St. Mary's Ladies Group

Church News | Saturday, 14 April 2012 |

By Sue Cole

Whatever the date!

Whatever the date!

Our February meeting was called “Chelmsford’s Golden Girls” and we welcomed Dot Bedenham as our speaker. Dot was a former curator of Social History at the Chelmsford & Essex Museum and had researched the lives of seven Chelmsford girls from the 19th century who had all taken the Cambridge Local Examinations. Passing these exams allowed them to study at university.

Dot began by telling us about the Byford sisters - Edith and Gertrude, who both studied music, becoming accomplished soloists and associates of the Royal Academy of Music. In 1898 Edith (violin) won the prestigious Sauret Prize. Gertrude sadly died in an accident on Snowdon.

Next were Ellen and Mary Pertwee, who became medical students and missionaries and were awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal for their service as nurses in the Boer War. These sisters were direct ancestors of the actor Jon Pertwee and his son Sean and the family were happy to talk to Dot about them.

Ellen Pash was the daughter of Joseph Pash the founder of the Essex Industrial School. She was a brilliant scholar and was studying at Bangor University.

However, she tragically committed suicide age 31 by jumping off the Menai Bridge when she mistakenly thought her mother had died.

Finally, we heard about Nellie and Maud Bodkin, both classical scholars. Maud wrote a number of books on Philosophy including a major work applying the theories of Carl Jung to literature. She inspired academics across the globe for years to come.

This was a fascinating talk. Dot brought their individual stories to life. She also included details from the Essex Chronicle and other newspapers & journals for each of these women.

These seven inspiring Chelmsford women from the 19th century fought against the odds in what was at the time, a man’s world, and certainly deserved the accolade of “Chelmsford’s Golden Girls”

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