Monday, October 12, 2009
Katharine Symonds Furse was a QueerSpawn
Katharine and her three sisters were the children of famed gay English essayist and historian John Addington Symonds (1840-1893). Born in Clifton, Bristol, young Katharine spent most of her childhood in Davos, Switzerland, where Symonds had relocated the family in search of a better climate for his tuberculosis. In 1900, she married painter Charles W. Furse, who also suffered from tuberculosis. They had two sons, Peter and John Paul. Charles Furse died of tuberculosis in 1904. Katharine led the first VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) Corps to France in October 1914 and headed the British Red Cross Women's VAD Department from 1915 to 1917. She was Commandant in Chief of the Joint Women's VAD Department in 1916, and the first head of the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRENS) in 1917. She remained the head of the WRENS until they were demobilized in 1919. After the war, Katharine Furse continued her pioneering work in women's service. She worked closely for years with the Girl Guides and for ten years was Director of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. She died in London in 1952.