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  • Title
    Francesca Wilson papers
  • Reference
    MSS 1006
  • Date
    c1880s - c1990s
  • Scope and Content
    8 series containing letters, diary extracts, articles and talks, correspondence regarding teaching and public lectures, journal letters from a relief work colleague, press cuttings, genealogical information, and photographs. The collection reflects Francesca Wilson's international relief work experience during and between both world wars, and her career teaching, writing and talking about international issues.
  • Extent
    1 box
  • Level of description
    fonds
  • Condition governing access
    Open
  • Creator
    • Wilson, Francesca, 1888-1981
      Francesca Wilson was born 1st January 1888, in Newcastle, to Quaker parents Robert Wilson (1850-1933) and Laura Maria Wallis (1850-1949). Her father was a hatter's furrier. Her mother would later convert from Quakerism to the Plymouth Brethren. Wilson was educated at Central Newcastle High School for Girls and Armstrong College. She then entered Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1906, and took honours. She qualified as a teacher in 1912 and taught at Bath High School before moving to Gravesend County School for Girls, where she worked from 1914 to 1916. During the war, Wilson decided to give up teaching to pursue relief work, first travelling to the Haute Savoie in France under the auspices of Friends Emergency and War Victims Relief Committee. She then went to Corsica with the Serbian Relief Fund to help Serbian refugees there. In February 1919 she moved to Serbia to continue relief work. This would be the start of a lifelong love affair for the country, leading to the publishing of her first book 'Portraits and sketches of Serbia' in 1920. She worked in Vienna after the war helping with Hilda Clark's Quaker Relief Mission there. From there she went to Buzuluk in Russia where Quakers were working in famine conditions. In 1925 she returned to Britain, teaching history at Edgbaston Church of England College for Girls. At this time she started taking in 'adopted' Russian children and her house was open to all kinds of lodgers and friends. She returned to the Balkans in 1929 to report on conditions in Macedonia for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). In 1937 she travelled to Murcia in Spain to help run feeding programmes, hospitals and organising relief for displaced persons. She then went north to Perpignan to help refugees who had crossed the border into France. When war broke out in 1939, she went to Hungary to assist Polish refugees with the Quaker Polish Relief Fund and became involved in the Hungarian underground resistance, leading to her arrest by Hungarian secret police. In 1945 she was employed by the newly formed United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) as a senior welfare worker and was sent to Fohrenwald to work with displaced persons, including survivors of Dachau. By this time she had settled in London and was teaching at University of London as well as travelling the country giving talks and lectures on relief work, post-war reconstruction and other topics. She was also a prolific writer and wrote for several newspapers and published books and pamphlets on a variety of topics relating to her work. She died of bronchopneumonia and cerebrovascular accident on the 5th March 1981.
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