has cam­paigned for mod­ern farm­ers, Lady Cran­brook. She is of­fi­cially Caro­line, Count­ess of Cran­brook hav­ing mar­ried the Earl of Cran­brook in 1976. For the first three years of their mar­riage they lived in the Malaya jun­gle, and then came to the fam­ily farm and es­tate at Great Glemham, which Lady Cran­brook learned to run, at the same time as bring­ing up her fam­ily. She has won awards for cam­paign­ing for the lo­cal food in­dus­try, in­clud­ing fight­ing to keep lo­cal abat­toirs op­er­at­ing. She is one of the founders of the Alde­burgh Food and Drink Fes­ti­val, so our din­ner would def­i­nitely be lo­cally sourced.

I would also set a place for Flora San­des, who was the only Bri­tish woman to serve as a soldier in WW1. Her fa­ther was a vicar and they moved to Suf­folk when she was nine. At the be­gin­ning of the war Flora signed up as an am­bu­lance vol­un­teer and trav­elled to the king­dom of Ser­bia, where she was able to en­rol in their army. She ended up pro­moted to cap­tain and was dec­o­rated with seven medals. Flora re­turned to Suf­folk in her later years and I’ve spo­ken to peo­ple who re­mem­ber see­ing her driv­ing around in her bath chair. She died in 1956 but what amaz­ing tales she would have to tell.

I’d love to chat to Peggy Cole again. She would make a great ad­di­tion to my soirée. Peggy be­came well known af­ter star­ring in the film, Aken­field, and turn­ing her coun­cil house gar­den into a ma­jor at­trac­tion. She was an or­di­nary Suf­folk gal who got to do some ex­tra­or­di­nary things, and as well as her sto­ries of old Suf­folk ways and folk­lore she would have some tra­di­tional lo­cal recipes to cook up for our din­ner. She could help El­iza Ac­ton with the menu. El­iza grew up in Suf­folk at the turn of the 19th cen­tury and was prob­a­bly the Delia Smith of her day. She wrote the very first cook book aimed at house­holds, Mod­ern Cook­ery for Pri­vate Fam­i­lies. Ap­par­ently it in­cluded one of the first recipes for Brus­sels sprouts!

Fi­nally, there is one more per­son I’d in­vite – my mum. There is lots of talk of equal­ity and op­por­tu­nity for women, which I to­tally back, but I would also make a plea that we don’t for­get what an im­por­tant role be­ing a mother is. Mums are shap­ing our fu­ture by bring­ing up their chil­dren, and along with all the other amaz­ing women my mum has been my inspiration. She taught me the val­ues in life and put up with my moods. She let me run free but kept me safe, and has given me am­bi­tion but kept me grounded. If I am ever wor­ried my mum is the first per­son I go to for ad­vice. We have shopped and laughed to­gether, and I like to think I’ve in­her­ited her lovely smile. I shall give her pride of place at the head of the ta­ble.

What a mem­o­rable evening that would be. Who would you in­vite? Let me know!

Above top: Mil­li­cent Fawcett Above mid­dle:

Lady Caro­line Cran­brook Above bot­tom:

Peggy Cole

Les­ley and her mum, Ann Dol­phin

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