Remembering Bedales co-founder Oswald Powell


By Matilda McMorrow, Librarian

“It is never good for the governed or for the government that injustice should be tolerated without protest,” began Oswald Powell in his letter to the Hants & Sussex News in 1913. At the time he was fighting alongside Winifred Powell in solidarity with all women, in a society that took women’s work, money and lives whilst refusing them the right to be seen as people. The Powells would protest this injustice for five more years before any UK women had voting rights. They confronted the tax authorities, took local action in Petersfield and international action at a Budapest conference, and of course, tried to model social change in their work at Bedales. This collaborative, action-driven spirit seems to have been at the heart of the man who co-founded Bedales, and certainly put life into the ideas of John Badley, whose name we might be more familiar with.

We are not able to read a Wikipedia page on Oswald Powell, or find out his theories from a book. He was too busy doing things to write at length. He was at workers’ meetings or harvesting apples or running the choir. He was instituting a brand new way of learning French, finding ways to economise on food during the war, and mucking in with all the day-to-day school realities. Most importantly, perhaps, he was doing something about the injustices he had seen in the world.

This is why it was a privilege to hear about Powell from a woman who knew him – his granddaughter, Ann Donnelly (pictured above with me, Magnus Bashaarat and fellow Librarian Ian Douglas). Ann gave a talk on this unique man in the Lupton Hall last Thursday, with insight and detail nobody else could have. I was delighted to meet her afterwards, and I can attest she has the same energy and passion that she spoke of her grandfather channelling into everything he did. I would like to thank Ann for working so hard to fill the gaps in our history, and everyone who attended the talk for ensuring it is heard.