Mrs Crosfield

no-picture-square3Gulielma Crosfield née Wallis, 81, (1851-1945) was a leader amongst Brighton’s Quakers, an author, married to Albert J. Crosfield, candlemaker, and active with the YWCA and the British Women’s Temperance Society. In 1914, Gulielma was on the committee for the relief of War Victims and in November 1914 visited Holland with Albert, where they were involved with the work predominantly done by Quakers to relieve the suffering of the refugees from Belgium and France at the beginning of the war. Against all uses of force, she was also President of the Friends’ League for Women’s Suffrage.

puzzle-piece2-50Whilst Gulielma is a strong candidate, the large and distinguished Crosfield family offers us at least two alternatives noted at the end of this pen portrait. Have we chosen the right one? Can we find a stronger link with Lady Rhondda and her network? Or is there yet another Mrs Crosfield lurking in the wings?

puzzle-piece2-50Gulielma’s guest? Another Quaker might have been possible. Quite possibly another senior citizen?


This is a small table of somewhat uncertain identities so there is little we might suggest. Most likely, if we have the right women, she would have been seated with fellow suffragist, Mrs. George Watts, who she may well have known when she was living in Reigate, Surrey (and Mary Watts lived near Godalming, Surrey).


Enjoying a dinner with friends (lower case f, no pun intended) and reflecting on past challenges and achievements perhaps.  But developments in Berlin would no doubt have been of great concern.


Gulielma Wallis was born at 3 Powis Villas, Brighton on 29th April 1851 to the Methley, Yorkshire born Hannah Thistlethwaite, and the Springfield, Essex born Marriage Wallis, a grocer and candlemaker. She had two younger brothers, William and Edwin.[1] A leader of young Quakers in Brighton in the 1870s,[2] Gulielma married another Quaker Albert J. Crosfield on 16th September 1880, the son of a wholesale tea dealer. They lived in Reigate until 1907 and then Cambridge and had three sons (the second son died in infancy) and a daughter.

Gulielma and her sister-in-law Margaret Chorley Crosfield (1859-1952) were members of the Friends’ League for Women’s Suffrage, Gulielma becoming President and Margaret having addressed the first AGM of the League in 1913.[3] Suffrage may well have brought here in contact with Mrs. George Watts.  Gulielma was also active with the Y.W.C.A. (Young Women’s Christian Association) and with the British Women’s Temperance Society.

Gulielma was a suffragist not a suffragette, and author of a 23 page tract entitled Friends and the Women’s Movement, arguing against all forms of force, writing that if “women have to give anything to our generation, it is because we claim and higher plane of service than of force”.[4]

In 1915 Gulielma was one of the party of 24 women chosen to travel to The Hague for the International Congress of Women calling for Peace: cancellation of all cross channel traffic meant they got not further than Tilbury: it has been envisioned in a film, a stand in playing the part of Gulielma, Those Dangerous Women – like us not having a photograph of Gulielma. But at 11 minutes 33 seconds in this film you can see her portrayed in the train en route to the Congress.

G Crosfield book (3)She wrote at least three books: “The golden clew: Or, why we children are ‘Friends’ ” (West, Newman and Co. 1893); “A Man in Shining Armour, The Story of the Life of William Wilson (MRCS and LRCP, missionary in Madagascar, secretary of the Friends’ Foreign Mission”, (London, Headley Brothers, 1911) with her husband Albert; and a children’s book “Two Sunny Winters in California”. Albert also travelled to China but Gulielma did not accompany him. Albert died on 6th August 1931.


Gulielma’s signature from the above book

In 1935 Gulielma published a book on the life of her husband Albert. In the 1940s she was living at Carr End, Jordans Way, Beaconsfield, Bucks and she died in a nursing home in Farnham Common on 7th March 1945 at the age of 93.


As noted earlier there are other Mrs Crosfields we might consider, though Gulielma may take some dislodging.

Option 2: Mrs Bertram Fothergill Crosfield, née Cadbury, 47, (24.11.1885 – 8.7.1959), the daughter of George Cadbury and his first wife Mary Tylor, was the daughter-in-law of Gulielma, a Liberal on the Bucks County Council, magistrate. Eleanor was a member of the London & National Society for Women’s Service, (as were at least 11 others at the dinner), as was a Lady Crosfield. Her husband ran the News Chronicle and the London Star. She once lived in Grove House Hampstead. Not such a high achiever as her mother-in-law Gulielma but she has a link to publishing and is of Lady Rhondda’s generation. The Fothergill name is intriguing and it is the same Fothergill family as that of innkeeper John Fothergill on Table 12. Her husband Bertram Crosfield’s great great grandmother was one Elizabeth Fothergill, and earlier the Crosfields worked in a grocery business run by one Samuel Fothergill, around the turn of the 18th/19th centuries.


Option 3: Mrs Hugh Theodore Crosfield (Helen Grace), (1882-1944), c50, a JP in Croydon, the wife of Hugh Theodore Crosfield, Ceylon tea merchant, who was a nephew of Gulielma’s husband. Helen and her husband Hugh were killed by a V1 bomb on 15th November 1944 at home.


[1] Crosfield family

[2] Roslyn Cook (2015), Gulielma Crosfield, in These dangerous women, 1915-2015, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), p23, accessed 7.1.2018

[3] Margaret Chorley Crosfield, in Exploring Surrey’s Past, accessed 22.7.2020

[4] Gulielma Crosfield, Friends and the Women’s Movement, (London, Headley Brothers, 1911) p15, Cited on p102 of Elaine L Graham (2013), Grace Jantzen, Redeeming the Present, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 28.6.2013, accessed online 11.1.2018 

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