The plaque, at 88 Pennsylvania Road, EX4 6DQ, was unveiled on 9th June 2023.
It reads: “Mary Patricia Willcocks, author, lecturer, suffragist, lived here 1915-1941“. Mary Willcocks (1869-1952), was born at Cleeve, near Ivybridge, but came to live and work in Exeter from 1908 until her death in 1952.
Mary Willcocks was a novelist and suffrage activist who spent most of her life in Exeter. She was born on a farm close to Dartmoor, which provided the background for many of her novels, featuring strong women characters, often set in rural Devon. She moved to Exeter in 1907/8 when her early novels proved successful and made her living from then on by writing and teaching. Mary Willcocks campaigned vigorously for Votes for Women throughout her time in Exeter, organising campaigns across Devon and Cornwall for the National Union of Suffrage Societies, including the 1913 Votes for Women march from Land’s End to Hyde Park. She retained an interest in political activism even after the vote was won, speaking out vigorously and writing on topics related to women’s employment and internationalism. In 1943 she was awarded a Civil List pension for services to literature. She lived in Exeter until her death in 1952 and is buried in the Higher Cemetery.
Exeter Civic Society is indebted to Exeter City Council and the West of England and South Wales Womens’ History Network for generous assistance in funding the plaque. Also to the owners of 88 Pennsylvania Road for giving permission for the plaque to be put up, and to Star Student Lettings for installing it.