New President appointed to the Soroptimists

RINGING IN CHANGE: Caroline Auckland (left), Claire Archbold (middle) and Cat Mennell

The Soroptimists International Tunbridge Wells & District (SITWD) have announced the appointment of a new President.

Claire Archbold took office at the Annual General Meeting on April 17, and selected as her chosen charity an LGBTQ+ and youth homelessness organisation based in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Bristol.

She will be followed by President Elect Cat Mennell, and Vice President Jill Ruddock.

Outgoing President Caroline Auckland stepped into the presidency at SITWD in 2021, at a time when there was no top officer and the organisation was being run by committee.

Yet despite taking office during the pandemic restrictions, the organisation has kept busy with tree- and flower-planting, supporting a food bank, collecting aluminium cans for the international ‘toilet twinning’ project, and more.

Caroline’s chosen charities were both local ones: Pickering Cancer Drop-In Centre and the arts and music organization, Arts Without Boundaries.

“I am all about Tunbridge Wells,” she said at the time.

However, it was Violence Against Women and Girls which became one of the central issues of her presidency.

Not only have local Soroptimists taken part in local vigils and other events; in 2022, they collected and published data on areas of town where women have felt unsafe.

The ‘Spotlight on Safety’ survey results have been shared with police, local government and even Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, whose Protection from Sex-based Harassment in Public Bill is on its way through Parliament.

“That issue roller-coastered right the way through my presidency,” Caroline told the Times.

Caroline passed on the local Soroptimists’ historic chain of office and insignia to her successor earlier this month.

The enamel centrepiece of the chain of office was created by suffragette Ernestine Mills, some of whose other pieces are in the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Museum of London.

Each president’s name and term of office is engraved on a silver bar and added to the chain.

“In our club archives, there is a record of a discussion around a potential donation of the chain to a museum, but this was thankfully rejected a long time ago,” she said.

“It is an honour and a privilege to wear the chain engraved with the names of past presidents who were business and professional women.”

She added: “Understandably, the chain is quite heavy with the number of engraved bars, but there is room for more!”

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