My friend Ann Torode, who has died aged 74, was a passionate campaigner against the oppression of women. She was a founder member of a women’s liberation group in North Tyneside and helped set up a women’s refuge and a rape crisis centre, both of which still exist.
The Coast Women’s Group, which she and like-minded women founded in the 1970s, campaigned to defend the 1967 Abortion Act, which was under attack. It also organised a workshop at the 1976 Women’s Liberation Conference in Newcastle that resulted in the founding of the socialist feminist newsletter Scarlet Women, published from North Shields between 1976 to 1981. Ann was a lead member of the editorial collective.
Ann became very involved with Tyneside Rape Crisis (established 1978), and was one of the first two women employed to develop the service. At the same time, the Coast Group was beginning to develop support for local women experiencing domestic violence, which led first to a helpline and then to a refuge, which opened in the early 80s. Ann was one of the first paid workers there, too, and continued there until 1993, when she left to pursue her interests in alternative healing.
Ann was born and brought up in Dulwich, south London, the older of two girls. Her mother, Ruby, was a midwife, and her father, Frank Compton, owned a sweet shop. She had cerebral palsy and her parents fought for her to go to a mainstream, rather than special, primary school. From there she went to Mary Datchelor school in Camberwell, and then to Leeds University to study sociology, graduating in 1964.
She went on the first Aldermaston march in 1958 with her parents and sister, Lesley, and continued to be politically active in anti-war, socialist, feminist, lesbian and environmental campaigns for the rest of her life.
Ann met Peter Torode when they were students in Leeds, and they married in 1966 and had two children. In 1973 they moved from Leeds to Tyneside, where he became an academic registrar at Newcastle Polytechnic, now Northumbria University. In Tyneside Ann quickly met up with the group of women, of whom I was one, who started the Coast Women’s Group.
She wrote articles on various aspects of women’s liberation for newsletters and conferences. Her great strength was her ability to analyse clearly the structural and social obstacles preventing women from being treated equally with men. In later years she took up disabled people’s issues and wrote, spoke and organised as a disabled woman. She also wrote poetry. There is a collection of her papers at the Feminist Archive North at Leeds University.
Ann and Peter divorced in 1976. She is survived by her sister, Lesley, her sons, Ben and Mike, and a grandson, Oliver.