One of my favourite songs is Nobody’s Hero, by Rush, about everyday acts of heroism so commonplace they slip under the radar. My hero and heroine are a British brother and sister you won’t read about in a corporate thriller or anywhere else. No one wrote songs about them, and even they would have accepted they were part of something bigger than themselves. Yet the freedom we enjoy today, men and women alike, is a direct result of the actions they took. It was the first anniversary of WW1 last year and it’s Women’s History Month right now, so I’m celebrating an ordinary man and woman who made history.
Harold and Jessica Bond were born in Wallasey, Merseyside, in the latter part of Queen Victoria’s reign. Their background was solidly middle-class and libertarian; a father who was Chief Clerk of the Mersey Docks and a mother who campaigned for women’s equality. Let’s remember that, for most of Victoria’s life, married women were nothing more than the chattels of their husbands and couldn’t own property in their own right. That had been addressed by the time Harold and Jessica arrived on the scene, but women still couldn’t vote and therefore had limited political influence.
It was natural that Jessica would become a suffragette, agitating for votes for women. Her sister Frances, twelve years younger, recalled Jessica encouraging her to chalk slogans on the pavement at the tender age of five. Jessica herself was quoted in the press as saying she chained herself to railings many times in demonstrations against the status quo. She was quite prepared to be arrested and almost disappointed when it didn’t happen.
While his sister was a suffragette, Harold was a soldier. Called up to serve in WW1 like so many of his generation, he died at the Somme in 1916. Only a few years before war broke out, he’d enjoyed his first and only foreign holiday; ironically, in France. He and another young man of about eighteen had taken advantage of a cheap ferry offer and explored the Calais area. The letters he wrote from Calais, and later from the front, were kept by his little sister Frances for many years. Even the war letters reveal gallantry; we all now know that conditions for the troops were far from pleasant, but Harold made his life sound very jolly indeed. Nearly a century later, my father, Frances’ eldest son, said he couldn’t bear to read them knowing what happened next.
Ultimately, Britain won the war and the suffragettes were successful. Our society would be very different, and not for the better, if that hadn’t been the case. Today, all men and women are free, not just to vote, but to contribute their skills for the good of all.
So those are my heroes: the soldier and the suffragette, proof that working together we can achieve great things. Who are yours? Tell me on my Facebook page and do like the page while you’re there!