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grand mother was a poet and campaigner !

grand daughter opened publishing house at 21 !!

Norman Warwick sees the connection

We first heard about the late Olga Kenyon (left) when her grand daughter spoke of her in an article we published yesterday and in researching for more information we learned that she died in 2014 after being hit by a car.

We also learned, though, that Cambridge graduate Olga had a rich career involving teaching, lecturing and writing and retired in the early 90s due to ill health. She was a well respected author of women’s writing and had eight books published. She moved to Manchester 20 years ago from Todmorden.

A lover of literature and the arts Olga was a regular theatre goer and an active helper at the Manchester and Whitworth Art Galleries and the Manchester Museum.

Author PD James wrote the foreword to Olga’s most acclaimed book 800 Years of Women’s Letters.

It read: “Olga Kenyon has performed a service to all who are interested not only in the written word, but in the changing lives of women”.

As a keen poet Olga won the North West Libraries poetry award and her poem To the Edge, about Alderley Edge, was displayed on trams.

She has been an active member of Manchester’s Amnesty International and was ordained at the Manchester Buddhist Centre in 2005. Olga was given the name Aryamati meaning ‘she whose mind is noble’ and ran a weekly mediation group and poetry group at the centre in the Northern Quarter.

She was fluent in five languages and suffered from osteoporosis which caused crippling back pain.

Her family added: “Rather than enjoying a quiet retirement as a lover of life Olga threw herself into everything the city has to offer.

“In recent years she had operations to replace both hips. Rather than be restricted to a wheelchair she slowly built up her strength and continued walking with the aid of a stick. Only the weekend before her death Olga helped organise the Climate Change protest through Manchester and despite her health issues insisted on marching at the front.”


This inspiring and fascinating book is the first truly comprehensive study of women’s letters ever published. Organised by subject matter, and covering a wide range of topics from politics, work and war, to childhood, love and sexual passion. ‘800 Years of Women’s Letters’ reveals the depth, breadth and diversity of women’s lives through the ages. Here Holoise writes to Abelad of her undying devotion, Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf correspond about life and writing, and Queen Victoria complains to Robert Peel about the neglect of Buckingham Palace. Many more women write letters that reveal the compassion, humour, love and tenacity with which they confront the often difficult circumstances of everyday life. This is an intriguing insight, and a rare opportunity to read the real words of real women, in their own intimate language. “No literary form is more revealing, more spontaneous or more individual than a letter.” P D James.

Olga Kenyon has unearthed eight centuries of lost voices, easily proving her assertion that women’s letters are indeed “a great art form.” Though readers will have heard of many of these correspondents–from Heloise (to Abelard, naturally) to Restoration playwright-spy Aphra Behn to Madame de Sévigné–most of us would be hard put to volunteer any solid information. Kenyon organizes these letters by theme, including friendship, childhood and education, war work, and political skills, and the juxtapositions are enlightening. “Housekeeping and Daily Life” features the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva, who writes of being forced to leave her two-year-old tied to a chair while she searches Moscow for provisions; Queen Elizabeth I, who bemoans the bad shape Buckingham Palace is in; and Hannah Cullwick, a servant who anatomizes England’s sharp class divisions, circa 1864. Cullwick writes of toiling in the kitchen while the upper classes lord it upstairs: “But it’s always so with ladies and servants and of course there is a difference.

“Because their bringing up is so different…servants may feel it sharply and do sometimes I believe, but it’s best not to be delicate, nor mind what work we do so as it’s honest.”

There is an evident high seriousness to Kenyon’s enterprise…you won’t find, for example, any of Nancy Mitford’s sparkling missives. On the other hand, she does include a teasing letter from the great Victorian traveller Mary Kingsley, which begins: “My cannibal friends never eat human heads unless for religious purposes.” … Amazon.com Books.

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