Papers of Pamela Anderson

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of personalia; papers about Pamela Anderson's work in public relations; membership of organisations; papers relating to the Fawcett Society when Pamela Anderson was its Chair, including transfer of The Fawcett Library to City of London Polytechnic; information papers; publications

Administrative / Biographical History

Pamela Lucy Laski (1920-2008) was born in Manchester on 10 Nov 1920, the third of four children. Her father, Neville Laski, was a well-known barrister on the Northern circuit, recorder of Burnley, justice of the Isle of Man, and on his retirement, crown court judge and recorder of Liverpool. Her mother, Phina Emily, always known as Sissie, had grown up in Maida Vale, London. She was the oldest daughter of Moses Gaster, chief rabbi of the Sephardi community and an outstanding scholar who read and wrote ten languages. Sissie had a scientific bent, but she was one of thirteen children and there was no money for higher education. In later life she coached friends' children in maths and worked tirelessly as a volunteer for several charities. The family had wider political connections; the Neville Laskis were Liberals, whereas Neville's brother, Harold Laski, Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics was a Labour party eminence. The two households saw little of each other.

When Pamela was about six, the family moved to London, to a house in Wedderburn Road in Hampstead. She suffered all her life from dyslexia, a disorder which was not understood in the 1920s. Her real abilities went unrecognised and in a very intellectual family she suffered in consequence. While her older sister, Marghanita, was sent to St Paul's, Pamela was sent to St Margaret's, a local girls' school, then in Oakhill Park. She claimed she was expelled for arguing. A teacher had asserted that there was an Outer, as well as an Inner and Middle Temple, a grievous mistake to a barrister's daughter. After school she was sent to France, a country for which she had a lifelong affection.

Her first marriage at eighteen was to Peter Edwin Lewis, a barrister and graduate of University College, Oxford. Her first child died at birth. Her second, Jenny (Anita Jennifer), was born in 1941. In the early years of the war they moved about with him to various RAF stations, spending a short spell in the Orkneys. Peter Lewis was seven years older and the marriage did not survive the war.

After her divorce, Pamela urgently needed to earn a living. From 1947 she gained retail experience in Peter Robinson, moving around 1949 into Public Relations for which she had a real flair. Until the late 1970s she was a Public Relations consultant, beginning with women's fashion, and expanding into other commercial, industrial and institutional spheres. In her work she encountered many exceptional and influential women, especially in journalism, and made many lifelong friendships.

In 1950 Pamela married Jordie (George Jordison Anderson), a solicitor, who unfailingly supported Pamela in her work. He moved almost at once to a country practice and for nearly ten years they lived in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. Pamela travelled up to London each week from 1951 to work for Sambo fashions, a client until 1965. Their two adopted children, Keith (Laurence Keith) and Corinna (Corinna Mary) were born in 1953 and 1955. The family moved back to London for sixteen years in 1960.

Through her public relations work, Pamela became increasingly interested in the position of women. She helped to organise the Golden Jubilee Celebration of Votes for Women, held at Central Hall, Westminster, in 1968. In 1969 she advised PEP on aspects of the launch of their study 'Women at work' and advised Girton College on their centenary celebrations. From 1969 to 1970 she was co-opted to the committee of the National Advisory Centre of Careers for Women and was elected a member of its Finance and Policy Steering Committee. She was a member of Women in Media, founded in 1970, an organisation campaigning for women to be employed in senior positions, especially in the BBC and ITV, and for a better, less sexist slant to stories about women. From 1971 to 1973 Pamela worked with the Family Planning organisation, organising a very large and successful conference at the Festival Hall. She also worked with the Conservation Society.

Pamela was co-opted to the Executive Committee of the Fawcett Society in 1970. She became its chairman (not yet termed chair) from 1973 to 1977. These were important years for women's issues, which saw the Equal Pay Act of 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 and the establishment of the Equal Opportunities Commission in the same year. The Fawcett Society had an influential voice in these and other campaigns. There was also an international dimension. 1975 was International Women's year. As chairman Pamela attended the French conference in Paris in March and visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Following a seminar in Oct 1975 in the US embassy in London, she was invited for six weeks to the United States in 1976, participating in the International Visitor Programme of the US Department of State. Her brief to look at changing attitudes among men and women took her across the continent from the East Coast to California, with stops in Chicago and Seattle. In the following year she went to the Parliament of Europe in Strasbourg. Pamela became a vice-president of the Fawcett Society in 1977. During these years she was privileged to work among others with Nancy Seear, the President, and with Mary Stott, Women's Editor of The Guardian. Both remained firm friends.

A contentious issue arose in 1976. This was the urgent need to rehouse the Fawcett Library. Westfield College (then in Hampstead), was proposed, but the terms proved unfavourable. The London School of Economics' library then seemed to be the best choice, but it emerged that the collections might be broken up. In 1977 the Fawcett Library was transferred to the City of London Polytechnic, now London Metropolitan University, which had undertaken to keep it intact. Renamed the Women's Library in 2002, it is now housed in a purpose-built new block.

In 1976, Pamela and Jordie moved to Somerset, living first in North Cadbury, then from 1981 in Castle Cary. In 1980 Virago published Simple steps to public life, written by Pamela, Mary Stott and Fay Weldon. In an article in The Evening News (2 Jun 1980), Fay Weldon described engagingly how Pamela had drawn her into the project when they met by chance on the train between Castle Cary and Paddington. This booklet was followed by Pamela's Simple steps for returners: a guide to the pros and cons of women returning to work (c. 1984). Both were written from personal experience. From 1981 Pamela served for nearly eighteen years as a Liberal for Cary ward on Yeovil District council, later renamed South Somerset District Council. Among her special interests were the Arts. She was chairman of the Arts and Leisure Committee and the council's representative on South West Arts. For her work Pamela received an MBE in 1991. In 1996 she faced breast cancer with great courage and subsequently underwent hip operations. The cancer recurred only at the end of her life. She died on 11 Apr 2008 aged 87.

Arrangement

The archive has been arranged into five series:

7PMA/01 Personalia

7PMA/02 Public Relations

7PMA/03 Fawcett Society

7PMA/04 Information papers

7PMA/05 Publications

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit. 1 file (7PMA/03/07) is closed in accordance with Data Protection Act. The original items will be made available in Jan 2075.

Other Finding Aids

The Women's Library Catalogue

Appraisal Information

Duplicate minutes from Status of Women Committee meetings and Women in Media meetings were removed as these can be found elsewhere in the collections. Minutes from Fawcett Society meetings were removed as an accrual for the Fawcett Society archive.

Related Material

The Women's Library also holds the Records of the Fawcett Society and its Predecessors (1871-1967)(2LSW); Records of the Friends of The Women's Library (11FFL); Records of the Fawcett Library Trust (11FLT).

Corporate Names

Geographical Names