9 Kay Symons discusses the origins of the Wiplash newsletter


One of the things that I thought would make it more of a membership organisation was to have a newsletter, and I remember suggesting this at least once, and being told ‘Oh, no’, you know, it wasn’t a very good idea, it was too much work, and all of that. And I think it was probably Sarah Jane Evans, who was one of the new people on the committee with me that year, who said well why don’t we just say we’ll do it. And so we suggested it again saying we’d do it and suddenly it was a marvellous idea.

And I remember that to this day as being a really interesting pointer for working on committees or just getting things done – that people can be negative about an idea because they think that if they say it’s a great idea they’ll have to do it, whereas if you offer them the way of doing it, then you get their real views about whether it’s worth being done.

And I also see from the notes that around about that time we must have let it be known that we were interested, and there was a woman called Michelle Benjamin, who lived in North London, and she sent me a note saying ‘I hear you’re looking for people to help with a newsletter, and I work at home and I have access to an electric golfball typewriter, so you can come to my house and we can do it there.’

So that’s what we did, we had a group and we just met on the one day a month. I certainly remember some of those nights being very long. But by the end of the evening, however long that was, we would have four or six sides of A4 with pieces of typed paper stuck down on them which we could then go and photocopy. Most of it was the write-up of the meeting of the previous month and an ad for the meeting of the next month, but there were other things in it as well.

One of the things we had was Desert Island Books which worked, which seems to have gone on for quite a long time, where we would ask women, famous women that we were interested in, to say what their top 10 favourite books were. And, I’d completely forgotten, but saw in one of the Wiplashes a letter to me from No. 10 Downing Street saying that the Prime Minister was ‘very glad’ to be asked what her desert island books was but she was afraid she couldn’t respond because of pressure of work [laughs]. So Mrs Thatcher was one of the Desert Island sets of books we didn’t get.

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