I’ve always had interest in the Cadbury family’s business methods anyway so was delighted to find out that local author Fiona Joseph was writing a book about them. More specifically, Beatrice Boeke, nee Cadbury, daughter of Richard was born in 1884.
On the strength of this book, I went to hear the author do a talk. I planned to buy a signed copy to read and hearing Fiona talk with so much love and admiration for Beatrice, I ‘fell a little bit in love’ too.
The story starts as Beatrice is born into what is already a wealthy family. Her father’s first wife died after giving birth to their fourth child and Beatrice is a result of his second marriage to his treasured Emma. They go onto have a long and happy marriage but are long gone before Beatrice rebels and this is when the story takes off.
We are introduced to Beatrice’s future husband, a trained architect, when she is already doing missionary work and she is on a panel interviewing him for a role in Syria. By the time he starts the role, they are already about to embark on a marriage.
Even before this, I enjoy every bit of the story and the book gives me a greater understanding on the Quaker beliefs held by the Cadburys. They are already known for ‘their mix of thrift and generosity’ and I love that sentiment. The most interesting aspect is that the simple life led by Quakers is at odds with the wealth the family accumulate. But, the wealth is very much redistributed in that they open their home to those less fortunate, offer them the opportunity to wash and have fresh clothes and most famously, they treat their employees with the utmost respect and care.
Bournville in Birmingham is still a dry village and no alcohol can be sold and there are other quirks in this little suburb of the city that totally adhere to the original Cadbury ethos. It’s a beautiful, well-kept place as I learn from my first visit their last year for a much-needed view of a Christmas lights switch on that was actually in December and not several weeks previous!
Back to Beatrice, most of the book now centre’s on how the conflict within her heart grows and what leads her wanting to give up her shares and inheritance. It is odd that she did not feel the same way as her father in that their wealth could be put to good use help others. I’m left wondering what they could have done with all that disposable income rather than giving it back to the factory workers, something her brothers, now the Cadbury directors, urged her against.
Beatrice’s and her husband’s legacy centre’s on what they did for education in Holland, where they both lived after Kees was deported. Both in England and Holland, they were routinely arrested for publicly speaking their minds about being anti-war primarily, something that is against Quaker beliefs anyway. But their belief in letting children learn through play, at their own pace rather forcing tests and learning (they called this sociocracy) is fascinating and something I have had a long-term interest in. We are guided through the time when Kees started home schooling their younger children (they had 7 in all), mainly as they could not afford the school fees. The popularity grew and eventually they set up a proper school, with some funds from the Cadbury Trust that Beatrice started with her dividends.
The couple lived through two world wars, struggling and at one point living in tents. I’m at odds at this when there brothers and sisters were living in luxury but still doing managing to do good for others. Either you work and earn a living and pay taxes – something they were against as they didn’t want their money paying for the wars – or you do good with the money.
But the family Boeke stood their ground and eventually, later in life managed to earn their keep through educating others.
This is a fascinating read.