PHYLLIS PEARSALL 1906 – 1996
In 1936 Phyllis Pearsall took a map of London drawn for her father’s geographical publishing company several years earlier, updated it and managed to persuade WH Smiths and Woolworths to sell it.
Although not the first street map of London, it was the first produced by a woman and the company Phyllis founded, the Geographers’ A–Z Map Co, exists to this day.
Probably an urban myth, Phyllis is credited with walking the streets of London in order to undertake the update.
Phyllis had an affluent, middle-class upbringing with a governess and attendance at Roedean until her father went bankrupt.
Her brother was the war artist Anthony Gross and in 1927 Phyllis married his friend, another artist, Richard Pearsall. Together they travelled in Europe publishing in 1935 “Castilian Ochre” about their wanderings in Spain. Described as a happy-go-lucky journey and illustrated with line drawings the book was published shortly before Phyllis left Richard and returned to London alone.
During WW2 the publishing of maps was forbidden and Phyllis was employed as a war artist too. Her drawings were published as a collection “Women at War: Drawn and Overheard by Phyllis Pearsall” in 1990.