Obituary: Rebecca Wolf

Rebecca Wijnschenk, market researcher: born Amsterdam 30 August 1918; head of Market Intelligence Unit, Consumers Association 1963- 83; married 1943 Edmund Wolf (two sons); died London 14 September 1993.

REBECCA WOLF joined the fledgling Consumers Association as 'market intelligence officer' in 1963 and founded its Market Intelligence Unit, which she then ran for 20 years. Hired to take charge of gathering market information for Which?, its monthly bulletin edited by Eirlys Roberts, she became the vital intermediary between the magazine's young Turks, seeking the pure truth about consumer products, and the startled manufacturers and retailers who were being asked to provide it. Her work did much to establish the new organisation's credibility and her systems survive to this day, 10 years after her retirement.

When this small but dynamic woman came to the post from a previous career of part-time research interviewing, the Consumers Association was only six years old. It had been set up by Michael Young (now Lord Young of Dartington) as a consumer co-operative, to provide consumers with accurate, unbiased information about goods and services. Wolf brought her energy and her tact to the task. She appeared to regard her new colleagues as amiable, clever, but quite mad and totally disorganised. The association's survival was clearly a matter of undeserved good luck. She therefore established new procedures and recruited and trained a group of dedicated and devoted young women, whom she both bossed and

mothered.

Of Dutch Jewish origin, she was born Rebecca Wijnschenk in Amsterdam in 1918, and escaped to England with her parents, brothers and sisters on a trawler immediately after the Nazi invasion of Holland in 1940. Deaf to his advice, her father's brothers and sisters chose to stay behind. Seven uncles and aunts and some 30 cousins perished, a tragedy that affected her deeply, but of which she rarely spoke. In England, she immediately joined the service of the Dutch government-in-exile and worked as editorial secretary on its newspaper Vrij Nederland ('Free Netherlands'). In 1943 she married Edmund Wolf, a playwright of Austrian Jewish origin, recently returned from internment in Canada.

Her husband, her two sons and, subsequently, her six grandchildren were the core of her life. She created for them a place of comfort and beauty, furnished in part with her own beautiful embroideries. But she welcomed neighbours, friends, her children's friends, and colleagues, all of whom she supported with her practical generosity and aided with her advice. Among those children's friends was the writer and lobbyist Rosemary Delbridge, who worked at Which? and then the National Consumer Council, but whose brilliant young life ended in 1981 at the age of 31. It was Rebecca who made possible the organisation of the memorial trust for Rosemary, with its awards for outstanding achievements in lobbying. Winners included Maurice Frankel, of Campaign for Freedom of Information, David Hobman, of Age Concern, and Chrissie Maher, of the Plain English Campaign.

Rebecca Wolf's most striking quality was a Dutch one: she believed it was sensible for human beings to treat each other with mutual respect and generosity. It was the sheer stupidity of mean or hurtful behaviour that outraged her. 'Can't they see how ridiculous it is to behave like that?' she would say.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence