Hove’s Animal Lover

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Lord and Lady Dowding and friends.

Happy birthday to the Bodyshop, a female-fronted, local company who, this year, is celebrating its 40th year. Started in 1976 by Littlehampton born Dame Anita Roddick, its first premises was a small shop in Brighton’s North Laine, from where it didn’t take long for its ethically produced skin and beauty products to carve a niche for itself, as well as fill every teenager’s bedroom with the scent of coconut hairgel and Dewberry perfume. Although the company was taken over by L’Oreal in 2006 ,Anita Roddick is rightly remembered as a fearless entrepreneur who brought fairtrade and products not tested on animals into the mainstream and showed that business can have morals.

But 20 years before our high streets started to be populated by those well-known green facades, another company was prioritising animal welfare, and at the helm, another pioneering woman with Brighton and Hove connections.

Beauty Without Cruelty, a company still supplying cruelty free cosmetics today was founded in 1963 by the trustees of an animal welfare organisation of the same name. The original driving force of the cosmetics arm was Kathleen Long, an animal welfare activist who, with Noel Gabriel developed the first line of revolutionary cruelty-free products. When Kathleen died in 1969, one of the trustees, Lady Muriel Dowding, who in her later years relocated to Hove, came to the rescue and, under her energetic leadership, the company grew and flourished.

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Muriel Dowding, born in London in 1908, was an intriguing, committed woman, who according to her obituary in The Independent newspaper in 1993, ‘didn’t allow anything that might help the plight of animals escape her attention’. At one time she was vice-president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and president of the National Anti-Vivisection Society. At the helm of the Beauty Without Cruelty campaigning organisation, she worked tirelessly to make people aware of the unsavoury, animal derived ingredients in their everyday products – whale oil in lipstics, for example, and civet in perfume. Hard to imagine in our better informed days, but in the 1950s and ’60s most consumers would have been unaware of the ingredients in their everyday face soaps and shampoos. Muriel’s work to increase awareness created an unprecedented demand for an alternative. The Beauty Without Cruelty cosmetics brand, like Bodyshop, offering people an easily obtainable and cheap alternative to the mainstream, enjoyed a particular heyday in the 1960s when the colourful nail varnishes and eye shadows gained celebrity followers such as popular model, Celia Hammond. Similarly, at a time when a fur coat was the must have fashion statement for the wealthy, Muriel would organise fake fur fashion shows to demonstrate, as her brand outlined, that cruelty need not be a by-product for beauty.

Muriel was also no stranger to unconventional ideas in her personal life. A committed spiritualist she met her second husband, Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding, one of the architects of the Battle of Britain, when, knowing he shared her views, she asked him to contact her first husband, Jack Maxwell Whiting who had gone missing in action over Denmark in 1944. Following their marriage in 1951, Sir Hugh, already a vegetarian and anti-vivisectionist joined Muriel in her work to prevent animal suffering. Apparently, the house the animal loving pair shared in Tunbridge Wells, became a sanctuary for stray animals and the two became notorious for putting on lavish Sunday lunch parties to show people how tasty vegetarian food could be. Muriel’s obituary published just after her death in Hove in November 1993 notes that she was ‘ a warm, open-hearted character with a larger than life personality and sometimes uncompromising opinions.’ It paints a picture of a committed woman who threw herself wholeheartedly into the cause she believed in. She remained director of Beauty Without Cruelty until 1980.

I suppose you could say that, coming to live in a Hove nursing home towards the end of her life, Muriel only qualifies very slimly for a place in the Brighton and Hove Historical Women’s Hall of Fame, but as our city’s past is bursting with women who pioneered new ideas and stood up for their views, however unconventional, Lady Muriel Dowding, has found the perfect home.

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Anyone for Unox?

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I’ve just come across this copy of Woman’s Realm, July 23rd 1966 and thought it might be interesting to look at it in comparison to women’s magazines today.  Then I remembered I don’t read women’s magazines today. So I’m just going to flick through it anyway.  No attempt at authoritative analysis, then, just some pictures…
Give or take a few readers’ letters (“Dear Woman’s Realm, To me, one of the sweetest sounds is the pealing of church bells.  Where I live, if the wind blows from the north, I can hear the bells of Gresford Church, famous all over Wales; but if a south-west wind is blowing, I can hear the mellow peal of the bells of Wrexham Parish Church.  Yours Sincerely, Mrs L. P”  Is it a symptom of our twenty-first century, over-entertained minds that I was thinking ‘yes…. And….?’)  and an article about how vegetables are good for you (recipe for ‘potato lettuce’, anyone?) your Woman’s Realm of July 1966 seems to be entirely made up of short stories and incredibly complicated knitting/sewing patterns.  The average 1966 reader would have obviously known her garter from her stocking stitch and been able to knock up a lace cardi between informing herself about Welsh church bells and applying a Toni home perm (see below)   

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Most interesting, though, are the adverts.  Not a single mascara or anti-wrinkle cream in sight.  OK, so Woman’s Realm of July 23rd 1966 is obviously not aimed at the most fashion conscious of readers but the only concession to looks is an advert for H. Samuel jewellers. ‘Getting engaged? It’s more fun choosing your ring at H. Samuel. You’ve such a fabulous choice?’ Other than a picture of a woman looking quietly pleased with her ‘Heart Solitaire’ (yours for £16) its readers are allowed to go unmolested by the beauty industry.  Weirdest advert was this one for deckchairs, in which Hughie Green exhorts us to save two margarine cartons to get this special deal on ‘fabulous’ pic-nic chairs, which will, he assures us, ‘double our fun’.  Is it me or is it a bit sinister?

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There are loads of adverts for food, particularly of the brightly coloured, severely chemically enhanced, convenience nature.  I suppose, as the 1960s woman’s working horizons were opening more and more while at the same time she was still largely expected to be the mainstay of the family, meals that could be made by opening a tin or rustling up something out of a box were of huge interest.  Shame that so many looked like something that had just been scraped out of a nuclear reactor,  See below.Image

Yum.  Unox. Dutch (as illustrated by pottery windmill.  I wonder if that came free in the tin?)  I would probably not be first in the line for a slab of pork luncheon meat with or without a few pounds of melted cheese on top, but one called ‘Unox’?  Since when has something that sounds like a brand of toilet cleaner supposed to get our taste buds going?  “Sounds tempting, doesn’t it?” Not really.  Still, I suppose your Unox supper frees you up for more time to knit and enjoy ‘doubling your fun’ on your Kraft deckchair, hopefully without Hughie Green grinning across at you.

The last page of Woman’s Realm July 23rd 1966 offers another easy-to-make convenience recipe, this time using a tin of Del Monte Pineapple Dessert Bits.  It makes free use of a raspberry jelly, a can of evaporated milk and the aforementioned Pineapple Dessert Bits.  Unfortunately the page has torn off so I can’t show you the bright pink and luminous result.  I have been looking around on the internet for something similar and found this one for Dole pineapple, possibly a bit earlier than 1966.

    

Bon appetit.