Talk: ‘Deeds not Words’


12 March 2022, 11am

‘Deeds not Words’ is the title of a talk about the life and achievements of Norah Balls, a North Tyneside suffragette and community activist.

Those booking for the talk will also be able to view a display about Norah Balls.

The talk is by Old Low Light volunteer and trustee, Nina Brown, who over the past 18 months has researched Norah’s life and curated the display. She said: “Women today stand on the shoulders of women like Norah Balls. During my research, I discovered a champion for women, with great courage for a cause, adventurous and with a strong belief in service to her community.”

Her talk will explore how Norah, daughter of a North Shields mariner, became an active member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), led nationally by Emmeline Pankhurst and how she became involved in many other aspects of community life focusing on supporting and improving the lives of girls, women and families.

As a WSPU member she toured the region addressing meetings, often facing angry crowds. In 1910, she joined over 300 suffragettes in London angry that Prime Minister Asquith had reneged on a promise to introduce a bill for partial female suffrage and was arrested three times.

A driving force in the establishment of the Girl Guides in Northumberland and the Electrical Association for Women, both with Lady Parsons, wife of Sir Charles Parsons who invented the compound steam turbine, Norah was also chair of the Tynemouth Unemployed Welfare Committee and of the Tyneside Union of Girls’ Clubs, and a founding member of Tynemouth Business and Professional Women’s Club.

A Justice of the Peace, she also became an Independent councillor for Dockwray Ward, North Shields, serving on health, education and children’s committees.

At the start of WW2, she did night duties as an air raid warden for Tynemouth, walking the cliffs and worked locally for the Ministry of Information, giving frequent lectures on “women in wartime”.

Resigning as a councillor in 1951, she retired to a flat in Bamburgh Castle, later moving into a cottage in the village. She died in Berwick Infirmary in 1980, aged 94.

Throughout her life Norah was a great traveller, which she continued well into her old age, often giving talks afterwards.

She was also a regular on BBC local radio, involved in plays, Saturday talks and for a time was Aunty Norah on Children’s Hour North. She also took part in amateur theatricals and gave recitations.

“Deeds not Words” is part of a programme of events at the Old Low Light during March 2022 marking the life and achievements of Norah Balls.

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