Death of former Taunton Deane Mayor Jean Hole

Mrs Hole joined the Taunton Deane Labour Party in the 1950s and has been described by another former Labour Mayor, Cllr Libby Lisgo, as “a true demonstration of strong Labour values in action”.

Mrs Hole and her husband Mike were deeply involved in the party and she was drawn towards the women’s section.

As her four children grew older, she became more politically active, fuelled by “second wave feminism”.

She was elected secretary to the new constituency Women’s Council, where she organised public meetings, attracting women from far-flung corners of Somerset to meetings that tackled some highly controversial topics. An abortion debate drew some particularly fiery exchanges. Among her many outstanding and enduring contributions to gender equality and socialism was the establishment of Somerset’s first Women’s Refuge in Taunton.

Leading the Women’s Council to work jointly with neighbouring Bridgwater CLP, they convinced Conservative councils to support the proposal.

The refuge has saved thousands of women and children from violence and abuse and Mrs Hole remained rightly proud of this achievement.

She was elected as a Taunton Deane borough councillor in 1979, one of two women among 14 Labour councillors, and was immediately installed as group secretary.

In the same year she became the General Election agent for Sandra Horne, a NALGO regional officer, forming the first all-female PPC and agent team in the constituency’s history.

Mrs Hole became Labour group leader in 1991 and in 1992 was the second woman to stand for the party in a General Election in Taunton.

In 1995 she was elected Mayor and, unsurprisingly the Women’s Refuge was nominated as one of her Mayoral charities.

Cllr Lisgo said: “Her calm authority proved a strong role model for other women within and beyond the council chamber, where she established a Women’s Forum to encourage local women to come and discuss issues that mattered to them.

“These meetings were held in the council chamber, and the practice survived for some time afterwards.” Since retiring from the council, Mrs Hole continued to work below the radar, championing and supporting various key organisations including Homestart, a local homeless charity and a local centre for people with learning disabilities.

Cllr Lisgo added: “Jean always encouraged, supported and inspired women to take on community and political roles in a quiet and self-effacing way.

“She will be greatly missed to all Labour Party friends and comrades.”

Somerset County Gazette | News