Alfred Salter is probably the best known of the duo, but recently there has been much more recognition for the work of Ada Salter in her own right. Salter Road, which connects Lower Road to Rotherhithe Street and Redriff Road, was named for them when it was constructed in the mid 1980s, a Rotherhithe primary school was named after Alfred Salter, and a foot bridge in Southwark Park was also named for him. A trio of statues by the Angel public house on the Thames Path included Alfred, Joyce and the family's pet cat, but excluded Ada.
|Ada's Garden naming ceremony. |
Photograph by Steve Cornish
|Statue of Ada Salter, next to the|
Angel public house.
|Ada planting a tree in a newly|
It was at the Bermondsey Settlement that Ada and Alfred met. Although up until meeting Ada, Alfred had had no particular religious affiliation, in 1900 he became a Quaker, and he and Ada were married in the same year. In 1902 their only child Joyce was born. Adhering to Quaker principles, they decided to live in the areas in which they worked on behalf of the poor, and when Joyce became old enough she attended the local school on Keeting Road.
It soon became evident to the Salters that their own work would only touch the tip of the iceberg, and that to really help the poor political change would be necessary. Alfred joined the Liberal Party in 1903 and was elected to Bermondsey Borough Council in 1906. Two years later he became a member of the London County Council. In 1907 women won the right to stand in elections, and Ada was elected as the first female Councillor in Bermondsey. She and Alfred were founders of the first branch of the young Independent Labour Party (ILP) in Bermondsey. In 1906 she co-founded the Women's Labour League with Margaret MacDonald. In 1909 Ada stood as their sole candidate in the elections for the borough council. She was successful and became the first woman elected to a borough council in London. In 1911 the whole working population of Bermondsey went on strike for better employment conditions. Ada organized free meals for the women and children. She did this again in the General Strike of 1926. A Quaker and a pacifist, she was deeply disturbed by the First World War and campaigned extensively for peace, establishing the Wonen's International League for Peace and Freedom. Ada became London’s first female Lord Mayor in 1920 but refused to wear the robes and chain of office, the symbols of status and power that were irrelevant to her work and contrary to hear beliefs.
This brief summary misses out many important details about Ada's life, but the full post about both of the Salters will expand upon this small introduction to a remarkable person, environmentalist, social reformer and political activist. It is wonderful to see her being recognized by history and by local residents. I wonder what she would have thought about Southwark Councillor Mark Williams and his idea of "regeneration" as the replacement of playgrounds and mature nature areas with the sterile blocks and towering monoliths of the Canada Water Masterplan. Ada's Garden, for example, is under imminent threat from the Council who want to eliminate it to put a leisure centre where the wildlife area is located, in spite of 46 acres of land already ear-marked for development where it could easily be incorporated.