My Final Resting Place; a CBE’s Tale

Published: 28 February 2023

My final resting place, a CBE’s tale

I was bestowed for outstanding work.

I was received with pleasure and worn with pride.

I was framed and displayed for all to see.

I was kept safe and secure.

Now I reside with many antiquities, in a museum in Leicester.

But why, Leicester?

A Celtic settlement of the Corieltauvi people, a Roman Fort called, Ratae Coritanorum, a town called Ligore Ceaster, a town and later a city called Leicester.

The town was invaded by the Saxons, the Danes and the Normans. Sacked by both sides during the Civil War and had a bomb dropped on it during WW11.

It was ruled by powerful Norman Knights, including Simon De Montfort, and is the burial place of the last Plantagenet King.

The town’s prosperity began to grow with the introduction of the woollen industry and by the 18th Century the shirt trade had begun, closely followed by the Boot and Shoe Industry. These and hosiery manufacture continued to prosper well into the 20th Century.

In 1871 the Boot and Shoe Manufacturer’s Association was formed to negotiate wage rates and working hours and in 1891 the National Federation of Boot and Shoe Manufacturer’s established its Headquarters in Leicester.

My recipient Miss Ruth Tomlinson, though initially trained as a teacher, spent twenty years (1918-1937) working for the National Boot and Shoe Manufacturers’ Federation, becoming the Federation’s secretary. She was also the first secretary of the National Institute of the Boot and Shoe Industry, which had been founded in 1927.

In King George V’s, 1929 New Year’s Honours, “Ruth Tomlinson, Secretary to the Incorporated Federation Association of the Boot and Shoe Manufacturers,” was awarded Member of the British Empire (MBE).

Miss Ruth Tomlinson and her CBE

Miss Ruth Tomlinson and her CBE

During this time, although, she lived and worked in London, she was closely connected with Leicester because of the industry.

‘Few people who do not know Leicester know so many Leicester people, I should image, as Miss Ruth Tomlinson, the secretary of the National Federation of Boot and Shoe Manufacturers’.
(Leicester Evening News 26.01.1931)

In 1939 she became the Director of the Bureau for Refugees from war torn Europe and also served as an office management consultant becoming in 1943 an officer with the British Ministry of Labour and National Services on the Man and Women Power Board in Leicester.

In 1942 she joined the DeMontfort Club in Leicester, of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, known today as BPW UK, where she served at various positions in the club before becoming the Divisional President. She served two terms as UK National Vice- President (1946-1949 and 1950-1953) and was UK National President from 1953 till 1956. Following on from this she joined the International Federation as Vice-President, serving from 1957 till 1962.

Since 1946 when the First Assembly took place in London, the International Federation of BPW has been closely linked to the United Nations, having Consultative Status. In 1949 Ruth Tomlinson was the International Federation’s representative to the 3rd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of women.

Over the years her work in the international field was widely recognised outside the International Federation of BPW and in 1958 the Foreign Office announced that;

“Miss Ruth Tomlinson MBE would be the United Kingdom’s representative at the 12th Session of the UN Status of Women Commission”

She was also the UK Government Representative to the 13th session in 1959. This is where I make my entrance; because in Queen Elizabeth II’s, Birthday Honours of 1960, “Ruth Tomlinson, UK Representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women”, was awarded Commander of the Order of British Empire (CBE).

Throughout the rest of her life she lectured on subjects connected with the United Nations Specialised Agencies and subjects related to Management and Labour Relations, strongly advocating that help should be given to the women of the developing countries so that they were enabled to have a voice in world councils.

Speaking in 1963 at a UK BPW meeting in Huddersfield, she explained that;

“……the commission worked to ensure that women of all countries were granted full partnership with men in civil rights and business and professional opportunities. “

She went on to say that

“…..the Government representatives were the ‘farmers’ of propositions and motions, while the observers from the women’s organisations were the ‘channellers’ and interpreters.”

She continued by saying that their work was vital as through their membership they could really press for the proposals to be carried out.

(The Huddersfield Daily Examiner September 4th 1963)

Miss Ruth Tomlinsons CBE has been taken into the care of Leicester Museums & Galleries

Miss Ruth Tomlinsons CBE has been taken into the care of Leicester Museums & Galleries

So what happened to me, her CBE.

After discussion, by the Trustees of the Ruth Tomlinson Memorial Fund, it was agreed that the Mayor of Leicester should be contacted to see if the City would wish to receive me as a donation. It was felt that this was fitting due to my recipient, Ruth Tomlinson’s long association with the City and that her funeral had been held at the Holy Apostles Church in Leicester in 1972.

The Mayor of Leicester was delighted to receive the offer, stating that he knew about the B’s and P’s through his grandmother who had been a member of the Bishop Auckland (Co. Durham) Club.

Arrangements were made and towards the end of October 2022, I, the CBE, was formally handed over to the Collections Manager of the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery.

The museum began life as a school in 1836. It was designed by Joseph Hansom, the inventor of the horse drawn cab, the Hansom Cab. In 1848 the building was bought by Leicester Corporation and then in 1849 it opened as a free entry museum. Over the years it has expanded but is still very popular and available for all to visit.

I, the CBE and the accompanying photograph of my recipient Ruth Tomlinson, will be displayed on the donations page of the City Museums and Galleries website and will be featured during the month of March 2023 to coincide with International Women’s Day.

A very fitting tribute, to a remarkable lady.