An inspirational Loughborough alumna
An amazing woman, with an incredible story.
Claudia was born in India in August 1900, and throughout her life frequently challenged stereotypes, overcame adversity and pursued her passions. The attributes she showed throughout her life are ones that we hope that all Claudia Parsons Hall residents can embrace, show and benefit from during their time at Loughborough and beyond.
In 1919, she was one of only three women in a class of 300 to be inducted onto the Loughborough Technical College Automobile Engineering course.
After graduating in 1922, she worked as a chauffeur-companion, driving clients around Europe. She did this alongside writing, with her first book, ‘Brighter Bondage’, seeing huge success after being published in 1935.
In 1938, she bought a Studebaker car, which she affectionately nicknamed ‘Baker’. This kickstarted her most notable achievement and symbolised her great spirit of adventure – to be the first woman to circumnavigate the globe by car – a journey which she completed later in the decade.
Throughout her trip, she showed her initiative and desire to overcome obstacles, often travelled unaccompanied or with men to whom she wasn’t married – both of which challenged the established norms of the time. Never During the trip, she had to sell many of her possessions and work for a newspaper to raise funds to continue her journey and travelled into China whilst there was a war raging in the country.
According to her family, this ability to persevere highlighted her “unquenchable optimism” and her “courage in all her travels and undertakings.” Her continued desire to push herself to achieve her goals showed how she never feared failure. However, she did this not because she wanted fame or accolades, but because she saw no reason why she couldn’t.
After her trip, she wrote a second book – the autobiography, ‘Vagabondage’ – in 1941. Her sense of justice came to the fore in the Second World War, where she was fired from her job as a munitions worker for defending a female colleague who was the victim of harassment.
A third book followed in 1965, before her second autobiography, ‘Century Story’, was published in 1995 – when Claudia was in her 90s. On her 90th birthday, the residents of her village, Wonersh, Surrey, threw a party for her, highlighting her popularity amongst those around her. At her death, she was the oldest member of the Women’s Engineering Society, an organisation she had been a part of since her university days.
Claudia’s achievements were deservedly acknowledged through the opening of Claudia Parsons Hall of Residence on 19th June 2019.
We hope all residents in the Hall can be inspired by her independent mind, forward thinking, spirit of adventure, courage and humour. She shall be remembered for her belief that the established way isn’t always the right way, and we are privileged to continue her legacy at Loughborough.