Clementine Ogilvy Spencer-Churchill, born Clementine Hozier in 1885, was the wife of Winston Churchill for 57 years. As beloved wife and mother, as confidant, advisor and remonstrator, the role she played in her husband’s life was a significant one. As a political force in her own right, however, Clementine Churchill often demonstrated qualities of charisma, insight and organisational skill, vital to the role of statesperson.
A cause which has been referred to as her greatest achievement was the Red Cross Aid to Russia Fund, of which she served as Chairman in the Second World War. During this time, approximately 16,825,000 of Russia’s citizens died, which amounted to a staggering 15% of its population. There was a great deal of sympathy in Great Britain for the plight of the Russian people. Clementine herself was particularly troubled by the inordinate burden borne by the Soviet Union.
Clementine rallied support from the wealthy and celebrity musicians, along with factory workers and school girls willing to knit scarves, gloves and hats. The Red Cross Aid to Russia Fund quickly raised £1 million in the period from mid-October to December 1941, rising to a massive £8 million by the end of the war. This went towards essential supplies such as clothing and blankets, medicine and medical equipment including X-ray installations, and first aid kits. To amass such support from a country which was itself struggling with wartime shortages was a considerable achievement.
In this document, Counsellor Frank Roberts offers glowing words of praise for Clementine’s conduct during her tour of the Soviet Union in 1945, proclaiming that “No country has ever had a better Ambassadress”. For the magnitude of her achievement with the Aid to Russia Fund, she was awarded Order of the Red Banner of Labour, a Soviet decoration, as well as the Distinguished Red Cross Service Badge from the Soviet Red Cross. In June 1946, Clement Attlee made her a Dame for this work. According to her daughter, Mary Soames in Clementine Churchill: the Biography of a Marriage, she had been delighted that she had been able to “help a little”, but would never come to style herself as Dame.
Churchill Archive CHAR 20/204B/132-133