Library has Makeover Thanks to Anita

Donisthorpe Hall launched its refurbished library on Sunday thanks to financial assistance from charity supporter Anita Woolman.

Anita, accompanied by son Andrew and daughter Susan Belford visited the home to see for the first time the renovated space.

An astonished Anita said it was “absolutely beautiful. I really did not expect anything like this at all. I’m thrilled to pieces not only with the room but with the reception that Donisthorpe has kindly given to me.”

Anita Woolman pictured in Donisthorpe's newly renovated library with her daughter Susan Belford and her son Andrew Woolman
Anita Woolman pictured in Donisthorpe’s newly renovated library with her daughter Susan Belford and her son Andrew Woolman

Donisthorpe chairman Andrew Brown thanked her on behalf of the Trustees and residents, who will now benefit from the comfort and practicality of the room which houses a music-centre, a computer and shelves of novels and biographies.

He told her “this is not just a library, it is a haven of peace and tranquillity where residents can come and lounge, listen to music, read the newspapers and use the computer or just sit and gaze out of the windows and admire the gardens.”

In a long career in social services and charitable work Anita, born in Leeds, the youngest of five siblings, was educated at Roundhay High School and after scooping 4 A Levels (with distinction) then went to Leeds University to read Social Sciences and English.

She would have loved to go to Oxford or Cambridge but her parents wouldn’t hear of it so she settled for Leeds. It was war-time and the family had to stay together.

“I came from a religious background; we went to shul and observed our religion but I had to tow the line. In those days one did what parents told one to do.”

After graduating, Anita wanted to work and put her qualifications to good use but, still adhering to their old fashioned values, her parents maintained that girls were best at home tending to matters domestic.

So the need to find employment had to be done in a voluntary capacity, and certainly not for financial gain. As a result she volunteered her services widely.

She already knew her husband-to-be Sydney Woolman. He was a friend of one of her two brothers and was always in the background. He saw her through all her young romances and then, suddenly, decided that she was the one for him.

“Consequently, after a short courtship, on August 26, 1948 we married: a great thrill to be married in the same year that Israel was formed,” she recalled.

“I was a staunch Zionist and I remember the euphoria when we could finally say we had a homeland in Israel.”

By this time WIZO groups were springing up like mushrooms and Anita became a founder member, and early chairman, of the Blanche Dugdale Group. Anita’s son Andrew was born in 1950 and even though she had a lot of domestic responsibilities still continued her charity work, “it was hard work but I soldiered on.”

Sometime later Anita, now with baby daughter Susan, became involved in Leeds Jewish Women’s Luncheon Club which she chaired for a number of years.

Her involvement, for 45 years, with the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition gave her great satisfaction. For three competitions she was in charge of the competitors at Tetley Hall, the university hall of residence, arranging the musicians’ practise sessions at various homes across the city, organise timetables and transport.

The new library embraces everything dear to Anita’s cultural side; her love of music, which takes her to many concerts and recitals, and her passion for literature and books.


by John Fisher