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HONITON: Memories of Juanita brought to life

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Honiton suffragette and 11 times mayor Juanita Maxwell Phillips did more than her bit during WWI when the introduction of conscription in 1916 meant that men were called up and women asked to cover their jobs. Her life story was told through a commemorative talk and exhibition at The Beehive on Monday, May 12th. The lecture was given by Dr Julia Neville and those attending heard that Juanita was one of the suffragettes who signed up for war work. She left her home in Honiton to work in the War Office in London and was deployed in what was called the Effects Department, Officers’ Section. Dr Neville said: “The work involved receiving the property of officers who had been killed in action, their personal possessions and last letters or wills, and sending them on to their families with their last pay packet or request for the settlement of debts. “At a time when the life expectancy of a junior officer on the Western Front was no more than six weeks her daily work must have given her a constant reminder of the price being paid by individual families for the war.” Dr Neville also informed the gathering that, while working at the War Office, Juanita also helped run a girls’ club in the East End. These clubs, which aimed to provide social activities for the East End factory girls, were often set up by well to do young women. Juanita loved children and young people all her life. Mrs Phillips’ great niece, Caroline Merry de Bayer, told the meeting that when her aunt Juanita was working at the War Office, her older brother Henry worked for British Intelligence between the years of 1914 to 1919 and was much decorated. In 1917 Henry interviewed the spy Lode, later shot in the Tower of London, and said that he found him an intelligent and interesting man, who told him that he spied for England, France and Germany because of the excitement.

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