Joan “Penny” Ewens (1926-2020)

Michael Meadowcroft has kindly drawn our attention to an obituary recently published in the Yorkshire Post

Joan “Penny” Ewens, who has died at 94, was a two-term Leeds councillor and honorary Alderman, having been elected to the council in her late 70s after a lifetime of activism.

Born Joan Penwill, she adopted the forename Penny at her school in Liverpool to differentiate her from five other Joans in her class. She served in the Intelligence Corps during the war and met her future husband, David Ewens, on VE day in London. They were married soon afterwards.

David’s job brought them to Leeds in 1960 and, as a mature student, she enrolled at the James Graham Teacher Training College. After a spell at the Kitson College she settled into a long career at West Park High School where she took a particular interest in careers and in drama.

Always an activist she was involved in a number of campaigning organisations, including Families Need Fathers.

Having become involved with the Liberal party in the 1980s, she became a candidate for the Weetwood ward of Leeds council at eight consecutive elections, finally coming within 114 votes of victory. Feeling that she had gone as far as she could, and having reached 70, she felt that a new face was needed and “retired.” But inactivity did not suit her and in 2003, after a seven-year gap, she took on a new challenge fighting a Labour-held ward in the inner city. The following year she gained the Hyde Park and Woodhouse seat, bringing two other Liberal Democrats with her. She served two four-year terms, retiring in 2012 at age 85.

Whilst a councillor she was involved with a number of local organisations including, the Cardigan Centre, Swarthmore Education Centre and the Little London Community Association. She was made an Alderman of the city in 2017.

Away from local politics, she maintained a cottage in North Wales from where she took her children sailing. After the children had moved on, she did the same with the children of friends. Having spent one holiday driving across Europe, she collected her son who was an aid worker in Botswana and they drove around the Okavango delta. The trip sparked a lifelong interest in Africa and she returned there whenever possible.

She leaves a daughter, Victoria, son Max, and several grandchildren and great grand children.

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This entry was posted in Obituaries.


  • David Freeman 21st Dec '20 - 8:50pm

    This is sad news.

    I was President of Leeds University Lib Dems in the late 1990’s and we did a lot of work in Weetwood. Penny was just so full of energy and a great local campaigner there and in the wider Leeds North West party.

  • David Evans 22nd Dec '20 - 9:27am

    Sad news indeed, but a great testament to the fighting spirit of Liberal Democracy, and the people of all shapes and sizes who fought and fought and fought to build up our great party. Although I never met her, I feel inspired to know she was another member of our team and clearly reached out to a totally different generation of Lib Dems who equally reached out to help her.

    Thank you Tony and David for bringing this to our attention and I guess Michael who was doubtless very involved as well.

  • Andrew McCaig 24th Dec '20 - 10:35pm

    When I was active in Leeds politics I worked with Penny on various campaigns in Weetwood, and anywhere else there was campaigning to be done. She epitomised all that is best about local Lib Dem campaigning. For several years her son Max kept our car going too. She is a sad loss.

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