Pheobe Cusden was a socialist, educator, peace campaigner and councillor in Reading, Berkshire.
Pheobe Cusden was a socialist, educator, peace campaigner and councillor in Reading, Berkshire. She worked in the post office before getting involved in local politics and was a Labour Party Parliamentary candidate in Berkshire in 1923. She remained active until the 1970s including being elected to the council and serving twice as Mayor.
Phoebe was a pioneer of early years education and author of "The English Nursery School" and also the founder of Reading's link to Dusseldorf, making Reading the first English town to form a link with the former enemy. She lived an active life combining both her local community work and international justice.
From 1933, she was Organising Secretary of the Nursery Schools Association; Chair of the Reading-Dusseldorf Association from 1949 to 1970; member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom from around 1949 onwards and campaigned for the CND from 1958 onwards. She was also an Alderman of Reading and a magistrate.
Phoebe remains an inspiration to many locally in Reading for her combination of international campaigning, grassroots approach and willingness to make a difference. She is remembered fondly by Reading and Dusseldorf and was instrumental in tackling poverty in both as well as in the peace movement. She refused to back down on her principles while being warm and supportive of people. She was referred to as 'the red woman' in her youth and worked hard to put those principles in to action with practical help for people whether they were international students, starving German children or local people in slum conditions.
In 1977, Phoebe she was awarded the Verdienstplakette, the city of Dusseldorf's highest honour. There is no permanent memorial to her in Reading, although a new council supported living scheme has just been named after her to mark 70 years of the town's friendship with Dusseldorf.
Pheobe is often overlooked as a working class woman who was more interested in the cause than in fame. She was of humble background and had no important connections yet stood for Parliament only a few years after the vote was won, and was continually active in grass roots activity. She remained active in politics until her death in 1981.