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Helen Bentwich

Helen Bentwich
Born
Helen Franklin

6 January 1892
Notting Hill, London, England
Died26 April 1972(1972-04-26) (aged 80)
ResidenceHampstead, London, England
Sandwich, Kent, England
Jerusalem, Israel
EducationSt Paul's Girls' School
Bedford College
OccupationSocial worker
Political partyLabour Party
Spouse(s)Norman Bentwich
RelativesHerbert (uncle)
Stuart Samuel (uncle)
Hugh Franklin (brother)
Ellis Arthur Franklin (brother)
Benedict Birnberg (nephew)

Helen Caroline Bentwich CBE (6 January 1892 – 26 April 1972) was a British philanthropist and politician.[1]

Biography

Helen Franklin (later Bentwich) was born in Notting Hill, London, into a prominent Jewish family. Her father was a merchant banker and her uncles Herbert and Stuart Samuel were leading politicians. Her siblings included Hugh Franklin, a suffragist, and Ellis Arthur Franklin, another banker and eventual vice-principal of the Working Men's College. She attended St Paul's Girls' School and Bedford College.[1]

Philanthropy

Bentwich served a forewoman at the Woolwich Arsenal in 1916. She fought for the rights of women workers and tried to form a trade union. Forced to resign, she became an organiser for the Women's Land Army.[1]

Bentwich and her husband moved to Palestine in 1919, where he was appointed attorney-general under the British Mandate. She organised nursery schools, formed arts and crafts centres, and became honorary secretary of the Palestine Council of Jewish Women.[1] She had mixed feelings about later developments in the region:

"I think of the thousands of Arabs, many of them friends of old, now leading wasted lives on the refugee camps on the other side of Jerusalem. And despite my deep admiration for the achievements of Israel, I feel infinitely sad as I remember the Jerusalem where I once lived and the hopes that I had then for a peaceful and united Palestine."[2]

Her nephew, lawyer Benedict Birnberg, wrote that she "never acquired a handle and always cold-shouldered Zionism."[3]

In the 1930s she was active in the Movement for the Care of Children from Germany, and was later involved in helping the Falashas in Ethiopia.

Political career

Soon after her arrival, Helen joined the Labour Party and ran for Parliament at a by-election in Dulwich (1932) and in Harrow in the 1935 general election, but lost both times. However, in the spring of 1934 she was invited by Eveline Lowe to become a co-opted member of the London County Council education committee,[4] and in 1937 she was elected a member of the Council for North Kensington. In 1946 she was elected for Bethnal Green North East and from 1955 to 1965 she was a member for Stoke Newington and Hackney North. She became chairman of the education committee in 1947, alderman in 1949, vice-chair in 1950, and Chairman of the Council from 1956 to 1957. In 1965 she was appointed CBE.[1]

Personal life

She married barrister Norman Bentwich in 1915. She followed him in Cairo, Egypt shortly after their wedding. In 1931, the couple returned to England. They had homes in Hampstead and Sandwich, Kent, as well as a home in Jerusalem, where her husband was a Hebrew University professor.

Death and legacy

Bentwich died in 1972, a year after her husband.[1]

The archives of Helen Bentwich are held at The Women's Library at the Library of the London School of Economics, ref 7HBE

Bibliography

  • Our Councils: The Story of Local Government (Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1962)
  • Mandate Memories, 1918 – 1948 (with Norman Bentwich, Hogarth Press, 1965)
  • The Vale of Health on Hampstead Heath, 1777–1967 (High Hill Press, Hampstead, 1968)
  • History of Sandwich in Kent (T. F. Pain and Sons, Deal, 1971)
  • If I forget thee: some chapters of autobiography, 1912–20 (Elek, London, 1973)
  • Tidings from Zion: Helen Bentwich’s letters from Jerusalem, 1919–1931 (edited by Jenifer Glynn; I.B. Tauris, London, 2000).

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Hilary L. Rubinstein, 'Bentwich , Helen Caroline (1892–1972)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2008 accessed 4 June 2010
  2. ^ quoted in Sanford R. Silverburg, Palestine and International Law: Essays on Politics and Economics (McFarland, 2009), p. 260.
  3. ^ Benedict Birnberg, "Letters", The Guardian 25 March 1999, in response to a reference by Illtyd Harrington in his obituary of Gladys Dimson.
  4. ^ Jane Martin, "Women and State Schools" in Derek Kassem, Emmanuel Mufti, John Robinson, Education studies: issues and critical perspectives, (McGraw-Hill International, 2006) p. 181.

External links

Civic offices
Preceded by
Norman Prichard
Chairman of the London County Council
1956–1957
Succeeded by
Ronald McKinnon Wood

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