Annie Pearson, Viscountess Cowdray

Annie Pearson, Viscountess Cowdray GBE (née Cass; 4 June 1860 – 15 April 1932) was an English society hostess, suffragist and philanthropist. She was nicknamed the Fairy Godmother of Nursing due to her financial patronage of the Royal College of Nursing and her work to promote district nursing throughout England and Scotland. She served as the President of the Women's Liberal Federation from 1921 until 1923 and was also the Honorary Treasurer of the Liberal Women's Suffrage Union. She was the only woman to hold the office of High Steward of Colchester, serving from 1927 until her death in 1932.

Annie Pearson
Viscountess Cowdray
BornAnnie Cass
4 June 1860
Bradford, Yorkshire
Died15 April 1932(1932-04-15) (aged 71)
Paris, France
Spouse(s)Weetman Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray (1881–1927; his death)
Harold Pearson, 2nd Viscount Cowdray
Bernard Clive Pearson
Francis Geoffrey Pearson
Gertrude Denman, Baroness Denman
FatherSir John Cass
MotherHannah Gamble


Annie Pearson (née Cass) was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire on 4 June 1860 to Sir John Cass, a merchant and landowner from Yorkshire, and Hannah Gamble.[1][2] In 1881 she married Weetman Pearson, a building contractor and oil magnate who also owned silver mines in Bolivia.[2][3] He was created a baronet in 1894, raised to the peerage becoming Baron Cowdray in 1910, and Viscount Cowdray in 1917.[4]

She and her husband donated Cowdray Hall to the city of Aberdeen.[5] In 1919 they moved into Dunecht House.[6] The couple had four children: Harold Pearson, 2nd Viscount Cowdray, Bernard Clive Pearson, Francis Geoffrey Pearson, and Gertrude Denman, Baroness Denman. Her husband died in 1927.[5] Her daughter, Lady Denman, was influential in the development of education for women in rural areas.[3]

Dunecht House


Lady Cowdray was a patron of nursing and was associated with the Queen's Institute of District Nursing, establishing nursing services in rural parts of England and Scotland.[7][8] She donated £100,000 to establish the Cowdray Hospital in Mexico City.[9] When the Royal College of Nursing was established in 1916, Lady Cowdray became the Treasurer and Chairman of the Tribute Fund Committee for the Nation's Fund for Nurses, fundraising for the creation of a Benevolent Fund for Nurses and for the endowment of the Royal College of Nursing.[10] In 1921 she funded the rebuilding along Henrietta Street in London for a headquarters for the Royal College of Nursing.[11] She decided to create a social club for nurses and professional women, founding the Cowdray Club in 1922.[12] She purchased a house on Cavendish Square from H. H. Asquith, and his wife Margot Asquith, for the club's headquarters.[13]

Political careerEdit

Lady Cowdray was a feminist and supporter of Women's suffrage in the United Kingdom. She was a member of the Women's Liberal Federation, serving as president from 1921 until 1923.[14] She also served as the Honorary Treasurer of the Liberal Women's Suffrage Union.[15]

Lady Cowdray served as a burgess in Aberdeen.[5] She was elected by the Borough of Colchester to succeed her husband as the High Steward of Colchester. She is the only woman to have been High Steward of Colchester and held the office from 1927 until her death in 1932.[16]

Personal lifeEdit

Lady Cowdray was an avid art collector and patron of the arts.[17][18][19][20][21][22] She commissioned the painting The Red Ruin by James Pryde.[23] She was painted by John Singer Sargent and Sir William Orpen.[24][25]

In November 1931, a thief broke into Lady Cowdray's home and stole £8,000 worth of jewellery from her granddaughter, Joan Pearson.[26]

Lady Cowdray's great-grandson Iain Murray became the 10th Duke of Atholl. The duke's estate, Blair Castle, was in financial ruin at the time he inherited it. To protect it from being sold off, Lady Cowdray paid off the bank debt and gifted a large sum of money to her granddaughter Angela Pearson, the duke's mother, to set up a The Blair Charitable Trust.[27][28] Her financial contributions toward saving Blair Castle were covered on the BBC Two documentary film The Last Dukes.[29]

She was made a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in January 1932.[30]

The poet, broadcaster and socialite Nadja Malacrida was her niece.

Death and legacyEdit

Graves of Viscount and Viscountess Cowdray

Lady Cowdray died on 15 April 1932 at the Hôtel Ritz Paris.[5][31]

On 2 June 1934, Queen Mary received £6,054 (equivalent to £433,000 in 2019) for the establishment of a memorial fund for Lady Cowdray.[32]


  1. ^ "Person Page". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928.
  3. ^ a b International Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary to 1950. ABC-CLIO. 2001. p. 84.
  4. ^ Harris, Peter; Cogan, Dominic de (24 September 2015). "Studies in the History of Tax Law". Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved 12 August 2018 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ a b c d "Annie Cass - Mapping Memorials to Women in Scotland". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  6. ^ "'THE DUNECHT HOUSE CHAIRS' - Pair of Dutch Ivory & Fruitwood Marquetry inlaid Walnut Side Chairs - The Cotswold Art & Antique Dealers Association". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  7. ^ "The Fairy Godmother of Nursing - First World War Centenary". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  8. ^ Archives, The National. "The Discovery Service". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  9. ^ "Oil and Revolution in Mexico "d0e1694"". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  10. ^ "AIM25 collection description". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  11. ^ "Cavendish Square 4: No. 20 (the Royal College of Nursing) - UCL The Survey of London". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  12. ^ London Metropolitan Archives, ref: A/COW/87 - a memorial booklet written by Agnes L. Douglas, who was private secretary to Lady Cowdray 1920-1932.
  13. ^ "Two for Sorrow – Nicola Upson". 8 January 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  14. ^ "Remarkable West Sussex Women – Lady Gertrude Denman". 8 March 2017. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  15. ^ Garner, Paul (9 September 2011). "British Lions and Mexican Eagles : Business, Politics, and Empire in the Career of Weetman Pearson in Mexico, 1889 to 1919". Stanford University Press. p. 251. Retrieved 12 August 2018 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ "New High Steward Of Colchester. Annie Lady Cowdray Elected". The Times. 2 June 1927. p. 13.
  17. ^ "Sale of the century at Cowdray". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  18. ^ "Disputed Elizabeth I painting leads Christie's Cowdray Park auction". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  19. ^ "Orpen in country house auction". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  20. ^ "viaLibri ~ [Album of exceptional watercolours of members of the Chinese court and of various tradesmen and occupations]". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  21. ^ "A Splendid $200,000 Album of Early 19th Century Chinese Export Watercolors". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  22. ^ "LARGEST COUNTRY HOUSE SALE OF THE YEAR IN UK". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  23. ^ "RELEASE: Cowdray Park - 13, 14 and 15 September 2011". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  24. ^ "Ivan Mestrovic's Mother Teaching Child to Pray sold at Sotheby's auction". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  26. ^ "JEWELS WORTH £8,000 STOLEN". 24 November 1931. p. 9. Retrieved 12 August 2018 – via Trove.
  27. ^ "Downton and Dukedom: The real-life Lady Marys saving our country houses - The F-Word". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  28. ^ "Clan Donnachaidh Society - Atholl, Points of Interest, Blair Atholl". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  29. ^ Real Stories (31 July 2017). "The Last Dukes (British Aristocracy Documentary) - Real Stories". YouTube. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  30. ^ The Essex Review: An Illustrated Quarterly Record of Everything of Permanent Interest in the County. 41–42. E. Durant and Company. 1932. p. 211.
  31. ^ "Detail of inscription "Weetman Dickinson Pearson. First Viscount Cowdray. MDCCCLVI-MCMXXVII. and his wife. Annie Cass. First Viscountess Cowdray. MDCCCLX-MCMXXXII. She Died in Paris & is Buried at Sai ... - Canmore". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  32. ^ "Lady Cowdray" (PDF). The British Journal of Nursing: 165. June 1934. Retrieved 12 August 2018.