WONERSH
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HISTORY SOCIETY

CLAUDIA PARSONS - ENGINEER, TRAVELLER, AUTHOR

(1900-1998) Born   in   the   Indian   hill   station   of   Simla   in   1900,   Claudia   Parsons    lived   with   her   mother,    aunt and sister Betty in The Old House,  The Street from 1924 to 1996. The Engineer Her   first   foray   into   technology   was   a   course   at   Guildford   Technical   College   on   ‘the   auto-cycle engine’.      Then   in   1919,   when   she   was   18,   she   enrolled   in   a   diploma   course   in   automobile engineering   at   Loughborough   and   was   one   of   just   three   girls   studying   engineering   alongside three   hundred   boys.      Today   they   have   over   700   female   engineering   students.      The   Claudia Parsons    Memorial    Lecture     is    held    annually    at    Loughborough    University    to    honour    her achievements. The Traveller She   became   a   paid   chauffeur-companion,   driving   clients   through   the   most   far-flung   parts   of Europe,   America,   India   and   the   Far   East,   doing   her   own   maintenance   and   repairs.   In   Delhi   in 1938   she   bought   a   second-hand   Studebaker   car   and   with   the   American   anthropologist   Kilton Stewart,   travelled   back   to   England   via   India,   Afghanistan,   Iran,   Iraq,   Syria,   Palestine,   Egypt, Libya, thus completing her journey round the world. When   the   Second   World   War   broke   out   Claudia   took   a   course   in   workshop   practice   for   women   munitions   workers,   devised   by   Verena Holmes,   a   friend   she   had   met   at   Loughborough.      She   worked   as   a   machinist   in   a   munitions   factory   in   London   and   later   became   a   Munitions Factory Inspector. The Author Claudia   wrote   many   stories   and   articles   about   her   travels   and   had   considerable   success   in   1936 with   her   novel   Brighter   Bondage    and   in   1941   with   a   travel   book   Vagabondage .      Then   in   1995, when she was in her nineties, her autobiography Century Story was published. Claudia   never   married,   because   she   said   men   ‘very   often   threatened   to   stop   me   doing   what   I wanted   to   do’.      She   also   said   of   her   relationship   with   a   ‘non-marrying’   diplomat   that   ‘as   I   was myself   a   bit   of   a   loner   and   could   understand   his   feelings,   I   decided   to   be   a   non-marrying   wife,   to meet and live with him whenever chance offered’. It   would   seem   that   Claudia’s   love   life   was,   in   its   day,   as   exceptional   as   her   travels,   which   were   at a time when women rarely travelled at all and certainly not alone as she did.
1992 Portrait by Margaret Palmer
Surrey Advertiser 14 September 1940