This blog post will focus on two of the women that I have chosen for my WOW! Project:
Amy Johnson was born on the 1st July 1903 in Kingston Upon Hull and was the daughter of William Johnson a member of the Andrew Johnson, Knudtzon and Company, fish merchants. She grew up in Hull for her childhood and attended Boulevard Municipal Secondary School (which is now known as Kingston High School) and later left Hull to achieve a Bachelor of Arts in Economics at the University of Sheffield. After Graduating from Sheffield University in 1925, Johnson undertook a Secretarial Course at Wood’s college and had her first experience of been in an Aeroplane in 1926. In 1927 Amy Johnson got a job in London working as a secretary for the Solicitor, William Charles Crocker and in the following year she joined the London Aeroplane Club and began to take lessons, she stated after her first six lessons “I have an immense belief in the future of flying”.
In 1930 Amy Johnson final passed her flying exam and obtained her Pilot’s license and then left her job as a secretary to be a full time mechanic and in 1929 she successfully became the first woman to be a ground-engineer. She flew a plane called the Jason named after her father’s business to Australia, although she didn’t break any records with this, she was awarded the CBE on the King’s Birthday Honour List. On 29th July 1932, she was married to fellow Aviator Jim Mollison. Although Amy spent most of her time away from her home town she never forgot it and in 1932 using a purse of sovereigns that she was given by a school of children in Sydney she created The Amy Johnson Cup for Courage and presented it to Hull and every year it was to be award to one child of Hull for a deed of bravery or courage.
A year later Amy traveled to USA with her Husband in a modified plane named the Seafearer, the plane was modified by her husband to have a set of massive fuel tank to allow them to fly the distance, unfortunately when where 55 Miles away from America the plane ran out of fuel and crashed. Both Amy and her husband survived and where given a parade for there success at reaching America alive. During the 1930’s Amy found it hard to earn a living and only found two job during this period often involving ferrying passengers across the globe, until in 1939 when the second world war broke out she joined the Air Transport Artillery which involved her transporting the British forces across to Europe.
On January 5th 1941, Amy Johnson drowned after crashing into the Thames Estuary during rough weather conditions, a rescue boat did reach her but it is believed that she was pulled back under by her plane propeller. She wasn’t presumed dead until two years later in December when a witness came forth before the Probate Court and in 1961 a skeleton washed a shore and was believed to be Amy Johnson’s but this was proven in correct and till today not sign of her body has been found.
Even though Amy Johnson passed away in this tragic accident, she left quite a legacy behind, her Amy Johnson Cup for Bravery, a Bronze Bust at her old school, all her books and letters she ever had kept at Hull History Centre and a memorial on Prospect Street that cost over £3,000 and was raised by the people of Hull in her honour.
Winifred Holtby was born on the 23rd of June 1898 in Rudston, Yorkshire to a prosperous farming family. Her family consisting of her father, David Holtby and her mother Alice, who was later the first alderwoman of the East Riding County Council. She attended Queen Margaret’s School in Scarborough but before her attendance she was home schooled by a governess that her parents had hired. She attended Queen’s Margaret from 1909-16, after meeting a probationer nurse in London nursing Home, Winifred decided to attend Somerville College in October 2017. During this period Harry Pearson, Winifred’s Boyfriend joined the British Army on the Western Front during WW1. Winifred claimed that “I was sixteen when the war started. The first thing it made me do was fall in love. Brevity of life makes passion more insistent. The youngest and fittest in uniform. The erotic attraction of death.”
Following her boyfriends lead she joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1918 but by the time that she arrived in France the first World War was coming to an end, she was soon sent home due to the end of the war. In 1919 Winifred decided to return to Oxford to resume her studies, where she met Vera Brittain the future author of Testament of Youth and maintained a life long friendship with her. In 1921 she graduated from Oxford with Vera and they both moved to London with dreams of becoming well established authors (A Plaque at Doughty Street – their home, refers to this).
Throughout the 1920’s Winfred met with much success with her first novels she published such as Anderby Wold (1923), The Crowded Street (1924) and The Land of Green Ginger (1927), which had a street named after it in Hull.
In 1926, Winifred toured South Africa to study the conditions and problems of native Africans, this led to one of her most famous pieces called Mandoa, Mandoa (1933), this booked looked at and compared the difference between the African way and European way of life. During her time in Africa, Winifred became very active while in Africa helping a man called William Ballinger who was trying to improve conditions for the native Africans by providing educations, grant, sponsorships etc.
In 1928, Winifred took up Journalism and traveled across Europe writing about what see encountered, even writing articles on women’s rights and Winifred also took up lectures when travelling across Europe about the League of Nations Union. Near the end of 1928, when women got the right to vote, Winifred wrote a guide to voting system for women called A New Voters Guide to Part Programmes.
In 1932 she collapse at a labour campaign event in the 1932 General Election and in 1933 it happened again and was diagnosed with a kidney disease and was give at least two years to live by the doctors. Hearing this Winifred dedicated the last two years of her life in a attempt to publish as much work as possible before she passed away. In these last two years Winifred only managed to publish Truth is not Sober and Women and a Changing Society (1934), while her last two books South Riding (1936) and Pavements at Anderby (1937) were published by her friend Vera Brittain. Winifred died on September 29th 1935 in a London Nursing Home. On October 1st 1935 a memorial service was held in her honour at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London.