It is International Women’s Day today and the theme of the 2017 campaign is ‘Be Bold For Change’. To celebrate this I want to write about Charlotte Helene Jessie Paterson who was born in Scotland but lived in Poole for over 50 years.
Miss Paterson came to Poole in 1903 at the age of 29 and lived at Corfe Lodge, Osborne Road, Parkstone until her death in December 1955. On the 1911 census she is listed, living with her siblings. Her brother, Archibald Richard Paterson, a doctor of medicine is head of the household and under the heading ‘Employer, Worker or Working on own account’ he has filled in that Charlotte is part of the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Societies. Her sister is also recorded as part of the Women’s Suffrage Societies.
On 7th January 1938 the Wessex Gazette reported that Miss Paterson received an M.B.E in the New Years honours. Her award was for “political and public services in East Dorset” however the newspaper records:
She had already deserved well of her country before her public career in Dorset commenced by reason of her remarkable services to the British and French Armies during the Great War. She entered Germany before the Armies of Occupation and her most cherished possession is one of the French tricolours which was hoisted in celebration of the Peace Treaty.
The newspaper goes on to state that Nurse Paterson joined the Cornelia Hospital staff in Poole on 8th August 1914 after nursing in London. As she was an expert at speaking French in October 1915 she went to France and spent the war on the front line fighting area.
For a few months she was at a large hospital east of Paris and she was then sent to the Queen of the Belgians Hospital, at Lapanne, close to the villa of the gallant Belgian Royal family. She was among the very first to receive the Queen Elizabeth Medal with Red Cross from the Belgian Queen. It was only given to those nursing within range of the enemy guns. At that time her hospital suffered the ordeal of an enemy bombardment, lasting twelve days and nights, during which she had several remarkable escapes from death. She was in charge of the reception pavilion where the wounded- they could be brought in twenty minutes from the firing line- were taken and received their first operations.
As she was the only British nurse she was recalled for her proximity to the fighting, she rebelled and ended up joining the French Army who had a shortage of nurses. Straight after the war she entered Germany with a French nurse and they reported their findings to the British Commander at Metz who asked her to carry out similar work there. She was ultimately awarded the Croix de Guerre.
After the war Miss Paterson served on Poole Town Council 1924-1934 and represented Poole on the County Council. She campaigned to get the first female police officer appointed in Poole and also established an Occupational Centre for Mental Welfare in Poole. In 1924 she was made a Justice of the Peace.
After Charlotte’s death in 1955 the Poole and Dorset Herald published an obituary:
A fitting tribute to a woman who was definitely courageous and ‘Bold for Change’.