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Tribute to Astra

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Astra, one of the early members of the OFN, at the age of 87.

‘A big voice in a frail body

A hard-hitting feminist poet

A pioneer blogger from a care home

A stoic in the face of older age

Spitting out stanzas which

inspire us to be OLDER & BOLDER.’

Extracted from Astra's Published
Poetry Book

'Older & Bolder'

Astra was born and lived in New York where she trained as a teacher. She married in 1961 and moved to London in 1962. In the following years she had two sons.  Her passions were many, in particular photography and poetry.

The early 70’s marked the beginning of her deep engagement with feminism. She became involved with the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, Women in Black, the Older Feminist Network and many other organisations. She was a published poet and her works include: ‘Back you come, Mother Dear(Virago Press, 1986) and ‘Older and Bolder’ (Third Age Press, 1990).

She will be deeply missed by many who mourn her passing.  Some of the tributes from her friends and family are printed below.

Speeches at her Funeral

 Marj: Astra we all miss you. She and I were two of the early birds at the setting up of the OFN, and Molly soon joined us.  We all remember Astra as a warm, loving and generous woman, and a poet too.  I remember the meetings when there was always someone asking “Is Astra here?”.  She usually was, and often facilitating in the early days.  She made the meetings lively and interesting. She went on to edit the newsletter and, as she had friends both here and abroad, she would ask for their news and so make it an international newsletter.

Molly:  Astra, thank you for so much that you have given us, especially the legacy of OFN. So many of your friends would be joining in these sentiments, but unfortunately they have gone on ahead.

Elcena: Astra! God Speed!  Your work here on earth is over. You will be remembered for your goodness and your drive. Rest my sister.

Hilary: Astra was a poet and Hilary has contributed in poetic fashion (see extracted poem left).

Some memories of Astra from OFN newsletter subscribers

From Molly: ‘Here are some words about Astra that have already been sent to us.   We are also putting together a folder of longer tributes. If you would like to write something, in whatever form, please send it to: Molly McConville at 60 Gibson Square, London N1 ORA.’

From Val Dunmow: “I did not know Astra personally having never attended meetings, due to my own lack of mobility, but I have always appreciated her input to the newsletter and been aware of the amount that she contributed to the OFN over many years.  It has always been obvious that she was held in great affection and respect and I am sure that she will be sorely missed and well remembered.”                                                                       

From:  Barbara Hawthorne: “So sorry to hear of Astra's death.  She wrote wonderful passionate poems capturing the spirit and time of the (older) feminist movement.  These will live on.  Rest in peace Astra.”                                        

From: Wendy H. Hill: “My memory of her (who I never met face-to-face) was her welcome to me when I first joined OFN many years ago.  Although I knew I would not be able to attend meetings, Astra still made me feel a valuable member.  I loved her poetry and her choice of quotes and cartoons for the newsletter. I am sure she rests in peace.

From: Anne Santos: “Astra was a remarkable woman.   I read her sad, amusing and stoic account of her period in a care home, recently published in the OFN Newsletter. In a world where mediocrity is considered brilliant, she will be missed.”                    

From: Liz Morrison“As a reader of the newsletter for many years I have enjoyed Astra’s articles and poems. My sympathies to all who knew her.”

From: Jean Hewson.“I was sorry to hear of Astra's death. I met Astra in the 1970s in connection with a local peace group. We also took part in a Jewish/Feminist bible study group. I enjoyed her contributions to the OFN newsletter, especially those in verse.  Her dedication to the OFN and other related causes will remain an inspiration.”

From: Josephine Negro “The sad death of Astra comes as a real loss. I have known this remarkable woman for more than 30 years. She recruited me into the OFN from the Feminist Library, where we both met. Since then I have watched in admiration as she struggled to extend our influence. For years she worked on the Newsletter, where she also recruited me as part of the team. In those days producing the Newsletter was hard physical work as well as the usual business of putting together the copy. The whole team would descend in a body to a print shop off Tottenham Court Road and make the photocopies ourselves, stagger home each with an armful of paper, and gather later to assemble, staple and fold the copies to be posted. In all this labour, Astra kept her creativity and her humour sharp, as well as maintaining a wide range of contacts and her interest in the work of other women’s organisations. She was a one off and will be sadly missed.