King's Cross Voices

Memories (Barbara Jacobson)

Barbara came to London from America to attend university and began to live in Balfe Street.  She became involved as an activist in the regeneration of the area and volunteered for years with the English Collective of Prostitutes. She was interviewed in 2006.

“A friend of mine at SOAS was trying to set up a women's group and so we went to a conference they gave in 1982 called 'Bringing it all back home'.  It was really kind of the first time, I had been here about a year, the first time I felt at home because people were talking about what it was like to be foreign in this country and the sorts of reasons why people come and although my reasons were not to do with colonialism particularly it was still quite an amazing thing.  When you write your name down to be in the conference, I had put my phone number and so about 10 days after the conference the Women's Centre ended up occupying the Church of Holy Cross and they called me up at about 6 in the morning saying we are in the church and we need support.  I had noticed prostitutes in the area but I hadn't spoken to anybody and I didn't know anything about it.  All I heard down the phone was the police might get us and so I went and manned the doors and helped out.  It was fantastic.  It was one of the last things they did that really garnered the international press and so you really felt you were making history.  There were probably about 25 women to begin with and various people going back and forth doing stuff.  I think the thing was the amount of press coverage it had and that whole thing of prostitutes going on strike or occupying a place.  It was inspired by the women in France who had occupied some churches in 1975 and what they were trying to do was women had been illegally picked up and picked up for just walking on the street with the wrong kinds of clothes or talking to a man regardless if it was pick up or not.  They wanted somebody to monitor the situation and be in court and make sure women were actually getting what they should out of the court system.  That was the time of women's committees in local government and so the Women's Committee.  The occupation lasted for about 10 days, not hugely long, maybe two weeks.  It made huge splash in the papers and television, reported around the world.”

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