Wilsdon, Charlotte 1817 - 1896

English; British

(1817-1896), Crimean War nurse

Charlotte Wilsdon was born Charlotte Cox, on the 30th April 1817 in Abingdon. She grew up in Abingdon, and a month before her twentieth birthday married William Higgins, a carpet weaver, in St Helen’s Church. Sadly, her husband died six years later leaving her a widow of twenty-six with two young daughters.

Two years later she remarried. Her second husband was William Wilsdon, a gardener, but by the time she was thirty-three, she had been widowed again. The 1851 census shows her living in Friars Wharf in Oxford with her two daughters and two lodgers and working as a tailoress.

At the Outbreak of the Crimean War in 1854 Charlotte answered Florence Nightingale’s appeal for volunteers, the nursing care Nightingale organized led to a dramatic improvement in the survival rate of wounded soldiers. Charlotte had probably gained some nursing experience during the cholera and smallpox outbreak in Oxford in 1854. She was one of a party of twenty-seven women who made the twenty-three-day journey to Constantinople in March 1855 under the care of a superintendent and a chaplain. When she arrived, she was employed at the General Hospital in Scutari.

In May 1856, after a little over a year at Scutari, Charlotte was invalided home. Florence Nightingale, in a letter written at the time, described her as ‘a kind, active, useful nurse and a strictly sober woman’.

Three years later, back in Abingdon, she married for a third time to William Andrews, but was widowed again by the time she was fifty-two. She then seems to have continued living in Abingdon for more than another twenty years and was described in the censuses as having independent means possibly, according to a family story, due to gifts from soldiers she had nursed. Towards the end of her life, Charlotte lived in Swindon with her daughter Harriet. She died in Swindon on 22 March 1896 at the age of seventy-eight and is buried at Radnor Street Cemetery, under her married name, Andrews.