One Worth Remembering

By Richard Mineards   |   May 7, 2024
Hiroko Benko, Maria McCall, Erin Graffy de Garcia, Anne Towbes, and Michele Profant (photo by Priscilla)

With its tantalizing title “The Most Famous Woman You’ve Never Heard Of” the historic Santa Barbara Club was packed when 64 eager guests of Montecito Bank & Trust’s MClub gathered to find out who local historian and Noozhawk scribe Erin Graffy de Garcia would be talking about in her one-hour lecture.

The subject London-born Kathleen Burke Hale was indeed fascinating as Erin’s diligent research revealed, particularly her connection to our Eden by the Beach.

Hale, who died in 1958, was decorated by seven European nations for her sterling voluntary work in World Wars I and II after studying at the Sorbonne in Paris and Oxford University.

She founded the Scottish Women’s Hospitals and was the first woman to enter Verdun, site of one of the First World War’s major battles, writing a book The White Road to Verdun about her war experiences. She was also the first woman to receive the CBE – Commander of the British Empire – in 1918 from King George V.

Her first marriage was to Frederick Forrest Peabody of the Arrow shirt company, who lived in Solana, a local aerie now owned by Google billionaire Eric Schmidt.

He also personally financed the eponymous stadium at Santa Barbara High School before dying of a stroke in 1927 two years after the Santa Barbara earthquake.

Adrienne Schuele, Judy Whiting, Bernadette Bagley, Cathy Cash, Peggy Platner, Erin Graffy, Fannie Flagg, and Geri Bidwell (photo by Priscilla)
Bobby Kinnear, Suzi Schomer, Meg Burnham, Sybil Rosen, Sue Adams, and Carol Fell (photo by Priscilla)

Her second husband mining engineer Col. John McLean was killed in an accident just nine days after they married.

With her third husband Girard Van Barkaloo Hale, consul general to Monaco, the dynamic duo helped refugees in France under Nazi occupation, earning her the title Angel of France. They also personally restored the French village of Maille after the Waffen SS killed more than 500 villagers in retaliation for the death of two Nazi officers sending clothes, furniture and, notably, the latest Disney film hit Snow White.

They died within a short time of each other in New York.

Among those listening with rapt attention were Anne Towbes, Maria McCall, Sue Adams, author Fannie Flagg, Ann Luther, Hiroko Benko, Sybil Rosen, Peggy Wiley, Wilson Quarre, and Meg Burnham.

Who knew?


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