Katharine Furse

Nurse, Chivalric Order Member

1875 – 1952


Who was Katharine Furse?

Dame Katharine Furse, GBE, RRC, founder of the English Voluntary Aid Detachment force, was the daughter of the poet and critic John Addington Symonds and Janet Catherine North. Her aunt was the painter Marianne North.

Educated by governesses and her mother, Furse spent most of her early life in Switzerland and Italy. In 1900 she married the painter Charles Wellington Furse, who died four years later leaving her with two young children. In 1909 Furse joined the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment that was attached to the Territorial Army. On the outbreak of the First World War she was chosen to head the first Voluntary Aid Detachment unit to be sent to France. Aware of her administrative abilities, the authorities decided to place her in charge of the VAD Department in London.

On the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Furse realised that the existing number of nurses would prove totally inadequate to deal with the enormous amount of work which might be expected, and in September 1914 she proceeded to France with a number of assistants, these forming the nucleus of the VAD force. In January 1915 she returned to England, and the VAD work was then officially recognised as a department of the Red Cross organization. She resigned her position in 1917, and the same year became director of the Women's Royal Naval Service. She received the order of the Royal Red Cross in 1916, and the Order of the British Empire in 1917.

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Nov 23, 1875
  • United Kingdom
Lived in
  • Bristol
  • London
Nov 25, 1952

on July 23, 2013


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