Violetta Thurstan, a modern day Renaissance woman

Violetta Thurstan (1879-1978) Born: 1879, East Sussex Died: 1978, Penryn, Cornwall

War Heroine, Nurse, Author, Weaver-Dyer

Born in East Sussex, Violetta was schooled in Germany and trained as a nurse in London. During WW1 she worked on the front line for the Red Cross in Belgium, Denmark and Russia. She was awarded the Russian Cross of St George and the Military Medal.

Between the wars she developed her interest in textiles and was Director of the Bedouin Industries for the Egyptian Government.

In 1937 she joined the Spanish Civil war on prisoner release but was later expelled. Eager to offer her skills in several languages, during WW2 the 60 year old lied about her age to join WRNS in Naval Intelligence, declaring herself eleven years younger.

She made her life in Flushing and Penryn from 1950 until her death, where she dedicated herself to teaching, weaving, writing, and travelling, leading the Catholic Women’s League on pilgrimage to Rome in 1958. In 1973 she helped establish the Cornwall Crafts Association, which remains of great importance to Cornish arts and crafts today.


Melissa Hardie, 'Anna Violet Thurstan (1879-1978) aka ‘Violetta’' for Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Violetta Thurstan archive, Elizabeth Treffry Collection, Hypatia Trust.

Somerfield, Muriel and Bellingham, Ann (1993) Violetta Thurstan – a celebration; family records, Royal London Hospital Archives; personal diaries: Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Likenesses:  Sculpture, photographs (Elizabeth Treffry Collection).

Yes Papa! Our latest addition

Yes Papa! by Barbara Eaton (credit: Francis Boutle Publishers) The Elizabeth Treffry Collection, like a healthy baby, seems to be growing by the minute. Our latest addition is a book by Barbara Eaton, from the Lizard in south west Cornwall, on Hester Chapone, an early Bluestocking.

Published by Francis Boutle Publishers and formally launched at the Hypatia Trust in 26 July 2012, Yes Papa! Mrs Chapone and the Bluestocking Circle is a biography of a mid 18th-century woman on a mission. She educated herself and quickly formed an essential part of the circle of Samuel Richardson. An abrupt end to married life left her in debt and she turned to writing to make ends meet. Letters on the Improvement of the Mind, published in 1773 became a bestseller for decades afterwards, quoted in the novels of Jane Austen and W.M. Thackeray. It was even famous enough to be satired in the anonymously published Anti-Chapone in 1810. Eaton restores Hester Chapone to her rightful place in the hall of fame of the Blue Stocking circle.

We are delighted to have this new addition to the collection and offer Barbara very sincere congratulations on the publication of yet another work that brings women in history to life.

In 2005, the Hypatia Trust published Barbara's highly commended book, Letters to Lydia: ‘beloved Persis’,  a story of a 19th-century love affair between Henry Martyn, a chaplain of the East India Company, and his 'beloved Persis' in Cornwall, Lydia Grenfell, based on their letters and diaries. It was runner up in the 2006 Holyer an Gof Awards for Literature of the Cornish Gorseth. George Care commented in Cornish World:

‘… this is a fascinating study and deserves to be widely read. Barbara Eaton and Hypatia have performed an excellent service’

Yes Papa! is available from all good booksellers or direct from the publishers, RRP £14.99 (Paperback 274 pages with 35 black and white illustrations. ISBN 978 1 903427 70 5).