Mrs Edith Woodman Hooper, the first Branch Secretary of Pershore WI in 1916, was married to Geoffrey Fielder Hooper, whose business and community connections in the town were numerous.
Edith Hooper was born in 1868 in Walton le Dale, Preston, the daughter of Thomas Wilson, a wealthy Lancastrian solicitor, and his wife Frances Woodman. Her father’s death was registered in 1895 at some time after which, Edith and her mother moved to Stobhill, Malvern Wells, Worcestershire, where the two women appear in the 1901 census for the area, along with Edith’s widowed twin sister Gertrude and her children, and other of Frances’ grandchildren.
Edith married Geoffrey Fielder Hooper in St Peter’s Church, Malvern Wells, on 26 September 1901. According to the marriage register, the ceremony was witnessed by Edith’s mother and twin sister, Geoffrey’s father and Charles S Martin. Geoffrey was a prominent fruit grower and business man: he had helped to found Pershore’s Co-Operative Fruit Market in 1907 and served as the inaugural President of the Co-Operative until 1918. A dedicated committee man, he served on Pershore Abbey Restoration Committee prior to the war, as Chairman of the Fruit Growers’ & Market Gardeners’ Association and on the Management Committee of the County Evening Instruction of Gardeners. Brought up in London and educated at Marlborough, Hooper had moved to Pershore in the 1890s to study fruit farming under Alderman Henry Masters of Benge Hill, Evesham. When the war broke out he, his wife and daughter Muriel lived at The Croft, on Station Road, surrounded by 28 acres of market garden.
Once war began, Edith became involved with a number of charities including the Soldiers, Sailors and Families Association (SSAFA), which looked after the welfare of wives and families of those in the services.
Edith shared her husband’s concern about the wartime organisation of volunteers to help with food production, and became involved with the Women’s Committee of the County War Agricultural Executive Committee. As a consequence, she worked alongside Virginia, Viscountess Deerhurst, and Lady Isabel Margesson, on the creation of WI branches in the county. Having helped set up the Pershore branch in 1916, Edith also set up the Eckington WI and became a VCO (Voluntary County Organiser) in 1918 for the Worcestershire Federation of WIs.
Edith remained very close to her mother Frances Woodman Wilson, who was widowed in 1895, and her twin sister Gertrude, also widowed with a toddler in 1900 after only 4 years of marriage. Frances and Gertrude lived in Malvern Wells according to the 1901 census, before moving to 4 St Mary’s Terrace, London Road, Worcester, by time of the 1911 census.
Edith died on 7 July 1925, following an appendectomy operation, and is buried in Pershore Cemetery. Geoffrey remarried a nurse named Monica Waller in London in 1927, and the couple continued to live at The Croft. Geoffrey died by his own hand on 26 May 1932 and is buried beside Edith in the Cemetery.
Written by Jenni Waugh, based on research carried out for How the Pershore Plum Won the War, co-edited with Prof Maggie Andrews (History Press, 2016).