Jill Saward, 51, an indefatigable campaigner who sought to change how the United Kingdom’s legal system treats victims of sexual violence, died of a massive stroke Jan. 4.
She shot to prominence in 1986 at age 21, when two burglars broke into her father’s vicarage in Ealing. She was repeatedly raped and her father, the Rev. Michael Saward, suffered a fractured skull when hit over the head by a cricket bat.
It was well-nigh impossible to remain anonymous since the landmark Ealing vicarage made her identification relatively easy. Saward became the first U.K. victim to waive anonymity when the case went to court. There was outrage when the trial judge imposed a lower sentence for the rape than for the associated burglary, an action he later said he regretted.
Saward devoted herself to a sustained campaign highlighting violence against women, and was a sought-after writer and broadcaster.
Archbishop Justin Welby called Saward “heroic and remarkable” and broadcaster Nicky Campbell described her as a “hero of our times.”
She was married to the journalist Gavin Drake, who writes frequently for Anglican Communion News Service. They have three sons.
Tolpuddle Martyrs Honored
The story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs has a special place in British trade-union history. A sycamore tree in the center of Tolpuddle in the western county of Dorset was the meeting place of six farm laborers. Their bosses tried to cut their pay from nine to six shillings a week.
In 1834 their reward for a collective demand for better wages and working conditions earned a sentence of transportation (deportation) to Australia. The case caused an outcry. A petition attracted 800,000 signatures. After two years of campaigning they were pardoned.
Every year each summer the U.K. Trades Union Congress celebrates the Tolpuddle Martyrs with a rally and festival. Today a small museum stands in their memory in the village.
Not many people know that all six of transported men regularly worshiped in a tiny one-room Methodist chapel close to the town center. It was built in 1818 by George Loveless and Thomas Standfield of the martyrs. At least four of the six Tolpuddle martyrs were Methodists.
Their chapel became redundant in 1862 when the congregation outgrew it. Later it became a small barn and stable. Now plans are afoot to restore the building, which is in danger of collapse.
Andrew McCarthy, a local who headed the campaign to save the building, said: “What we want is a place where people can escape from the busy world for a little while, and just sit down on the bench and be quiet for a bit and think about the history of the martyrs, what they believed in, their connection with the land and this building. Or they can just sit.”