Jeanne Rathbone

20 Inspiring Battersea Women

Posted in 20 Inspiring Battersea Woment by sheelanagigcomedienne on March 16, 2021

This is a handout for a talk I gave on International Women’s Day 2021 for Battersea Place Retirement Village opposite Battersea Park. Emma from the Heritage service had suggested me when she was approached by Ana, who is their events and entertainment executive, to do a talk on Battersea women for IWD.

I shall be compiling a booklet, I hope, this year for the Battersea Society. Have to have something to show for lockdown!

The first fifteen formed Notable Women of Lavender Hill walk. I have written blogs on them.

The walk starts at Battersea Town Hall/BAC as this was the site of Elm House the home of  1)  Jeanie Nassau Senior 1828-1877, first female civil servant, born Jane Hughes brother of Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown’s Schooldays. She was appointed by Local Government Board as Inspector of Workhouses reporting on the education of “pauper girls”. Was loved by her famous friends, Octavia Hill, Florence Nightingale, George Eliot, Anny Thackeray, George Watts etc. She died of exhaustion and cancer of the womb aged 48.

2) Olive Morris 1952-1979 came to Battersea from Jamaica in 1962, attended Lavender Hill Girls’s School, active anti-racist, Black Panthers, co-founded Brixton Black Womens Group, co-founded with Liz Obi 121 Railton Road squat.

3) Catherine Gurney OBE 1848-1930, born Normanby House Lavender Hill, non-conformist family, stenographers to Parliament. Via a bible class in Wandsworth Prison initiated the Christian Police Association, Police convalescent homes and orphanages in Brighton and Harrogate.

4) Charlotte Despard  1844-1939 funded Battersea Labour Party HQ where her plaque is sited at 177 Lavender Hill. Her biography tagged ‘An Unhusbanded  Life’- Suffragette Socialist and Sinn Feiner.  She wrote 10 novels, after she was widowed moved to Nine Elms Battersea, provided welfare facilities, suffragette with Women’s Freedom League, Labour candidate Battersea North 1918.

5) Caroline Ganley CBE 1879-1966 came to Battersea 1901, pacifist, active in suffrage campaigns. 1919 elected Battersea councillor, appointed JP, represented Battersea on LCC, first woman president of the London Co-op Society,  MP for Battersea South 1945-51.Battersea Society plaque on her home at 5 Thirsk Road.

6) Ethel Mannin 1900-1984  born 28 Garfield  Rd, a working class self-educated, prodigious author of a hundred books, including novels, memoirs, travel, childrearing etc. Political maverick, socialist, pacifist, anarchist and ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause. Twice married, had a sexual relationship with Yeats and Bertrand Russell between husbands.

7) Deaconess Isabella Gilmore 1842-1923, Gilmore House 113 Clapham Common Northside when widowed trained as a nurse in Guys Hospital, asked by Bishop of Rochester to start a deaconate. Deaconesses were  “a curiously effective combination of nurse, social worker and amateur policemen”. She addressed the needs of the poor through working with girls and women. Plaque Southwark Cathedral.


8) Marie Spartali 1844 -1923 The Shrubbery Lavender Gardens.Pre-Raphaelite painter, During a sixty-year career, she produced 170 works, contributing regularly to exhibitions in the UK and the US. She studied drawing and painting under Ford Madox Brown. Painted by DG Rossetti, Burne Jones, photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron.…/marie-spartali-pre-raphaelite-artist/  

9) Laura Barker 1819-1905, composer and violinist Lavender Sweep House with husband Tom Taylor playwright and Punch editor.…/laura-barker-1819-10905-composer/ 

10) Duval suffrage family lived at 97 Lavender Sweep. Emily and her children Elsie, Victor, Norah and Barbara were active and imprisioned. Emily 1861-1924 became Battersea Councillor Elsie WSPU, worked for Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement founded by her brother Victor. Tragically, Elsie, Barbara and Winifred died in the flu epidemic.

11) Edith, known as Biddy Lanchester 1871-1966, lived at 27 Leathwaite, socialist secretary to Eleanor Marx was kidnapped on announcement of living with her lover Shamus Sullivan, taken to Roehampton Asylum, supposed cause of her insanity was ‘over education’.

12) Elsa Lanchester 1902-1986, her daughter, trained as a dancer aged ten in Paris with Isadora Duncan, taught dance, set up her own theatre club Cave of Harmony, met and married Charles Laughton, moved to the US. Bride of Frankenstein(1935), made over a 100 films.

13) Violet Piercy 1889-1972 lived at 21 Leathwaite Rd. first recorded female marathon runner, 1926, she ran from Windsor to London finishing at Battersea Town Hall at 3 hrs 40 mins.  her record lasted until till Merry Lepper time of 3:37:07 Western Hemisphere Marathon Dec 1963.

14) Penelope Fitzgerald 1916- 2000 novelist, poet, essayist and biographer. Somerville College Oxford got a first in 1938, named Woman of the Year, included The Times list of “the 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. Her final novel, The The Blue Flower one of “the ten best historical novels’ lived at 25 Almeric Road when she wrote Booker prize-winning Offshore about houseboat dwellers in Chelsea Reach.  

15) Pamela Hansford Johnson CBE, 1912-1981 born 53 Battersea  Rise, wrote 27 novels. This bed thy Centre, coming-of-age first novel was based in Battersea, commemorated with a Battersea Society plaque. Married CP Snow.

16 )Hilda Helwett 1864– 1943 first British woman to earn a pilot’s licence in 1911, ran the first flying school in Britain and Omnia Works Aircraft factory Vardens Road 1912-14 with Gustav Blondeau.

17) Lady Battersea 1843- 1931Constance Flower, née de Rothschild, a society hostess and philanthropist established the Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls, Women and Children.

18) Wilhelmina Stirling 1865-1965author of 20+ books on lives/reminiscences of landed gentry, founder of the De Morgan Centre at her home, Old Battersea House until her death, now at Watts Gallery.

19) Mary Tealby 1801-1865,founded The Temporary Home for and Starving Dogs in Islington in 1860, Dickens wrote about a “remarkable institution”, moved to Battersea in 1871.

20) Ida 1904-1986and Louise Cook 1901–1991 24 Morella Road SW12 were opera loving, civil servants who rescued Jews from Europe during the 1930s, funded mainly by Ida’s writing as Mary Burchill for Mills and Boon, honoured as Righteous among Nations by Yad Vashem.

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