Henriette Marie Meyer was an extraordinary woman living in extraordinary times. Born in 1875 in San Francisco, California, her father was a well-known banker and philanthropist, Charles Meyer. Henriette was the first wife of the wealthy businessman Sir Mortimer Davis with whom she moved to Montreal. Her first child was born in 1901 and was named after her husband, Mortimer. She also adopted her own nephew a few years later.
In 1924 Henriette divorced her husband and with her generous settlement was able to continue to pursue her philanthropic interests. From Montreal she moved to France where she founded a resort for children with disabilities. The “spa” was called “Colonie de Vacance.” She was recognized by the French government for her kindness and generosity and received her adopted country’s Legion of Honor award. Later in life she helped refugees who were escaping from the Nazi regime.
When World War II began she was able to flee back to Montreal. From there she donated a Spitfire fighter plane to the British army and housed pilots for the RAF. For her assistance she received the Order of the British Empire recognition.
When the war ended Henriette started the “Lady Davis Fund.” With this money she was able to help bring Holocaust survivors to Canada to begin their lives again. Before she died in 1963 Henriette helped to build a number of schools in the newly established country of Israel.
The main building of the Israel National Library bears her name as the “Lady Davis Building.” The Technion in Haifa has the “Lady Davis Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering Center. Lady Davis was truly a Jewish Woman of Valor.