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Dr Mollie Barrow

Dr Mary (always known as Mollie) Barrow from Sparkbrook, Birmingham, came from one of Birmingham’s famous business families. The founder of Cadbury’s married her ancestor Candia Barrow in 1831 and the Barrow’s store on Corporation Street (High St and Snow Hill in the 1850s) was one of the leading retail firms in Birmingham until 1966.

 

In the November 1945 municipal elections, she polled well as one of the Party’s candidates in Birmingham, polling 1,796 votes. 

 

Mollie donated the cost of the tents that set up the Birmingham-based Communist (later Community) Camping Club, which held annual camps in Wales from around 1948, founded by Jim Crump and continued by George Jelf (see separate entries for both).

 

She was the author of “You live here! A political guide to Sparkbrook and Balsall Heath” published in 1946 by the Midlands Communist Party. One campaign the pamphlet mentions was that of Sparkbrook YCL for a strip of waste land in Golden Hillock Road to be turned into playing fields. Mary lived and worked as a GP in the area from 1936 and was deeply involved with the work of the local Communist Party from then on.

 

In later years, she became much involved with Sparkbrook Community Association. This was formed in 1960 as a voluntary, non-party-political and non-sectarian organisation. It aimed to promote the 'well-being' of the Sparkbrook community.

 

Dr Barrow is reported to have found children of about 2 or 3 years old unable to walk properly because their only play area in multi-occupied homes was the bed. Lack of space was recognised as having a detrimental effect upon the physical and educational growth of children and the Association succeeded in obtaining grants from the Save the Children Fund to create four play centres.

 

Mollie Barrow was first the Vice-Chair and later Chair of the Sparkbrook Community Association, which did so much to alleviate the suffered she saw as a local GP.

 

Having practiced medicine in the area for nearly four decades, her speech at the opening of Sparkbrook Family Centre on 20th November 1968 is of interest: “We seek to preserve the most important of all social organisations: the family, because we know from experience, that without a secure and sane family life children cannot work effectively in school, men cannot work effectively in their factories and offices and women can neither live nor work in home or workplace as they might. Bad families produce bad citizens. Irresponsible parents produce irresponsible children. Broken homes produce broken lives. But good homes produce good citizens. Good parents produce happy, healthy people.”

 

Mollie died in 1970.