Who else would you be? Women of the Year name their choice
If you were not yourself, who would you like to be?
That was the question put to six distinguished women at yesterday's sixth Women of the Year Luncheon at the Savoy Hotel, London.
Five hundred suitably hatted women guests, among them architects, actresses, lawyers, journalists, nurses, a minister of religion and a rat catcher and pestologist, listened as each speaker made her choice.
They heard the Director of the WRNS, Commandant Dame Elizabeth Hoyer-Millar reveal that she would like to have been Helen of Troy.
“Lady Hamilton I rather obviously considered,” she said, “but I think my career might have been less successful and happy had I had the interests and desires that brought her to fame.”
To change places with Helen of Troy, she thinks, would be a thrilling experience. … “And when I came home again, think of the television fees.”
“I have done many interesting things in the WRNS,” she went on, “but I have never launched a ship. My wish would be fulfilled a thousand times and the Admiralty would be faced with a quite unprecedented bill for bottles of champagne.”
Next to speak was Miss Ailsa Garland Editor of Vogue.
The Editor of Vogue, it seems, would really like to be Eve.
“Think,” she said, “of all the advantages of being the first and, indeed, the only woman in the world.
“I would be the best cook and even my worst experiments would be eaten because there would be no other food. If I wanted a new dress, I would simply choose a new leaf.”
And there were other nerve-easing considerations. “If my husband was late and said he was picking the figs I would know he was doing just that.”
The mother-in-law problem would not exist and neither would that of keeping up with the Joneses. And introductions at social gatherings would present no tongue-tying worries … “Adam, meet the Serpent. Serpent meet Adam.”
Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative MP for Finchley, moved away from the more frivolous aspects of the question.
“I have attempted to choose a person who, although she had great sadness in her life, had what I think I envy most—a sense of purpose.”
The woman with purpose turned out to be Anna, immortalised—if somewhat romantically—in the musical “Anna and the King of Siam.”
“Anna had much of tragedy in her life,” said Mrs. Thatcher, “and that I would not like to share.”
But Mrs. Thatcher admires Anna's sense of destiny, the way she got her ideas established in Siam, her efforts to stamp out slavery and introduce “the ideas of democracy she had learned in her own country.”
It was a suitable choice for a newly elected MP who has already made her mark in the House of Commons by getting through a Private Member's Bill to give the Press the statutory right of admission to meetings of public bodies.
The favourite age of Lady Pakenham is the Victorian Age, and her heroine is Florence Nightingale.
“I choose her because she was a rebel. She swam against the stream.”
Another reason was that Miss Nightingale, although she lived to be 90, was exceedingly delicate from the age of 40 and spent a large proportion of her life lying on a couch, getting important people to come and see her.
“We work far too hard. We run about too much,” said Lady Pakenham.
The Dowager Marchioness of Reading wanted to be the poet and medieval scholar Helen Waddell.
“Helen Waddell made poems, made things that sing in your heart when you are tired at night,” she said. “But if I had to be somebody else I would want to take one possession with me—the possession of friends.”
“What a hen party,” exclaimed actress Evelyn Laye when her turn came. She could not think at first of anyone she would rather be than herself.
“I like being a star” she said. “I like the limelight and I like the applause. I have loved the theatre all my life.”
It seemed that Miss Laye would be lighthearted about her choice … “I am very fond of oranges and I love King Charles spaniels” … but she became suddenly serious as she started to talk about the woman she had chosen.
Without naming her, Miss Laye gave a few clues. “She was born in poverty which dogged her all her life. She never allowed it to take her mind from her vocation. She was a great student.
“I would love to have her wonderful brain, her courage, her selflessness, her strength, and the genius to leave behind me a great gift to mankind and the future.
“I should like to have been Marie Curie.” [end p9]
The Marchioness of Lothian, chairman of the committee which organises the luncheon each year in aid of the Greater London Fund for the Blind, said that this year more than £2,000 had been raised. She also read a message from the Queen Mother who is Patron of the Fund.
Among the guests were three Yorkshirewomen: Dr. Doris Fletcher, a consultant dermatologist from Sheffield; Dr. Camilla Hay Gillies, an examiner for Oxford and Cambridge University School Examinations, who lives at Knaresborough; and Miss M. E. G. Stocker, governor of Askham Grange Prison, York.