WILSON, Francesca Mary

1888 - 1981

Francesca Wilson

Francesca Mary Wilson was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the 1 January 1888, second daughter of Robert Wilson, a hatter, and his wife Laura Maria Wallis, eldest daughter of Francis Wallis of Scarborough, who married at Friends' Meeting House, Scarborough, Yorkshire on 14 November 1883. In 1901, Francesca was a 13-year-old, living at 18 Lynwood Avenue, Bentinck Road, Elswick, Newcastle-upon-Tyne with her parents, 51-year-old Robert and 50-year-old Laura, with two siblings, Winifred Laura 16 and William Maurice 10, both born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Following an education at the Central Newcastle High School for Girls and Newnham College, Cambridge, Francesca qualified as a teacher and in 1911 described as an history teacher, when a patient at a hospital at 8 Upper Church Street, 16 Catherine Place, Bath, Somerset. Whilst teaching in Gravesend during the First World War, and with her interest in travel and languages, she was led into relief work with Friends in 1916 and worked with French refugees at SamoŽns in the Alps region, later becoming involved in caring for wounded Serbian troops in Corsica and North Africa under the auspices of the Serbian Relief Fund. In 1919 she moved to Vienna where she worked with the Quaker Relief Mission and Save the Children and where she taught the children art which was exhibited in London with great success. Francesca then embarked on a period of famine relief work with a Quaker team in Russia 1922-1923. From 1925 she settled in Birmingham where she taught history at the Edgbaston Church of England College for Girls and obtained leave to go to Spain during the Spanish Civil War, visiting three times to organise housing and medical care for children. In 1939, she was living at Shepherds Close, Hinksey Hill, Abingdon, Oxford with her widowed mother Dorothy. During and after the Second World War she worked with Spanish refugees in the south of France and with Polish refugees in Hungary and with displaced persons in Germany under UNRRA. Her home was open to all sorts of lodgers, including refugees from Nazi Germany and Russia, and she adopted several young people, providing them with a home and opportunity for education. After which she moved to London, where she taught for the WEA and the University of London adult education classes. During the 1940s and 1950s she toured Britain, addressing public meetings on humanitarian aid and post-war reconstruction, also broadcasting on these issues. During her life Francesca published several books and was a prolific author of reportage and journalism, policy documents on displacement, practical guides to relief work, historical works and anthologies of travel writings, biography, and autobiographical accounts. From the early 1950s she owned properties in Walberswick, Suffolk. Francesca Mary Wilson died at 5 Fellows Road, London NW.3 on 4 March 1981, aged 93, she was unmarried.