A Manistee ‘Lady’ in King George’s Court

Over the course of roughly 80 years, Manistee-raised Margaret Withey was known by several different monikers.

There is of course Margaret (her given first name) or Enid (which she was often called…Enid being her middle name). There was Mrs. Farwell (a married name) as well as Doctor Farwell (her professional name). While those designations are common to us, the final name (or rather “title”) she went by isn’t one that we as citizens of the United States are very familiar with; that being the title of “Lady” which in her case was given the title, Lady Ramsden.

Margaret Enid Ramsdell circa 1926. (Courtesy photo)

Margaret Enid Ramsdell circa 1926. (Courtesy photo)

Margaret Enid Withey was born in Baldwin, Michigan on December 31, 1882, to the parents of Frank and Nellie Withey. An interesting person unto himself, Margaret’s father Frank was born in New York state and moved to Michigan when he was six years old. He later attended law school and eventually became a full-fledged practicing lawyer. After a stint in Bangor, Michigan he took a position in Baldwin in 1880 where he was made Prosecuting Attorney for Lake County as well as its Superintendent of Schools.

In 1888, Frank, Nellie and family (which included three girls and one boy) moved to Manistee settling into a home at 617 Pine St. Upon his arrival, Withey established a practice located above the drug store at 401 River St. Frank eventually took up a partnership with another local attorney, P.T. Glassmire and served as Manistee County Prosecuting Attorney for two years. To top it all off, he later held the state appointed office of oil inspector.

While Margaret Withey was raised in Manistee, not much is known about her formative years. She went through the local public school system and graduated from Central High School (later known as the Woodrow Wilson School formerly located at the southwest corner of First and Oak streets) in 1900 .

By the fall of that year, Margaret had enrolled at Northern Michigan Normal College and then one year later was enrolled at Michigan State Normal College. In 1901 her family had moved to Marquette where her father took another position in the justice field.

Within a few, short years, Margaret went from high school graduate to college graduate to becoming a wife when she married George Wills Farwell, a graduate of West Point who had studied to become a civil engineer. With George’s occupation, the couple were allowed the opportunity to travel around the country. Upon settling in California, Margaret enrolled in medical school at the University of Southern California. After several years of studying, she graduated in 1915 as the only female student in a class of 30 doctors. One year later, she is listed in the California Register and Directories of Occupational and Licensed Doctors while serving as assistant house physician at the Santa Fe Hospital in California.

With George off fighting The Great War in France, Margaret also made the decision to go to France to provide civilian work among French refugees on behalf of the Red Cross. A brief write-up of her departure was published in the March, 1918 issue of the California State Journal of Medicine:

“Dr. Margaret Withey Farwell of Los Angeles has left for New York for preliminary preparation with settlement workers before sailing for France as a member of the Red Cross. She will be assigned to civilian relief work among women and children refugees in France. Dr. Farwell is a graduate and member of the faculty of the University of Southern California, and also has charge of the medical department of the Parent-Teachers’ clinic.”

Sadly on October 2, 1918, George Farwell was killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest.

According to an article published in the Manistee News Advocate in 1933, Margaret Farwell’s wartime services earned her numerous medals. After the Armistice, Dr. Farwell was sent to Romania (under the patronage of Queen Marie) for the purposes of reconstruction work.

While in Romania, she eventually crossed paths with Eugene Ramsden, of the British Army, a society man from Great Britain who had been appointed to the Order of the British Empire in 1919. That same year the two were married with Margaret moving to the Ramsden family estate located about 15 miles outside Leeds.

Ramsden eventually won the seat of Bradford North in the House of Commons in 1924 but was defeated in 1929. 1931 saw him getting his seat back and on January 1, 1933, he was knighted by King George V for “…distinguished service as a member of Parliament for Bradford North”.

An article published in the Manistee News Advocate on January 24, 1933 briefly describes Ramsden’s honor:

“At present reinstated in the British government body, Sir Ramsden attained to knighthood by virtue of his outstanding services and connections with the business and diplomatic worlds.”

With Eugene Ramsden’s ascendency to knighthood, his Manistee-raised wife received the title of “Lady Ramsden” and next week we will take a look at her return home.



Posted by Mark Fedder

Mark Fedder is the executive director of the Manistee County Historical Musuem. He can be reached at (231) 723-5531 ormanisteemuseum@yahoo.com.

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