W.I. Newsletter February 2020

There are so many opportunities for our members to get together and this month all our groups met to read, eat and walk.  The latter being fortunate to enjoy a good walk the day before Storm Keira arrived, from Wherwell across to Chilbolton and back, seeing signs of spring along the way,

Now what links this village with the USA., Canary Wharf, the First World War and the War Memorial Hospital in Andover?  The answer lies here in Abbotts Ann Churchyard.  Frances Du Puy Fletcher.

I understand an article about this remarkable woman was published in Abbotts Ann’s Parish Magazine in March 2018, but many of us had not linked that to the subject of this month’s meeting.  Erica Tinsley Chair of the local History Group was here to enlighten us.

Frances Du Puy was born in Washington DC in 1863. By the time Frances was six she was living in Rochester N.Y. with her childless aunt and uncle. Her life was very comfortable as her aunt and uncle were very wealthy and their house was large and prestigious.  However, she was encouraged to be generous with her time and money and was very busy with her charitable commitments, helping those not born to such privilege.

She married Keddey Ray Fletcher, who was an English lawyer, in 1893 in America, but the newlyweds came to live here in England.  He also came from a wealthy background; his family earned their money from shipbuilding and their shipyard is now the site of Canary Wharf.

They came to live in The Manor, Abbotts Ann in 1909 and they both got very involved with village life, supporting the Village School and Church as well as the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides.

Frances took a keen interest in women’s rights and joined the local group in Andover who were campaigning for a woman’s right to vote. She held meetings at The Manor and with her connections managed to persuade well known women to speak.  At one meeting one local G.P. made some outrageous comments about women’s mental ability.

Frances had to prioritise her time between supporting her husband and family for a few years, but she was widowed in 1913 and then in 1914 the First World War broke out. She immediately gained nursing qualifications and then chose to work in France for two years, returning to Abbotts Ann in 1917.

After the War was over, Andover elected to have two memorials, the Cenotaph (now in Andover Churchyard) and the building of a new hospital on the site of the Old Cottage Hospital.   Frances was at the forefront with a large donation and very involved in its management, turning up without warning to make spot checks and writing numerous reports on her findings.

Frances also dedicated her time to education and health projects in the Andover area. She arranged for talks to be given to the mothers and girls over 12 in Abbotts Ann on the importance of personal hygiene and other health issues.

As the years went by her health deteriorated and she died in 1950 and is buried with her husband and her mother, who died whilst visiting her daughter, in Abbotts Ann Churchyard.  This is a poor attempt to do justice to such an amazing woman.  We have no record of her being a member of Abbotts Ann W.I. but she shared so many values with our organisation and is a woman to be admired.  A very hard act to follow.

Our next meeting is on 26th March, and we will be welcoming a familiar face, as Tim Abram will be telling us about Test Valley Brewing.  Remember our meetings start at 7.30 p.m. and are held in our Village Hall.   As we say every month, visitors are welcome to join us.

Sharon King 

Diary Dates

07 March           – Breakfast Club

12 March           – Supper Club

14 March           – Walking Group

16 March           – Anton Danebury Group Meeting

25 March           – HCFWI Spring Meeting

26 March           – Monthly Meeting 7.30 p.m. Village Hall

28 March           – Lunch Club

31 March           – Reading Group