Mana Sedgwick: Distinguished public servant

Mana Sedgwick had a distinguished career in public service dedicated to women's education and to the improvement of the conditions of disadvantaged women. Herself a woman of great resource and intelligence, she became the natural head of a series of voluntary associations and other bodies.

The job she most treasured was the chairmanship of the Board of Visitors of Holloway Prison from 1970. The board had a statutory remit, as an independent body of outsiders, to supervise the working of the prison. Sedgwick was committed in supporting the women prisoners there, many of whom had deep feelings of worthlessness. She was also closely involved in the setting up of a women's bail hostel and chaired an after-care hostel, the Griffins. She always regretted that she had less success in a campaign to change the legislation on prostitutes. She was appointed OBE in 1973 for her work at Holloway.

Her father, Thomas Hodson, had been a member of the Indian Civil Service. In 1903, the year he married Kathleen Manly, he had left the ICS, allegedly after a disagreement with the Viceroy, Lord Curzon. While in India, he had worked amongst the Naga tribe of Manipur. His fascination with what he observed of the life and customs of the tribe led to his becoming part of a group developing social anthropology as a subject, and subsequently to his appointment as the first Professor of Social Anthropology at Cambridge. The third of four children, Mana Hodson was brought up in Highgate, north London.

In 1926 she won an exhibition to Newnham College, Cambridge, to read English. This left her with a lifelong love of English poetry, much of it learnt by heart. She also met her future husband, the historian Romney Sedgwick, 15 years her senior, in her final year. In the interim Mana worked first as "Rab" Butler's private secretary, and then joint head of the Economics Departmet, 1936-38, at the Bank of New South Wales where, it was said, she was the highest paid woman in the City.

The need to support his widowed mother led Romney to join the diplomatic service. After their marriage in 1936, this took them to Australia in 1938, New Zealand in 1941 and South Africa in 1946. Mana was excellent as a diplomatic wife and made many enduring friendships during these years. One of her favourite sayings was, "Keep your friendships in repair." Two children, Adam and Sophia, were born.

Returning to England in 1949, the family settled in Hampstead, moving after five years to an elegant Georgian house in Flask Walk. Romney retired in 1954, as Assistant Under Secretary of State, at the age of 60. This allowed him to return to history, and Mana then found time for her own career. From activities such as running fund-raising dances at Hampstead parish church, her abilities were soon recognised, and she was recruited as a magistrate, sidestepping the then usual political nomination. She subsequently became the chairman of the Hampstead Bench and the chairman of the Inner London Magistrates Association.

Women's education was another focus of her commitment. She became a council member of Westfield College, set up with the specific object of "furthering the education of women". After acting as treasurer for nine years, in 1971 she was appointed an Honorary Fellow. She became chair of the Associates of Newnham College, a group of distinguished alumnae which supports the college and undergraduates there. She was also an active early member of the Movement for the Ordination of Women.

Romney Sedgwick died in 1972, leaving Mana a widow for what proved nearly 36 years, longer than her married life. Five years later she moved to a fine house in Suffolk, listed Grade II* after she uncovered carved medieval beams. She plunged energetically into village life, becoming treasurer of the parochial church council and was amused in this capacity to receive letters from the bank addressed to St Mary the Virgin, Downs House, Stoke by Nayland.

Finally, she moved to Barley in Hertfordshire in 1994 to be near her daughter. The rigorous self-control and strong Christian belief that had all her life underpinned her charm and tact helped her deal successfully with the problems of increasing age and frailty. She kept up her social and intellectual life to the end, always reading the monthly set books of the two literary groups to which she belonged.

Her last public engagement was at the Mercers Company, of which her father, brothers and nephews were, or had been, members. She was asked to address the lunch in Mercers Hall marking the admission of women members. This she did, aged 93, electrifying her listeners for eight minutes, speaking without hesitation or notes. As she said afterwards, "It's much easier without notes. That's what I learnt from acting at Cambridge."

Martin Sheppard



Mana St David Hodson, public servant: born London 1 March 1909; OBE 1973; married 1936 Romney Sedgwick (died 1972; one son, one daughter); died Barley, Hertfordshire 11 December 2007.

Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on TV
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Life & Style
The exterior of a central London Angus Steakhouse
food + drink
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives in the rain during the qualifying session of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai
sport
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Arts & Entertainment
filmLife for Leslie Mann's can be challenging sometimes
Voices
For music lovers: John Cusack with his vinyl collection in 'High Fidelity'
voices...but don't forget rest of the year
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit