Lady Henry Somerset and Frances Willard and their relief work during the Armenian crisis of the 1890s

Lady Henry Somerset (standing) and Frances Willard

Lady Henry Somerset and Frances Willard, the American temperance leader, had much in common – including a poor taste in hats, it would seem from this old photograph.

The 2 women did not reserve their campaigning efforts just to the temperance cause. They were pioneers in many women’s issues and shared a deep concern for their fellow human beings, of whatever nationality.

It is perhaps not too surprising then that, whilst enjoying a cycling holiday together in France, Lady Henry Somerset and Frances Willard interupted their journey to spearhead relief efforts for refugees fleeing Armenia, following an invasion by the Turks. 

The Armenian crisis was to flare up many times over the next twenty five years. The Armenians were seen as an ancient Christian race, the Turks as the Infidel. Frances Willard called them “the Apaches of the East”.

The two women travelled to Marseille where they co-ordinated relief efforts, taking over an unused hospital ward in an abandoned monastery. The place provided a temporary shelter for about 300 refugees. Many were then encouraged and helped to emigrate to America, source of much of the funds the women raised. $1000 was sent by J D Rockefeller personally.

A small group of refugees came to England, where they stayed for a while at Lady Henry Somerset’s home, Reigate Priory. I have not been able to trace where they went from there, so would welcome any information.

Anna Gordon, a close friend of both Frances Willard and Lady Henry Somerset, commented that the women needed a rest from their many “causes” but this episode showed that neither were capable of putting their own rest and relaxation first when there were people desperately in need of help.



About rosblack

I am a freelance writer & author of 4 social history books, featuring female social reformers of the late 19th and early 20th century. In a previous life I managed a housing charity. I also give talks.
This entry was posted in A Talent for Humanity, Feminism, Lady Henry, Lady Henry Somerset, Recreational pursuits, Reigate Local History, Reigate Priory, religion, Victorian Do-Gooders and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Lady Henry Somerset and Frances Willard and their relief work during the Armenian crisis of the 1890s

  1. Susan Ozmore says:

    Excellent. Thanks for the information. I have a post about Frances Willard on my main blog “Saints, Sisters, and Sluts” that you might be interested in. I’ll also put your book on my to read list if it is available. Also I am going to reblog your post on my News & Notes blog if that’s OK. I’ll go ahead and do it, but let me know if it’s a problem and I’ll remove it. Great info! Thanks again 🙂

    • rosblack says:

      Thanks for the feedback. I’ll be checking out your blog. It sounds very interesting.
      Please feel free to re blog.

      “A Talent for Humanity” is available from Amazon or email me directly on Cost £9.99 p&P free.


  2. Susan Ozmore says:

    Reblogged this on SSS News & Notes and commented:
    This is a nice little nugget about Frances Willard and Lady Henry Somerset.

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