This is the first in a series of posts to celebrate Women’s History Month. We will be featuring amazing, local women who lived locally 100 years ago, campaigning for women’s suffrage and supporting the war effort.
#1 Car (1873-1959) and Josephine Richardson (1869-1945)
Sisters Josephine and Car Richardson, of Tithe Barn, Bois Lane, who were also founder members of the Chiltern Club of Arts (both were later presidents) were active members of the Red Cross. Well-educated and well-travelled (she was one of the first western women to work as a governess in Japan) Josephine was the head of a school in Westminster for the daughters of members of parliament. Car, a talented painter, who had trained in Paris also taught art at the school. Diana Churchill and Violet Asquith were both pupils and one likes to think that the Richardson sisters gave their pupils some good pro-suffrage arguments for the Churchill and Asquith breakfast tables.
Car’s WWI service record shows that she worked as a nurse in hospitals in Wainfleet, Lincoln, Brighton and Boxmoor. Her only pay is listed as ‘laundry and travelling expenses’, the ‘voluntary’ part of being a VAD really did mean ‘without salary’ so this was not an option for working class women. Car was able to work at these hospitals because she could stay with relatives in the area.
Whilst working as a volunteer nurse Car sketched over 100 poignant drawings of convalescent soldiers in their Red Cross blue suits and red ties. She also painted Polly England’s Chesham Bois VAD Work Depot working in the Tithe Barn. VADs are shown preparing bandages to dispatch to the Red Cross HQ in London or direct to auxiliary hospitals such as the Bulstrode Park Hospital at Gerrards Cross. Local VADs would have been vitally important in looking after convalescing soldiers billeted here as well as sending parcels and supplies to soldiers abroad and in prisoner of war camps.
With thanks for the family of Car Richardson. To find out more about Car’s work go to: paintings.antipole.co.uk
This is part of the Amersham Women at War project, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.