Irina Nistor

The stereotypes of film nerds aren’t exactly positive: secretive, obsessive, quiet. But, these are all great traits for someone fighting, in their own way, against a tyrannical regime, wouldn’t you agree?

Irina Nistor was employed by the Romanian Communist regime to translate programmes for the state-run tv channel. Romania was ruled by Nicolae Ceausescu, one of the cruelest dictators of the communist period. Her impact on the falling of that regime can never be measured, but thousands of Romanians believe her role in the fall of communism in Romania should be not be overlooked. What Irina Nistor did was translate western films into Romanian. A simple but very much illegal job. Continue reading Irina Nistor

Tcheng Soumay

Tcheng Soumay (also known as Tcheng Yu-hsiu and Madame Wei Tao-ming) was a lawyer and campaigner for democracy and women’s rights. She was active in China in the first half of the twentieth century when the ancient empire was toppled and competing factions fought for the soul of the new republic.

Soumay (to use her first name) was born to a wealthy family in Canton. Her father was a government official, her mother was the daughter of a general. It was usual to bind the feet of upper class girls, so their gait was ‘dainty.’ Always a rebellious child, Soumay refused to have her feet bound, ripping off the bandages. Her father was sympathetic, he encouraged her inquiring intellect and, wanting to take her around in public with him, dressed her as a boy. Continue reading Tcheng Soumay

Annie Londonderry

Annie Londonderry was an unknown wife and mother until she became a global sensation as the first woman to bicycle around the world!

Annie Cohen Kopchovsky was born in Riga, Latvia in 1870. Her family set sail for America and a new life when Annie was just a child. There isn’t much record of her childhood, but by 1892 she was married with 3 children and living in Boston. Fame was just around the corner. Continue reading Annie Londonderry

Dora Jordan

If I had a chance to have lunch with anyone living or dead I would most certainly chose to have it with Dora Jordan, one of Western history’s most famous comics who graced the British stage for forty years. Not only would she make me laugh, I would uncover some mysteries about her that have persisted for the past two hundred years.

Dora was born in Ireland to a pair of theater folks around 1761. It’s not known for certain if her father was a stagehand or an actor but it is known that when Dora was thirteen, he abandoned his family for a young actress and left them destitute. Fortunately, Dora took to the stage and acted until she was fifty-four, earning around one hundred thousand pounds (approximately 7 million dollars). Continue reading Dora Jordan

Mary Quaile

Mary  Quaile was born in Dublin on 8 August  1886. The Quailes emigrated to England in 1889 or 1890.  Mary left school aged 12, working as a domestic servant,  which she later described as “by no means a bed of roses.”  She went abroad, working in the French port of Brest for a time where she gained a working knowledge of French,  a skill that no doubt  later proved very useful at international trade union meetings. Back in Manchester she became enthused by trade unionism after  the well-known trade union organiser Margaret Bondfield came to Manchester to  organise women workers. Continue reading Mary Quaile

Olive Schreiner

South African writer Olive Schreiner was born in what is now Lesotho on 24 March 1855. The ninth of twelve children born to Rebecca Lyndall and her husband, Gottlob Schreiner (1814–1876), a German-born missionary, she and just six of her siblings survived childhood. In adulthood, she suffered debilitating ill-health, exacerbated for a time by grinding poverty.

For a time, Schreiner earned a living as a governess and teacher, but she devoted her free time to writing The Story of an African Farm, a radical feminist novel informed by her experience of growing up in Africa. As soon as she could afford to, she sailed for Britain where she hoped to train as a doctor. Unfortunately, although she attended lectures at the London School of Medicine for Women, established in 1874 by an association of pioneering women physicians, ill-health prevented her from completing her training. Continue reading Olive Schreiner

Huda Sha’arawi

Huda Sha’arawi was an Egyptian feminist and activist who founded the Egyptian Feminist Union.

Huda was born in Cairo in 1879 and came from a very wealthy Egyptian family. Life for boys and girls in Egypt at that time was quite different. As Huda grew she came to notice there were many things permitted for her brother which were forbidden to her. For example, when she saw her brother riding a horse she wanted one too, however she was told that riding wasn’t for girls. Huda was educated, but again, there were differences in the subjects she was allowed to study and those which her male relatives were. She said;

“I became depressed and began to neglect my studies, hating being a girl because it kept me from the education I sought. Later, being a female became a barrier between me and the freedom for which I yearned.” Continue reading Huda Sha’arawi

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