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Embracing Equity: Pioneer Women in Social Housing


International Women's Day (IWD) is an annual global celebration held on March 8th that recognises the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

Women have played a crucial role in shaping social housing. Their input was essential in designing homes that met the needs of families.

Women's groups also played a vital role in advocating for better housing standards and tenant rights, leading to improvements in living conditions for millions of people.

Olive Morris (1979-1952)

Olive Morris was a British community leader and activist who fought for social justice and better housing rights for black women in the 1960s and 1970s.

Born in Jamaica, 1952, she moved to the UK with her family when she was nine years old.

In the late 1960s, Morris became involved in political activism and was a founding member of the Brixton Black Women's Group, which focused on issues of race, gender, and class.

She also played an important role in the creation of the ‘Organization of Women of Asian and African Descent’ (OWAAD). This aimed to empower women from marginalized communities and provide them with a platform to speak out against discrimination and oppression.

One of Morris' main concerns was the lack of affordable and adequate housing for black communities in London.

She was a vocal critic of the poor living conditions that many black women were forced to endure, and worked tirelessly to improve their access to safe and secure housing.

Morris was a key figure in the squatters' movement, which involved occupying empty buildings in order to provide homes for those who were homeless or living in overcrowded conditions.

Morris also campaigned for better education and healthcare provision for black communities, and was a strong advocate for the rights of immigrants and refugees. She was known for her passionate and inspiring speeches.

In 1979, Morris passed away at the young age of 27 due to non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer. Her legacy lives on, and she is remembered as a trailblazing activist who fought for the rights of black women.

She paved the way for future generations of activists to continue in the fight for social justice and equality.

Octavia Hill

Hill was a social reformer and housing advocate who made significant contributions to the movement for better housing conditions for the urban poor in Victorian England.

Born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, Hill began her career as a social worker in London, where she witnessed the appalling living conditions endured by many working-class families.

She was appalled by the slum housing that was prevalent in the city. In response to this crisis, Hill set up a number of housing schemes designed to provide decent, affordable housing to those in need.

One of Hill's most successful ventures was the creation of the National Trust, a charity dedicated to preserving places of historical or natural interest for the public to enjoy.

Hill believed that access to open spaces and greenery was essential for the physical and mental wellbeing of city-dwellers, and the National Trust played a key role in ensuring that such spaces were protected for future generations.

Hill also founded the first modern housing association, the Octavia Hill Association, which purchased and renovated derelict properties, renting them out at affordable rates.

Hill believed that her housing should be designed not just to provide basic shelter, but to promote community spirit and a sense of pride in a home.

Hill was also an advocate for tenants' rights, and believed that landlords had a duty to provide safe and habitable living conditions.

She campaigned for the introduction of legislation to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords, and was instrumental in the passage of the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890, which set standards for housing quality and sanitation.

Octavia Hill's work paved the way for the creation of modern housing associations and the establishment of tenants' rights.

She was a tireless campaigner for social justice and a passionate advocate for the rights of the urban poor.

Her work continues to inspire those who believe that everyone has the right to decent, affordable housing.

Photo of Octavia Hill