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June 2011

(now Zimbabwe), had passed away on 16th December, aged 92. A founder member of the Friends, she was later made an Honorary Friend and was a kind and gracious presence at events, particularly the Kenneth Kirkwood Lecture Days, while she was able to attend.

Remembering Deborah Kirkwood I

t was very sad news indeed to hear that Deborah, who was born in Rhodesia

Several Friends attended Deborah’s funeral. It was the family’s wish that any donation in memory of Deborah be made to the Budiriro Trust at:

Deborah is remembered here by some of the Friends

Deborah had a wide range of interests. She became a devoted participant in the programme of the International Gender Studies Centre at the University’s Department of International Development at Queen Elizabeth House. As well as attending the seminars, Deborah co-edited a book based on a workshop entitled Missions, Past and Present; anthropological and historical perspectives (1993), contributing a paper herself on “Protestant Missionary Women; wives and spinsters”. She also published two papers in the much-quoted book based on another of the Centre’s workshops, The Incorporated Wife. At one of the Centre’s programmes for Oxford Women’s Day, in a talk: “Overland from Salisbury to Nairobi 1941”, Deborah told of her wartime experiences in Africa. This had been a life- changing experience, because it was while nursing in the hospital in Nairobi that she met her future husband, Kenneth.

Besides her academic activities, as a school governor she helped to merge two local middle schools into one. A member of the committee said that these were two very different schools, with different traditions and philosophies, and her wisdom, experience and calmness were enormously helpful.

schools in Zimbabwe. She kept in touch with students and other visitors to Oxford from Zimbabwe, helping them to find accommodation and offering hospitality. She fitted in time to read Jung and other philosophers. Among her favourite poets was Tagore; she chose one of his poems for Kenneth’s funeral.


eborah’s many other interest included The Budiriro Trust, which supports


hen I first became Secretary to the Friends, Kenneth Kirkwood was the

Chairman. Deborah always made me most welcome in their home.

Deborah was one of my Friends’ newsletter mailing team. We had lovely mornings around my dining table with good conversation, coffee, and gentle ‘stuffing’ of envelopes. One of my sons, on passing through the room, said to me with admiration – they are all talking about ‘old Africa’ in there.

If Deborah asked what she could bring to a Friends’ pot luck supper I always suggested a pudding. Her trifles with real custard were memorably delicious.

Felicity Wood

With my friends in International Gender Studies, I fondly remember Deborah’s keen contributions at our seminars – and her hospitality! We will celebrate her life publicly soon. Deborah collaborated with us on missionary women. In The Incorporated Wife she compares and contrasts her time being “finished” expensively in London with the missionary schooling for intended wives in Zimbabwe (fees in 1943 £8 a year), the former pupils aspiring to “come out”, many of the latter already mothers. Her words on the “good” wife, the “suitable wife” and the “superwife”, which subtly include her experiences in Oxford, make a good read!

Shirley Ardener When I think of Deborah it is with Kenneth

– not because she wasn’t a strong presence in her own right – but because they made such a wonderful team. They were supportive and life-enhancing and full of encouragement to go and achieve whatever you were trying to do. As we were to learn in the years without

Kenneth, Deborah embodied all those things in herself. Rarely talking about herself, she would exchange family news, but what she wanted to know about was how you were getting on. She was a remarkable and generous lady, who enriched life for many people.

Julia Cousins

Deborah Kirkwood always seemed interested in a lot of things that were going on and was always friendly. I sat next her on the bus during a Pitt Rivers Friends’ trip to Kew Gardens many years ago and we got chatting. She seemed genuinely curious to learn about my background but as I have subsequently found out, Deborah was extremely self- effacing about her own fascinating life. When I discovered that I knew her three daughters, it became more interesting for me to look for traits in her to try and identify resemblances! I always used to phone her up and share my thoughts on a theme for the Kenneth Kirkwood Day and she was invariably enthusiastic, appreciative and forthcoming with ideas and was a regular attendee.

Shahin Bekhradnia


Pair of Ashanti stools and message, one of three‘Postcards Home’ Deborah created for the Travelling Friends installation in the Museum cases for Travel & the Art of Travelling, Museums & Galleries Month 2004

Deborah at Hunters & Gatherers (KK 2004) with Raj Puri, Shahin Bekhradnia, daughter Marian and Hugh Brody

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