ⓘ Juanita Maxwell Phillips was a politician and activist. She was the first woman to serve on Honiton Borough Council, as mayor of Honiton, and on Devon County Co ..


ⓘ Juanita Maxwell Phillips

Juanita Maxwell Phillips was a politician and activist. She was the first woman to serve on Honiton Borough Council, as mayor of Honiton, and on Devon County Council. As mayor of Honiton, she became the first woman mayor in the West Country. She was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1950.


1. Early life

Phillips was born in Valparaiso to Margarita Maxwell Comber and Thomas Comber, a British businessman in the mineral industry. The family had moved back to the United Kingdom by the early 1890s. She married Tom Phillips, a solicitor, in 1906. During the First World War, she served in the War Office.


2. Activism

Phillips was involved in the suffrage movement and other social movements for womens rights. As a suffragist, she headed local chapters of the Womens Social and Political Union, sold a suffragist newspaper, participated in protests, and picketed outside the Exeter jail where Emmeline Pankhurst was held after an arrest in December 1913.

Phillips was a member of numerous activist groups. Among other organizations, she belonged to the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship earlier called the National Union of Womens Suffrage Societies; the Open Door Council, for which she was a member of the Executive Committee; the National Council of Women, of which she helped to found the Devon chapter; the Womens Institutes; and the Six Point Group. Like many members of the Six Point Group, she opposed new feminism.


3. Political career

Phillips became a justice of the peace in 1922 and also served as a Poor Law guardian.

In 1921, she was first elected to Honiton Borough Council as an independent. She served, as both a councillor and alderperson, until 1953, when she and her husband moved out of Honiton. In the 1920s, while a member of Honiton Borough Council, she championed the appointment of women police officers.

Phillips stood for Devon County Council in 1928, but lost by 74 votes. She was first elected to Council, running opposed, in 1931, and served until 1965. On Council, she served on the committees for Maternity and Child Welfare of which she was chair as of 1941, Public Assistance, Public Health, Air Raids Precautions during the Second World War, and Education.


4. Bibliography

  • Law, Cheryl 2000. Women, A Modern Political Dictionary. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 9781860645020 – via Internet Archive.
  • Neville, Julia December 2013. "Challenge, Conformity and Casework in Interwar England: The First Women Councillors in Devon". Womens History Review. 22 6: 971–994. doi:10.1080/09612025.2013.780846. ISSN 0961-2025.

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