Here you will find profiles of just some of the women who have made our work possible over the past 40 years
Jenny Earle became our first paid Project Officer in 1977 and later our Coordinator. “My work focused on campaigning for women’s rights with a bunch of very dynamic and committed feminists, churning out leaflets and newsletters, recruiting volunteers and setting up the advice service. It was very high energy and exciting. There were lots of battles to fight and we got stuck in.” Jenny worked on our campaigns for women’s financial independence and supported women to bring claims under the new Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Acts.
Jenny went on to train as a solicitor. “It seemed like the logical next step – to be able to fight injustice fully-armed. I stayed involved as a volunteer throughout my training.” She now works as the Director of the Prison Reform Trust’s Programme to Reduce Women’s Imprisonment.
“We do have more formal equality now but women are still massively disadvantaged and discriminated against.”
Lynne Harne was our Research and Policy Officer from 1983 to 1985 when she was author of our 1984 research Lesbian Mothers on Trial and the Lesbian Mothers’ Handbook. She returned as Policy Officer in the mid 1990s and set up the Best Interests Campaign, campaigning on domestic violence and child contact. She remained a member of our Lesbian Custody Group and then Policy Group until the late 1990s whilst working as an academic. “Family law does not recognise that women and children are disproportionately affected by male domestic and sexual violence and legal changes in terms of shared parenting and the welfare principle following separation have made matters worse for many women.”
After leaving Rights of Women Lynne became an academic, teaching Women’s Studies and Social Policy and Criminology. Her research “Violent Fathering and the Risks to Children; The Need for Change” was published in 2011.
Lynne now works as an independent researcher and writer and continues her feminist activism.
Elizabeth Woodcraft was involved in our work between 1980 and 1995. As a family law barrister she volunteered on the advice line. “We advised on all sorts of issues on the advice line – divorce, child custody and access (as they were known then), maintenance, employment, immigration, crime, prostitution.” She delivered advocacy workshops for new women lawyers. Later she was a member of our Policy Group and Chair of our Management Committee. “I am proud of the way in which Rights of Women has always brought together political activism, academic research and publications and worked and continues to work with practitioners in the field.”
Continuing to work as a barrister until her recent retirement, Liz says “I relied upon Rights of Women’s research Contact between children and violent fathers: In whose best interests in many of my cases. Domestic violence was still not seen as a problem in relation to contact. A lot of judges in the early 80s were not convinced of its existence or seriousness”
Liz is also a writer of crime and other fiction. Her novels Good Bad Woman and Babyface chronicle the life and work of barrister Frankie Richmond.
“Keep campaigning, educating, asking the questions. Reminding women what is possible.”
Pam Alldred was a member of the Lesbian Custody Group and our Policy Sub group from the early 1990s. She became a member of our Management Committee in 1994 and was our Chair between 1999 and 2003. During this time she oversaw an organisational review and our transition from a collective to management structure. Despite this change in structure Rights of Women remained committed to its feminist ethos and to providing services for women by women. “There was concern that mainstream organisations, such as Victims Support, were taking the majority of funding and weren’t going to meet women’s specific needs.or understand their particular support or protection needs.”
Pam has remained a key supporter of Rights of Women. In 2013, as Director of the Centre for Youth Work Studies at Brunel University, she led a group of organisations from 4 EU countries including Rights of Women in work to address the skills and knowledge of professional working with children and young people on peer on peer abuse. As part of the project we delivered training and authored a publication, Understand, Identify, Intervene: Supporting young people in relation to peer-on-peer abuse, domestic and sexual violence.
Ranjit Kaur was our first Director from 2000 to 2007. Under her leadership our services were developed and our commitment to addressing violence against women was strengthened. “The issues we focused on were largely determined by the issues women shared on our advice line and our advice services developed substantially over the years.” Our specialist criminal law advice service for women affected by violence was established in 2005 and won the Lilith Award for best voluntary sector violence against women project. Ranjit ensured that the organisation focused on women’s rights as a human rights issue and on the particular needs of Black and Minority Ethnic women, organising our national conferences Women’s Rights are Human Rights in 2000 and BMER women and violence: where’s the justice? in 2007.
Since leaving Rights of Women Ranjit became a magistrate in Westminster and an equalities and management consultant.