Katharine Furse (1875-1952), WRNS Di­rec­tor

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - NAVAL SERVICE -

Born on 23 Novem­ber 1875, Katharine was the youngest of fourr girls born to poet, lit­er­ary critic and his­to­rian John Ad­ding­ton Sy­mond ds and Janet Cather­ine North, the sis­ter of botan­i­cal painter Mar­i­anne North.

She was brought up in Lon­don, Switzer­land and Italy, and ed­u­cated at home by her mother and var­i­ous gov­ernesses. In 1900, she mar­ried English por­trait painter Charles Welling­ton Furse, with whom she had two sons, but he died from tu­ber­cu­lo­sis af­ter just four years of mar­riage.

She joined the Red Cross Vol­un­tary Aid De­tach­ment in 1909, and headed up the first unit sent to France on the out­break of the First World War. Her work was recog­nised with an or­der of the Royal Red Cross in 1916, and a GBE – the high­est t class of the Or­der of the Bri­tish Em­pire – in 1917. That same year, she was ap­pointed Di­rec­tor of the newly formed WRNS and re­mained in the post un­til the ser­vice was dis­banded in 1919.

Af­ter the war, Furse headed the Sea Rangers and the World As­so­ci­a­tion of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Hearts and Pomegranates, was pub­lished in 1940. She died in Lon­don on 25 Novem­ber 1952.

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