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Bol Poel, Martha (1877–1956)

Bol Poel, Martha (1877–1956)

Belgian feminist. Name variations: Baroness Bol Poel. Born Martha De Kerchove de Deuterghem in Ghent, Belgium, in 1877; died in 1956; daughter of a distinguished Ghent family; attended Kerchove Institute, founded by her grandfather; studied painting at Académie Julien, Paris, France, 1895; married Bol Poel (an industrialist and politician), in 1898.

Born Martha De Kerchove de Deuterghem in Ghent, Belgium, in 1877, Baroness Martha Bol Poel came from a distinguished Ghent family; her grandfather founded the Kerchove Institute where she matriculated. In one of her earliest acts of social reform, Bol Poel established a maternity center at her husband's metal works at La Louvrière, the first of its kind. During the German occupation of Belgium in World War I, she organized a secret correspondence service which led to her imprisonment. While incarcerated, she became seriously ill and was exchanged for another prisoner in 1917, whereupon she went into exile in Switzerland.

Bol Poel resurfaced in the 1920s as a leading figure in the Belgian women's movement, serving as president of the National Council of Women in 1934 and of the International Council of Women from 1935 to 1940. After another German invasion of Belgium in 1940, she again became active in the underground. Following World War II, she resumed her activities with the International Council of Women.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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