Katherine Harley

Katherine Harley sits at the desk
Katherine Harley sits at the desk

Katherine Mary Harley nee French, sister of Sir John French, (leader of the British army at the outbreak of World War 1,) and Charlotte Despard, was born on May 3rd 1855, less than three months after the death of her father. Her childhood was blighted by her mother’s ill health and by the age of ten she was an orphan. Katherine was sent to boarding school and then travelled to India to stay with her sister Maggie. There she met and married George Ernest Harley, a soldier. A little over a year later still in India she gave birth to her first child Florence.[i]

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Emmy Noether – “The most important woman in the history of mathematics”

This post is an edited version of a post which originally appeared on the wonderful Saints, Sisters and Sluts blog (which you should definitely check out!)

“Fraulein Noether was the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.”  ~ Albert Einstein

Emmy Noether made ground-breaking contributions to theoretical physics and abstract algebra. She developed several formulations to support Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, in fact he wrote to David Hilbert, “You know that Frl. Noether is continually advising me in my projects and that it is really through her that I have become competent in the subject.”

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Jacqueline Cochran – faster, higher, longer

Jacqueline (Jackie) Cochran may not be as well-known as her fellow aviator friend Amelia Earhart, but she goes down in history as one of the most incredible female flyers of all time. To this date she still hold more aviation records than any person, male or female, dead or alive!

Jackie was born in Florida in 1906. Information about her childhood varies, some accounts say she was raised by an adopted family – others that she simply claimed that she was adopted. Either way, their circumstances were humble. At a young age Jacqueline got a job at a local hairdressers, where she swept & shampooed. She keenly observed the hairdressers and before long had become a hairdresser herself. She moved to New York where she secured a position hairdressing at Saks Fifth Avenue, cutting the hair of the rich & famous.

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Laura Smith Haviland

It is truly a tragedy that the name Laura Smith Haviland is not as recognizable as the names of some of her contemporaries, such as Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth. Instead of chapters on her achievements, Haviland’s story is relegated to footnotes in history texts, if it is included at all, yet rarely do we see an example of a person who was able to accomplish so much for the betterment of society despite the obstacles placed in her path.

Haviland was born in Canada in 1808 to the Reverend Daniel Smith and Sene Blancher and was raised as a Quaker. At the age of 16, she married fellow Quaker Charles Haviland. It was after her marriage that Haviland joined the Logan Female Anti-Slavery Society and, the more she became involved in the issue of slavery, the more she realized that the issue was causing a division in the Quaker church, and the Havilands ultimately left the church.

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Lady Frances Harberton and the Women of the Rational Dress Society

In 1898 Lady Harberton, was refused entrance to the Hautboy Hotel in Ockham, Surrey. The reason? She was wearing bloomers and a short jacket.

President of the Western Rational Dress Society Florence invented the divided skirt and was also a keen advocat of cycling (the Cyclists Touring Club tried to sue the Hautboy Hotel for refusal to admit but unfortunately lost the case). . The Cheltenham Chronicle reporting the case in April 1899 that when Lady Harberton had started the society it had taken “a great deal of both physical and moral courage even to mention the word bloomers”. Lady Harberton and others of the society spent much time addressing public meetings and giving ‘shows’ of the alternative forms of dress mainly devised by the members of the society themselves.

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Gertrude Ederle – Queen of the Waves

Gertrude Ederle became known as ‘Queen of the Waves’ for her record breaking achievements in swimming; becoming the first woman to swim the English Channel.

Gertrude Ederle was born in New York city in 1905. Her parents were German immigrants who owned a butchers shop. As a child Gertrude very quickly took to the water, being taught to swim by her father during their family holidays in New Jersey.

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Alice Ann Wheeldon

In many ways Alice Ann Wheeldon was an ordinary, middle aged woman, seen by her neighbours as a relatively unexceptional lady. Born in 1866 in Derby, Alice had four adult children, Nellie, Hettie, William Marshall and Winnie, and made her living as a dealer of second-hand clothes, working and living in her shop at 12 Pear Tree Road. However, Alice was anything but ordinary. A passionate socialist radical, Alice was a committed anti-war campaigner, a suffragette and provided safe houses to Conscientious Objectors (COs) during the First World War. She sheltered many COs above her unassuming shop, before helping them gain safe passage to America or Ireland.

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