June Lower, left, went from being co-founder and vice chairman of the National Housewives Association to pioneering columnist and ultimately group women’s editor of the free newspaper tycoon Lionel Pickering’s Trader empire.
Better known as June Wall, her high profile campaigns included calling on ex-PM Margaret Thatcher to stop hoarding groceries at her home and give her stockpile to pensioners, and telling the wives of striking car workers to withhold sex until their husbands went back to work.
Her mid-life career change, first at the flagship Derby Trader and then as the voice of the Burton Trader, saw her win a flood of fan mail from of an army of readers which numbered more than two million group-wide.
Born in Derby, June began her working life in nursing before launching the housewives’ group which at its height embraced 20,000 members across 26 branches nationwide.
Her publicity stunts included dressing up as a bunny girl and brandishing a rolling pin as she picketed the headquarters of the National Coal Board where miners’ leaders and pit bosses were trying to thrash out a peace deal.
Later when ex-prime minister Margaret Thatcher, a junior opposition spokeswoman, was caught hoarding dozens of tins and jars at her home – June called on her to give her stockpile of food to old age pensioners.
The association was ahead of its time, calling for action on the wastage and over-pricing of goods because of the over-packaging of commodities and pleading for newspapers and clean packaging to be recycled in a DIY collection scheme.
One day in the mid 1970s, in her capacity as press officer for the association, she called the Derby Trader newspaper which was selling off some old typewriters and was put through to owner Lionel Pickering who immediately asked her to write for the newspaper about her exploits in her controversial role.
From part-time writer at the Derby Trader, she moved to become the main writer for sister title the Burton Trader – later becoming its deputy editor and then editor.
She campaigned to sort out M & S in Burton, believing it was not offering the same service as its larger stores, and personally helped tranquiliser addicts dubbed ‘Lace Curtain Junkies’ as well as women who had been abused by their relatives.
June also interviewed a host of celebrities including novelist Jeffrey Archer, Coronation Street stars William Roche and Peter Adamson, singer Frankie Vaughan, This Is Your Life presenter Michael Aspel and ITV World of Sport’s Dickie Davies.
Her friend Nick Hudson, one-time group editor of Trader Newspapers, said: “It took tremendous courage half way through her working life to go from state registered nurse to consumer champion and then become an incisive, campaigning journalist,” said her
“She certainly possessed a unique talent, being able to bring those caring principles she learned in the National Service of the 1960s and ’70s into a harsh, uncompromising and mainly male-orientated world of journalism at that time.”
Derby Telegraph journalist and former colleague Jill Gallone added: “June became one of the first feisty women columnists who were not afraid of speaking their mind.”
And former Derby Telegraph columnist and feature writer Lucy Orgill said: “June was a force to be reckoned with, a lovely and loyal person with a tremendous sense of fairness.”
June, who retired from the Trader Group in 1993, died last week 11 at the Royal Derby Hospital after battling cancer for more than a year. She was in her 70s.
She leaves a husband, John, former Senior PGA golf champion and daughter Jenny and son Garford, football coach to the England FA Fans national team.
Her funeral will be held at Markeaton Crematorium, Derby, on Friday, May 29 at 1.20pm.