Historian Sian Roberts concludes that for Theodora and her peers “this sense of affiliation with an interventionist feminine identity and heritage was a source of strength” supporting and legitimising “both their activism and their “assumption of authority and leadership.“ p121 Roberts
Theodora attended the Warwickshire North Monthly Meetings of Women Friends and in June 1917 she shared her thoughts on a recent lecture speaking of its ‘wonderfully prophetic power’ predicting ‘that this day of trouble was also the day when God’s help is at hand, the day when all may be made one. This sense of unity …. prompted a conviction that the time had come for an appeal for the co-operation of all Christians and it was felt that perhaps Friends were especially called to give a lead. The hope was expressed that we should seek to unite Christians in all nations’.
In 1916 the topic for the Women’s Meeting had been “Individual Responsibility for the Social Conditions of the Future”, and the talk was given by Miss Janet Kelman of Woodbrooke . Theodora wrote in the minutes:
‘The early age at which children leave school and the chilling influence of the mechanical work in factories which most often takes the greater part of their time in the years that follow, the employment of children of school age as wage-earners …the production of sweated goods (for which all who desire to buy at less than a fair price are responsible.) the purchase of useless articles – these and other things are familiar we do not always recognise them as evil and set our minds to find a remedy as we should…We cannot leave responsibility with the rich: the problem is so large it will take every one of us to solve it, only by each taking a right part can we hope to bring ..the time when we shall live together in the harmony of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.”
Her spiritual beliefs combined with a sense of personal responsibility reflected an optimism that as a politically active woman she could make a difference on issues of social injustice and the consequences of war.
The Birmingham branch of the Women’s International League had been established in early 1915 and by October 1916 it had 117 members. After the Congress in 1919 it became the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, or the WILPF, and Theodora became chair of the local branch. She was also chair of the local Women’s Peace Crusade.
Theodora and her husband had joined the Independent Labour Party before the war and for over 25 years their home was ‘a centre of help and inspiration for the local Labour Movement’.
At a meeting of the local Executive Committee in June 1923 Theodora presented herself as a candidate to become a Labour councillor where she ‘definitely stated she stood wholeheartedly for the Labour constitution and program and would at all times loyally support it.’
After the war Theodora combined her activism on behalf of WILPF with her work as a Labour Councillor supporting working-class mothers. In her opinion “at least one out of the three councillors in every ward should be a woman” stating ‘as I have lived in close touch with my fellow women citizens in this Ward, and know the appalling conditions under which many of them live, I feel that I could represent them on the Council’.“
She went on to become chair of Birmingham City Council’s Maternity and Child Welfare Committee.
Theodora and her husband were Elders at their local Stirchley Quaker meeting in Birmingham until they left for Stourbridge in 1932, though they continued to participate as representatives in meetings across the region. Two of the many committees she served on were the Boys and Girls Committee 1905 – 1919, caring for children who had just left school, and the Housing Committee 1925 – 1939, set up due to problems of overcrowding and slum conditions widespread in Birmingham.
In 1932 Theodora and Henry moved to Clent, Stourbridge to be near their son Michael Henry Wilson (born 1901) and support him with the school he had founded for children with special needs.
The inspiration had come from attending a lecture that his mother had organized, given by Fried Geuter, an advocate of the educational methods of Rudolf Steiner. Theodora had met Rudolf Steiner and visited the first Goetheanum in Switzerland. She was much taken with Steiner’s theories known as anthroposophy. Her son Michael, a very successful musician was so inspired by Geuter he decided to join him and set up the special needs school Clent Grove that is now known as Sunfield.
Initially it was based in Selly Oak near the Steiner school set up at Elmfield, but it moved in 1932 to a property in Stourbridge. Michael’s father and Theodora became very involved with it.
Both parents died at Clent, Henry in 1941 and Theodora in 1947. Michael went on to develop music and colour therapies and was director of the school for 40 years.