Susanna Pressel

Desert island literature picks

This meeting was held on February 06, 2019

John Mair and Susanna Pressel (photo: Orit)

Last week Susanna Pressel shared her choice of literature with the Jericho Community Association. As a child she loved adventure stories such as Treasure Island, Swiss Family Robinson and The Coral Island, poems like ‘The Revenge’ by Tennyson and ‘The Raggle-taggle Gypsies’: “They really were tremendously exciting.”

Susanna began reading these living round the corner from Carshalton Library.

She studied French and Spanish at Somerville College. When she got to Oxford her condition for marrying James Fry was that he should like Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice.

She pointed out the Austen quote on the £10 banknote in fact comes from one of the novel’s more pretentious characters.

For five years she taught French Literature at the University of Zambia, which inspired her to fight racism. She joined the Labour Party at 15 and has remained a member ever since apart from resigning briefly over Harold Wilson’s government’s immigration act in 1968.

For over twenty years she has been a member of the City Council, serving as Lord Mayor, and as a member of the County Council.

Thirty years were taken up teaching French and German in Oxfordshire schools, thought this was sometimes frustrating as she could seldom take pupils beyond the beginners’ stage.

She never got used to being Mrs Fry and decided to revert to being Susanna Pressel after ringing the National Council for Civil Liberties and asking the opinion of Patricia Hewitt who said there was no legal requirement for married women to take their husbands’ names.

On the feminist front she read from Wendy Cope’s poetry (“I’ve always liked short poems”) and has run her own women-only book group for 25 years. They have recently been reading East-West Street by Philippe Sands and she highly recommends The Book of Dust by notable Oxford resident Philip Pullman.

“I nominated him for the freedom of the city.”

She got the council to plant cherry trees in Jericho, with mixed results. Some are still alive, some resting and some never to blossom again – unless replaced.

“I love being a councillor – I should give one up. I like that (the social work side) above all.”

Jericho has changed.

“I have known five generations of some families. I miss some of the council families. We have lost a lot of our interesting shops. There used to be more pubs.”

She loves to help people with their problems. Politically it has been a struggle to save public amenities from the ravages of austerity.

She cycles and shows no signs of slowing down.

Report by: Roger Howe

My Jericho is a weekly series of conversations organized by John Mair. Most are at the community centre but there are also visits to interesting places in and around Jericho. Entry £2.00 or, if at the Community Centre, you can bring a cake. Profits to the JCA.

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Some events include a tour. So we have an idea of numbers, please book via Eventbrite where indicated.

Forthcoming meetings

Date Venue
Wed 20 Feb
Mark Damazer

Former MD of Radio 4, Master of St Peters College

Community Centre
Tue 26 Feb
Peter Hitchens

Mail on Sunday columnist

Community Centre
Wed 6 Mar
Flamenco and Jericho history
Guitarist Marcos Young and Sue Pead
Community Centre
Wed 3 Apr
Father Christopher
St Barnabas Church
St Barnabas Church Cafe
Wed 10 Apr
Bill Emmot

Former editor of The Economist

Community Centre
Wed 17 Apr
Peter Bennett Jones
Hat Trick productions
Community Centre
Wed 1 May
Wine and cheese party
End of run party
Jericho Cheese Company, Little Clarendon Street

Previous events

At the community centre

13-02-19Jericho Community Boatyard
06-02-19Susanna Pressel
30-01-19Fiona Hawkins
04-12-18Former postman, Ali
21-11-18Baroness Jan Royall
14-11-18Alan Rusbridger
07-11-18Rough sleepers in Oxford
31-10-18David Mills
17-10-18Roma Tearne
09-10-18Evening for Bill Heine
03-10-18Sir Christopher Ball
12-09-18Richard Dick
15-08-18Susan Brown
29-03-18Maggie Black
21-03-18Sir Rick Trainor
15-03-18Will Wyatt
14-03-18Ian Stuart
07-03-18Steph Pirrie
21-02-18Fr Jonathan Beswick
14-02-18Mark Davies
06-02-18Pandora Maxwell
31-01-18Sir Richard Peto
24-01-18Teresa O’Hara
17-01-18Maggie Whitlum
10-01-18Michel Sadones


23-01-19Lady Margaret Hall
09-01-19Lord Mayor’s Parlour
18-04-18Worcester College