Mary Rhodes Moorhouse-Pekkala

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Mary Rhodes Moorhouse-Pekkala
Mary Pekkala.jpg
Born(1889-09-04)September 4, 1889
DiedMarch 5, 1975(1975-03-05) (aged 85)
NationalityBritish, Finnish
Alma materVictoria University of Manchester
OccupationCivil rights activist
Spouse(s)Eino Pekkala (1928–1956)
RelativesWilliam Barnard Rhodes (grandfather)
William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse (brother)

Mary Rhodes Moorhouse-Pekkala (4 September 1889 – 5 March 1975[1]) was a British-born Finnish patronage and civil rights activist, who was an heiress to a wealthy New Zealand-British family. In the early 1920s, she was active in the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Comintern. Moorhouse emigrated to Finland in 1928 after getting married to the Finnish Socialist politician Eino Pekkala. She was one of the major financiers of the 1930s Finnish cultural left, and a prominent civil rights activist.[2]



Mary Rhodes Moorhouse was born in the Oxon Hoath Manor in Tonbridge and Malling, Kent,[1] to the family of Edward Moorhouse (1834–1917) and Mary Ann Rhodes (1851–1930).[3] Her grandfather was the New Zealand businessman William Barnard Rhodes, and grandmother Otahi, a Māori from the Wellington area. Edward Moorhouse and Mary Ann Rhodes moved to England in 1883 and had four children. Mary Rhodes Moorhouse's eldest brother was the Royal Flying Corps lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse who was killed in the World War I.[4]

Early years[edit]

Moorhouse studied at the Victoria University of Manchester. She was a guild socialist who was active in the Manchester Communist Guild Group. In December 1919, Moorhouse, Rajani Palme Dutt and Ellen Wilkinson participated the international student socialist conference in Geneva as the representatives of the University Socialist Federation. In July 1920, she was Guild Group's delegate in the Communist Unity Convention in London which was the founding congress of the Communist Party of Great Britain.[5][6]

Moorhouse worked for the Communist Party as the press officer of the Woman's National Committee.[7] In London, she was associated with the Estonian communist Salme Murrik, who was married to Finnish socialist Eino Pekkala.[8] In the summer of 1921, Moorhouse had a short relationship with the Finnish poet Elmer Diktonius who visited Britain to see Murrik.[9] In 1922, Moorhouse, Murrik and Palme Dutt were sent to Stockholm as Comintern representatives. Murrik introduced Moorhouse to her husband in July 1923. Pekkala and Murrik were already separated, but their divorce was not made official until January 1924. Moorhouse visited Pekkala for the first time in August 1924, and in 1925, they got engaged. For the next three years Moorhouse, Murrik and Palme Dutt worked for Comintern in Brussels.[8] In addition to her political work, she wrote poems which were published in the German magazine Die Rote Fahne and the French L'Humanité.[10] Moorhouse and Pekkala were married in March 1928. Moorhouse was now granted Finnish citizenship, and she moved to Helsinki.[8]

Life in Finland[edit]

Moorhouse became one of the major financiers of the Finnish cultural left. She was also active in the civil rights movement, Moorhouse and the professor Väinö Lassila were the most prominent figures of the Finnish popular front fighting for human rights and opposing fascism.[11] She funded the author Erkki Vala, who published the magazine Tulenkantajat (″The Flame Bearers″) which had campaigns against the 1935 sterilization law and the capital punishment of Toivo Antikainen.[12]

In 1930, Eino Pekkala was given a 3-year sentence because of his political activities. Moorhouse now founded the organization ″Vankien Apu″ (Prisoner's Aid) to help political prisoners and their families. The organization was financed by her personal properties and fundraising, the Finnish section of the International Red Aid, and the Swedish syndicalist union SAC which raised one-third of the money. In July 1933, Eino Pekkala took part on a hunger strike in the Tammisaari forced labour camp. The strike, causing the death of five prisoners on forced feeding, and the abuse of political prisoners came to international awareness as Moorhouse met the Danish author Martin Andersen Nexø who wrote an article of the case. Although her organization was disbanded in January 1934, Moorhouse still continued her work with privately hired assistants. The Tammisaari camp was finally closed in 1937 because of the international pressure.[13]

In the early 1940, Moorhouse and Hella Wuolijoki visited Bertolt Brecht who was living in exile in Stockholm.[11] Wuolijoki invited Brecht to Helsinki, where he lived until Finland sided with the Nazi Germany in June 1941.[14]

Moorhouse was under surveillance of the intelligence services of Great Britain, Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Belgium.[15] During the World War II, she was a contact person between Hella Wuolijoki and the Soviet secret service NKVD.[16] According to the documents revealed by the United States National Security Agency, Moorhouse was arrested for suspected spionage in 1942 in Stockholm.[17]

After the World War II, the political situation in Finland changed. The Communist organizations were legalized, and Eino Pekkala was a member of the Cabinet of Finland.[18] Mary Moorhouse focused on her work in various human rights, women's rights and peace organizations. She was active in the League for Human Rights and Civil Liberties, and was the chairwoman of the Finnish section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.[19]


Eino Pekkala's and Mary Moorhouse's daughter Salme Anne Pekkala was born in 1928. She was married to the Finnish diplomat Risto Hyvärinen.[20]


  1. ^ a b "Mary Rhodes Moorhouse-Pekkala's Death Notice". Helsingin Sanomat. p. 4. 22 March 1975. Retrieved 15 May 2019. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Koskinen, Sinikka (20 January 2011). "Sirpa Kähkönen: Flames of Love and Hatred. Finland in the 1930s as Destiny". Books from Finland. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Pekkala, Eino Oskari". Who's Who in Finland 1954 (in Finnish). Helsinki: Otava. 1954. p. 628.
  4. ^ Bradbury, Bettina. "Troubling Inheritances: An illegitimate, Māori daughter contests her father's will in the New Zealand courts and the Judicial Review Committee of the Privy Council" (PDF). Australia & New Zealand Law & History E-Journal. 8 (2012): 126, 133, 159–160. ISSN 1177-3170. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  5. ^ Gildart, Keith; Howell, David; Kirk, Neville (2003). Dictionary of Labour Biography: Volume XI. London: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 206. ISBN 978-033-39687-2-7.
  6. ^ Perry, Matt (2014). 'Red Ellen' Wilkinson: Her Ideas, Movements and World. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-071-90872-0-2.
  7. ^ Cowman, Krista (2010). Women in British Politics, c. 1689–1979. London: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 161. ISBN 978-023-05455-7-1.
  8. ^ a b c Reinart, Heili (22 May 2018). "Salme Dutt – täiskohaga revolutsionäär ja hall kardinal, kes tundis end orvuna" [Salme Dutt – Full-time Revolutionary and Gray Eminence Who Felt Orphaned]. Postimees (in Estonian). Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  9. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Elmer (Rafael) Diktonius (1896–1961)". Authors' Calendar. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  10. ^ Alftan, Robert (4 February 1996). "Radikaali runoilija ja hänen naisensa Numero Viisi" [The Radical Poet and His Woman Number Five]. Helsingin Sanomat. p. B2. Retrieved 15 May 2019. (subscription required)
  11. ^ a b Lassila, Pertti (12 February 1976). "Brechtin ja Wuolijoen yhteistyö uuteen valoon" [The Collaboration of Brecht and Wuolijoki in a New Light]. Helsingin Sanomat. p. 19. Retrieved 15 May 2019. (subscription required)
  12. ^ Elmgren, Ainur. "A Moral Minority – Critics of the Finnish Law on Sterilization 1935". Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  13. ^ Parkkari, Nestori (1960). Väkivallan vuodet [Years of Violence]. Helsinki: Kansankulttuuri.
  14. ^ Brecht, Bertolt; Willett, John (ed.); Rorrison, Hugh (ed.) (1993). Bertolt Brecht: Journals 1934–1955. London: Methuen. p. 471. ISBN 978-041-36551-0-3.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  15. ^ Kotakallio, Juho (2015). Hänen majesteettinsa agentit : brittitiedustelu Suomessa 1918–1941 [His Majesty's Agents: The British Intelligence in Finland 1918–1941]. Helsinki: Atena. p. 165. ISBN 978-952-30004-7-6.
  16. ^ Brantberg, Robert. "Kerttu Nuorteva: Desantti punaeliitin huipulta" [Kerttu Nuorteva: A Desant from the Top of the Red Elite]. Robert Brantberg Homepage (in Finnish). Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  17. ^ "Instructions for Mary PEKKALA". VENONA Documents – January 1942. National Security Agency / Central Security Service. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  18. ^ Hanski, Jari (4 May 2001). "Pekkala, Eino (1887–1956)" (in Finnish). National Biography of Finland. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  19. ^ Tuomioja, Erkki (2006). Häivähdys punaista : Hella Wuolijoki ja hänen sisarensa Salme Pekkala vallankumouksen palveluksessa [A Delicate Shade of Pink: Hella Wuolijoki and Her Sister Salme Pekkala at the Service of Revolution]. Helsinki: Tammi. p. 161. ISBN 978-951-31369-3-2.
  20. ^ "Hyvärinen, Risto Ilmari Antero". Who's Who in Finland 1978 (in Finnish). Helsinki: Otava. 1978. p. 259. ISBN 951-10475-5-8.