Saturday, 31 December 2016

Lise Rischard - a housewife from Luxembourg - British Secret Agent in WW1

Among the inspirational women of the First World War on my list is Lise Rischard, an 'ordinary' housewife from Luxembourg.   Officially neutral in WW1, the people of Luxembourg had suffered greatly during the wars that ravaged Europe in the previous years.   Lise's son by her first marriage - Marcel Pelletier - was a member of the French Olympic Team sent to the Olympic Games held in Stockholm in 1912.

During a visit to her son, who was in the French Army and in Paris before being sent to the Front, Lise was recruited to help the Allied cause.  Her story is amazing as she travelled from her home in Luxembourg in the area held by the Germans via Switzerland to Paris, which remained a free city during WW1, and then set up a network to provide vital information to the British.

I mention Lise in "No Woman's Land" but you can find out the whole amazing story in the book 'The Secrets of Rue St. Roch' by Janet Morgan (London: Allen Lane, 2004).

Friday, 23 December 2016

Talk and exhibition: Volunteers and Voters: World War 1 and its Legacy - Wednesday, 18th January 2017 6 - 7 p.m.

World War 1 enabled a number of Worcestershire women to develop their skills and spheres of influence through voluntary work and prepared them to use their newly acquired vote in 1918. 

This talk and exhibition, by University of Worcester Lecturer Professor Maggie Andrews, to be held at The Hive in Worcester on Wednesday, 18th January 2017, explores the legacy of The First World War for women such as 

Lady Isabelle Margesson, 
Mrs Hooper, 
Mary Pakington and 
Mrs Rusher 

who became Justices of the Peace, ran women’s organisations, wrote plays or campaigned for improvements in maternal and child welfare in the inter-war years.

These events are free of charge but booking is recommended.
Light refreshments are provided at the start of the event.
Wednesday, 18th January, 2017 from 6 – 7 p.m.

Book via

The Hive
Sawmill Walk
The Butts

Marie Baudet (1864 – 1917) – French artist, writer, feminist and nurse

My very grateful thanks to Phil Dawes whose tireless research in response to my cry for help has produced much of the following information about Marie.

Marie was born Marie Ludivine Antoinette Dupuit in 1864 in Tagnon, Ardennes, France, which is about 28 kilometers from Rheims.  Her brother was Léon Dupuit and her great-nephew, Pierre Boucher – Léon’s grandson - was a Mayor of Tagnon.

In 1889, Marie married Victor Baudet, an accountant.

Marie became a nurse and worked in the French Hospital for Fishermen (Société Hôpitaux Français d’Islande) in Iceland that was set up in 1903 and in operation until 1912.   Marie was an ardent feminist and apart from French she also spoke Breton, Icelandic, Danish and English.  Some of Marie’s paintings were exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in Paris in 1907 and in 1913.   She also wrote a book about the beggars and tramps she loved to sketch. 

Marie undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and travelled to Jerusalem.  She was instrumental in obtaining a sacred relic - a piece of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified - for keeping in the church in Tagnon.   Marie also organised a roadside ‘Calvary’ for her home town. These Calvaries are a traditional, commemorative religious area outside many towns and villages in France.  The Calvary on the outskirts of Tagnon was a large replica cross and was officially unveiled on 1st June 1914 when a special ceremony was held to dedicate the cross.  Hundreds of people attended the ceremony, with special trains bringing people from Rheims for the occasion. Marie painted the murals of the grotto at the base of the cross.

During the First World War, Marie worked at the hospital set up in October 1914 in the Palais de Compiègne to treat victims of the outbreak of Typhoid Fever. 

Marie may have been based at the St. Paul Hospital in Rheims.  She was killed during a bombing raid in the Place de la République in Rheims while helping wounded soldiers into an ambulance on 6th April 1917.

The Salon de Paris was an art exhibition started in 1903 by Matisse and other artists to counterbalance the rather conservative Salon de Paris which was founded in 1667 and organised by the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Photo:  French nurses descending from a horse-drawn ambulance in 1914.

Sources:  Bénézit 1976, I, p. 515. Dictionnaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Henni Lehmann (1862 – 1937) – German artist, writer and social reformer.

With thanks to Debbie Cameron for finding this German artist.

"Fine art, in the strictest sense, is the first creative power in the world; it separates light and darkness, separates water and land; it creates animals and plants, the image of man, and the true artist Knows to breathe the breath of his soul into all, that it may live." (Henni Lehmann, 1914)

Henriette Straßmann was born on 10th October 1862 in Berlin. Her father, Wolfgang Straßmann (1821 - 1885), was a German physician, liberal politician and social reformer who was a Chairman of Berlin City Council.

In 1888 Henni married Karl Lehmann, a German legal scientist (1858 – 1918).  After their marriage they converted to Protestantism. The couple went to live in Rostock.

They had two children - Eva Fiesel (née Lehmann) (1891 - 1937) and Karl Leo Heinrich Lehmann, who became an archaeologist (1894 - 1960). From 1907 onwards, the family spent their holidays on the Island of Hiddensee. In 1909, Henni was one of the founding members of the Co-operative Shipping Company on the Island.  She was also very involved in the creation of better living conditions on the island.  In 1913 she gave the islanders a loan to build a house for the doctor and in 1914 she was one of the founders and first directors of Nature and Cultural Heritage of Federal Hiddensee.

Until the family moved to Göttingen in 1911, Henni Lehmann was chairman of Rostock Women's Association.   She campaigned for women to be allowed to have the same education as men and to be able to attend the most prestigious schools and universities.

During the First World War, Henni was director of the Göttingen Department of The National Women's Service (NFD) inside the Patriotic War Forum.

After her husband's death in 1918, Henni moved to Weimar.   During the Weimar Republic she joined the Socialist Democratic Party and became committed to helping the workers in their struggles.   Henni wrote socially motivated novels and gave lectures.  She was also a poet.

In 1919, Henni founded the artists group known as the Hiddensoer Künstlerinnenbund and also acquired a venue for holding exhibitions - the Kunstscheune, later called the Blaue Scheune - in Vitte.

From 1919 the Hiddensoer Artists met regularly in the Lehmann holiday home in Vitte.   Other members of the Group included Clara Arnheim , Elisabeth Büchsel and Käthe Loewenthal.

Diagnosed with Cancer, in order to spare her family – one of her children had died and the other had gone to live in America - Henni committed suicide on 18th February 1937.  Sources:  Debbie Cameron’s Facebook Page and

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Book Review: “Menus, Munitions & Keeping the Peace The Home Front Diaries of Gabrielle West, 1914 - 1917”

Gabrielle West was born in 1883 and lived to celebrate her 100th birthday.  Her diaries were written as letters to her younger brother Michael, who worked for the Education Service in India and joined the 49th Bengal Regiment in 1918.   

Gabrielle’s diary begins in June 1914 and gives us a valuable insight into life in Britain just prior to the conflict.  Gabrielle worked in a variety of kitchens in convalescent hospitals and munitions factories and her diaries include details of how to feed a large number of people in wartime, which I found particularly interesting.

The munitions factories were targets of Zeppelin raids and Gabrielle describes some that she witnessed in great detail.    She also explains the layout of the factories and what each department produced, taking us on virtual tours – all illustrated with diagrams and drawings - which I found fascinating.

There was a brief period when Gabrielle was out of work. Her efforts to find paid employment are described in detail up to the moment when she and her friend responded to an advertisement in the women’s magazine “Home Chat” for women to join the newly formed Women’s Police Service to work at munitions factories. On 4th December 1916 Gabrielle became a woman police officer.   The Government's main concerns were the moral behaviour of the women workers who were doing dangerous work and being paid more than they had dreamed possible.  In the early days of their formation, women police did not have powers to make any arrests, in spite of some very hair-raising moments involving large numbers of women workers.   There is a wonderful photograph on page 127 showing Gabrielle and her fellow women police officers in their uniform, complete with tin helmets.

In 1917 the air-raids became more frequent, as did the problems with the workers in the factories, so Gabrielle and her colleagues had their work cut out to ‘keep the peace’.   The diaries end in May 1918 with a description of an explosion in the munitions factory in which Gabrielle was working at the time.  

Gabrielle’s Great Niece has added an Afterword that tells us that Gabrielle ran a successful tea room for a time after the war and though, like so many women of that generation, she never married, she had a full and happy life.   Also in the book you will find photographs of Gabrielle and her co-workers and background stories of Gabrielle’s family. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it very highly – it is a very important contribution to the history of the First World War.  

“Menus, Munitions & Keeping the Peace The Home Front Diaries of Gabrielle West, 1914 - 1917” Edited by Avalon Weston and published by Pen & Sword, Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2016.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Sarah Broome Macnaughtan (1864 - 1916)

Sarah B. Macnaughtan was born in Scotland on 26th October 1864. She was the daughter of Peter Macnaughtan and his wife Julia nee Blackman who had a large family.   According to her niece, Betty Salmon (nee Keays-Young) who was married to Lionel Salmon and who edited Sarah's war diaries after her death, Sarah was generous, witty, energetic, vivacious, charming and very religious.  Sarah had many interests from music, literature, art, shooting, big game hunting, riding, travel - she went to The Argentine, Canada, South America, South Africa, the Middle East and India - and she adored 'adventure of every kind'. "As a girl she was unpunctual."  She was ambitious and clever but devoted to her family.  Her father, elder brother and a sister are mentioned in the summing up by Sarah's niece. 

Sarah was a writer of novels and plays, her first work being published in 1898.  When her parents died, Sarah left Scotland and moved to Kent.  She joined the Suffragettes, worked with the poor in London's East End, was a Red Cross volunteer during the Second Boer War and helped those who were suffering during the Balkan War.

When war broke out in August 1914, at the age of 50, Sarah Macnaughtan volunteered with the Red Cross and went to Belgium on 20th September 1914 with Mabel St. Clair Stobart's Group, arriving in Antwerp on 22nd September.

On 10th October as the Germans drew ever closer after the fall of Antwerp, Mrs Stobart took her group back to England but  Sarah remained behind and joined Dr. Hector Monro's Flying Ambulance Unit.
"This evening Dr. Hector Munro came in from Ghent with his oddly-dressed ladies, and at first one was inclined to call them masqueraders in their knickerbockers and puttees and caps, but I believe they have done excellent work. It is a queer side of war to see young, pretty English girls in khaki and thick boots, coming in from the trenches, where they have been picking up wounded men within a hundred yards of the enemy's lines, and carrying them away on stretchers. Wonderful little Walküres in knickerbockers, I lift my hat to you!

Dr. Munro asked me to come on to his convoy, and I gladly did so: he sent home a lady whose nerves were gone, and I was put in her place."   We know that May Sinclair was sent back to England suffering from Shell Shock after six weeks working in Belgium as Dr. Munro's Personal Assistant.
A few days later, Monro's Ambulance Unit reached Furnes and Sarah Macnaughtan was mentioned in British nurse Matilda Emily Clark's  "A War Nurse's Diary Sketches from A Belgian Field Hospital".  In October 1914 in a makeshift hospital in a Roman Catholic College in Furnes:  "In our ward there was a little elderly lady who quietly offered her services, and as she looked capable I sent her to clear away the evening meal and wipe down the tables.  She never bothered me again but quietly busied herself setting things in order.  Soon two big oil-lamps relieved the darkness and some large scissors that we had longer for lay to hand to rip the men's clothes off them.  The unassuming little helper had been out to buy them.  A few days after, when we had time to breathe, we were introduced.  It was Miss McNaughton, the writer of "A Lame Dog's Diary" and other books.

She was a delicate little woman, highly strung and nervous."  After helping the nurses out in the ward for several days, Miss McNaughton "procured a tiny room at the station and ran a soup-kitchen for the wounded.   Now, this sounds a homely and commonplace sort of occupation, but when you realise the circumstances you will know what courage it required." (pp. 31 - 33) 

After setting up soup kitchens for the Belgian troops and going to Russia and Persia, Sarah managed to get back to her home in London where she died on 24th June 1916.  She was exhausted after working as a volunteer orderly with The Red Cross from the early days of the war. Sarah was buried in Chart Sutton, a small village south of Maidstone in Kent.  
Sarah's war diary was published by her niece after her death and was dedicated to all who fought in the conflict and in particular Sarah's own nephews - Captain Lionel Salmon, 1st Bn. the Welch Regiment, Captain Helier Percival, M.C., 9th Bn. the Welch Regiment, Captain Alan Young, 2nd Bn. the Welch Regiment, Captain Colin Macnaughtan, 2nd Dragoon Guards and Lieutenant Richard Young, 9th Bn. the Welch Regiment.

Sarah McNaughton's "My War Experiences in Two Continents" is available as a download free on

Matilda Emily Clark's "A War Nurse's Diary Sketches from a Belgian Field Hospital" is available as a download free on

Sarah Macnaughtan's and the war nurse's books via the Internet.
and on Wikipedia

The photo is of Miss Sarah Macnaughton during WW1 from "A War Nurse's Diary" page 32

If anyone has any information about the nurse who wrote "A War Nurse's Diary Sketches from a Belgian Field Hospital" I would love to hear from them.  The story of her experiences as a nurse during the early days of the war is absolutely amazing.  She was at the fall of Antwerp and travelled in buses with some of the wounded British Marines. At one stage, she was obliged to return to London as it was felt unsafe for British civilians to remain in Belgium.  However, she was soon back in Belgium then France to continue nursing the wounded - both military and civilian.