Ada Salter by Lynda Waterhouse


When I was a little girl many moons ago I used to love my Mum’s book of heroines.   It was one of her favourites and was full of stirring tales of Boudicca, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Edith Cavell and Joan of Arc. It fired my love of history and my feminism. It still surprises me how many women’s lives and achievements are overlooked or underreported.

I recently learned about Ada Salter (1866-1942) when I went to see a production of a one woman show about her life written and performed by Lynn Morris of Journeymen Theatre at The Sands Film Studio in Bermondsey.  As it was a warm afternoon I decided to walk. During the walk I was impressed by how many beautiful trees lined the streets of Bermondsey and how they lifted my spirits. Thank you Ada Salter for planting thousands of trees in this area because you believed that poor people deserved flowers, trees, gardens and window boxes.

The Journeymen Theatre flyer describes Ada as

‘… a true radical, campaigner for equal rights, socialist, republican, pacifist, environmentalist, trade union activist and a leading light in the transformation of the Bermondsey slums in the early part of the twentieth century.’

Ada and her GP husband, Alfred Salter, dedicated their lives to the people of Bermondsey.  Ada became a Quaker in 1914. She became the first woman councillor in London and later the Mayor of Bermondsey. She campaigned for so many things that we take for granted such as a National Health Service, pensions and women’s rights.

Who would you put in a book of heroines?

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