Stella Isaacs, Marchioness of Reading, Baroness Swanborough, GBE (6 January 1894 - 22 May 1971), née Stella Charnaud, was the first woman Women’s Voluntary Service (now Royal Voluntary Service) founder in 1938 and the first woman House of Lords to sit (Cross Bencher) in 1958.
She was an English philanthropist who is best remembered as the founder and chairman of the Women's Voluntary Service (WVS), now known as Royal Voluntary Service. As Lady Reading, she was highly active in promoting Anglo-American relations, not only as the wife of a former British Ambassador to the US, but also in her peacetime role helping to rebuild the British economy and find stimulating employment for women – both voluntary and paid. In addition to the WVS, she also established Women's Home Industries, a highly successful exponent of British craft and cultural traditions in clothing and textiles, and also a prolific exporter to the United States and Canada. She served on boards of various cultural bodies, including the BBC Advisory Board and Glyndebourne, and was a keen early supporter of University of Sussex. In 1958, she became the first woman to take a seat in the House of Lords in her own right. A 1963 profile in The Observer said: "the W.V.S. has brought out in her the latent political talent and the strength of character that once induced someone to say of her that had she been a man she would have become Prime Minister".
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