D

Deakin Fanny

Fanny Deakin

Born on 2nd December 1883, Fanny Deakin spent her early years at her parent's farm on Farmers Bank, Silverdale, a mining village near Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. Throughout her live, she was noted for her campaigns for better nourishment of young children and maternity care for mothers. On leaving school, she worked on the farm where her family lived but her lifelong vocation came to her after being the first woman to be elected onto Wolstanton Council as a Labour member in 1923.
 
During the General Strike in 1926, she was a major figure in local activity in support of the miners. One observer recalled seeing her “coming up past St Giles Church in Newcastle at the head of these miners, 200 or 300 miners …Fancy, one woman - and she's leading them!” Fanny (used to say) `I'm fighting for the mothers. If she had a coat of/arms they'd put it in Latin: Fighting for the mothers." In 1927 she retained her seat, this time standing as a Communist. She was a popular with local people, who nicknamed her "Red Fanny" after she visited the Soviet Union in 1927 and 1930.
 
Of her five children only one survived into adulthood. In an era of high infant mortality she campaigned for better maternity care of women and free milk for children under five. Along with unemployed miners, she went to Downing Street to see Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald to demand that local councils give free milk to pregnant mothers and children up to the age of five.
 
Around this time, when a comrade was found guilty of supposedly inciting a riot of the unemployed, Fanny gave him an alibi but found herself charged with perjury and spent nine months in Winson Green Prison.
 
Re-elected to the now merged Newcastle Council in 1934, she became a County Councillor. She played a key role in several committees relating to maternity and child welfare. During the war years she could be seen working with others in the Catholic Church showing children how to put on gas masks. In 1941, she became the first Communist in the country to be appointed an Alderman in the borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, with the honour being extended to Staffordshire county level in 1946.
 
The following year, she achieved what most local people remember her for when a maternity home was opened bearing her name for use by women in the Borough. Her advocacy of mother and child welfare issues was by the naming of the Fanny Deakin Maternity Home by the Borough Council. She is still popularly remembered through the many children born there and also due to a GP ward named after her in a local hospital.
 
Above: Fanny Deakin on a National Unemployed Workers Movement delegation to No 10 Downing Street in 1931

Fanny died on 24th March 1968. She is pictured right with Harry Pollitt

In 1991 Joyce Holliday wrote "Go See Fanny Deakin!", in which Fanny Deakin appears as heroine in a play centred on the mining community of Silverdale. It was subsequently been broadcast by BBC local radio. Joyce Holliday also wrote "Silverdale People" which includes a biography of Fanny Deakin. Fanny died in 1968.  

Staffordshire County Council holds a collection of Fanny Deakin’s papers in its Newcastle under Lyme Library. The archive includes material on rambling and a manuscript autobiographical notebook written in 1966-7.