Born on January 26th 1909 as Isabella Woodhill Potts, to a father who was a joiner and later an engineering turner and a mother who was a home-maker. The family was living in Mitcham, Surrey, certainly by 1939, when Isabel was a teacher.
Towards the end of her life, Isabel produced a slim book of her own poetry called “Can You Hear?”. In the brief introduction, dated July 1978, she traces her attachment to the cause of peace to her childhood days in World War 1 where, seeing a Zeppelin brought down she “could not join the clapping people on the street. But saw men in hell” Combining her feeling for peace with compassion and a burning concern for social justice she visited the Soviet Union in 1933 and thus joined the Communist Party on her return.
She and her husband Frank Edwin Baker, a schoolmaster born 30th July 1907, married in Surrey in early 1940.
After the Second World War, they devoted a large part of their lives to the peace movement and were the inspiration for the Dorking Peace Council, of which they were joint secretaries for a quarter of a century. DPC was affiliated to the national British Peace Council, in turn part of the World Peace Council: https://britishpeaceassembly. wordpress.com/about/
The book has an excerpt from a letter from Hugh MacDiarmid to Isabel praising Isabel’s poetry as “excellent short pared of inessentials very much to the point and there is no reason why they should not be included in such anthologies as Alan Bold’s Penguin Book of Socialist Verse”. [MacDiarmid’s letter was dated 12th March 1975]
An excerpt from a letter written by her remembers her emotions in the 1970s on hearing of the fall of Allende’s Chile and then, in contrast, her joy in the Portuguese revolution, crowned by a May Day celebrating the final victory of the Vietnamese people. She ends: “I cannot understand any real Socialist or Communist writer not responding to such historic happenings and not wanting to convey his reaction in verse. It simply just bursts out.”
The poems in this 16-page book celebrate such figures as the South African freedom fighter and Communist Bram Fischer, Mandela, Cabral and Allende. They also remember Stalingrad, the German sailors’ revolt in 1918, the Chilean and Vietnamese people, and a poem to her parents where she writes ” I escaped into the faith of the future, socialism and communism”.
Isabel Woodhill Baker died in Sutton, Surrey, on May 1977 aged 68. Frank probably died in 1985 in Barnstaple.
Source: David Horsley plus additional material from GS.