Partner Hilda Clark

Queer Places:
4 Overleigh, Street BA16 0TP, UK
Religious Society of Friends Quaker Cemetery Street, Mendip District, Somerset, England

Edith pye.jpgEdith Mary Pye (October 20, 1876 – December 16, 1965) was an English midwife and International Relief Organizer.[1] She worked in maternity hospitals for women refugees and was the president of the British Midwives Institute. Along with being a member of Friends Germany Emergency Committee, Red Cross, and the International Commission for the Assistance of Child Refugees. In 1907, she became Superintendent of District Nurses in London, following her lengthy career in international relief efforts and as a midwife.

Edith Eckhard was a close friend of Kathleen Courtney, a suffragist, peace campaigner and internationalist. Eckhard and Courtney lived together in London, some of the time with the pacifist doctor Hilda Clark, and Clark’s partner, the midwife and Quaker pacifist Edith Pye. Dr Hilda Clark met the midwife and international relief organizer Edith Pye in 1907 when Clark started work for her medical degree: ‘To this day,’ wrote Pye, 50 years later in another love-at-first-sight memory, ‘I can see her as she came down the attic stair in the old house in Westminster, the gold glint in her brown hair and eyes lightened up by the flame of the candle she carried.’ The relationship was sustained through many separations, as both Clark and Pye engaged in war-relief work in Europe. They wrote to each other in the delightful ‘plain language’ of the Quakers: hence Clark to Pye in Geneva from London: ‘While I miss thee dreadfully here I know it is worse being away and alone ... I am glad thou has good friends there ...’

Edith Pye was born on 20 October 1876 in London, to William Arthur Pye JP, a wine merchant, and Margaret Thompson Kidston, daughter of James Burns Kidston of Glasgow.[3][4] Her siblings included Sybil Pye, the bookbinder, the artist Ethel Pye and David Randall Pye, the scientist and father of the sculptor, William Pye. Ethel and Sybil belonged to a circle of friends of Rupert Brooke, known as the Neo-pagans.

Edith Pye became a registered midwife in 1906 from Clapham School of Midwifery.[5] She became a member of the Society of Friends in 1908 and, with her friend Dr Hilda Clark, a physician and humanitarian aid worker, organized the Friends War Victim Relief in December 1914 at Chalons-sur-Marne.[6] They organized a maternity hospital inside the war zone and helped women and children war victims in France.[6] For these efforts, Pye was awarded the Legion d'honneur.[7] In 1923, she traveled to China to continue relief work in association with the Women's International League.[8] She organized the Friends' work in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and was involved with the International Commission for the Assistance of Child Refugees and the Women's International League for peace and freedom.[6] During World War II, she supported the lifting of the allied blockade in an effort to allow food and medical supplies to be sent to starving people in Europe.[9] She was a leading member of the Famine Relief Committee and she lobbied the Ministry of Economic Warfare. Between 1941 and 1955 she worked in both France and Greece while continuing her efforts for peace and war relief.[6]

Edith Pye retired to Somerset with Hilda Clark in 1952. She died at her home at 4 Overleigh, Street, Somerset on 16th December 1965, ten years after Hilda, and the two are buried in the Quaker burial-ground under the same headstone.[1]

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