Born in Bradford in 1886, the daughter of an illiterate millworker and a colourful but absentee father, Florence White knew, at first hand, the hardships working women faced. A clever child, her limited time at school provided a solid education but no immediate escape from her hardships. At the age of 12 she too was working a 12 hour day in Tankard’s Mill. By the age of 18 Florence suffered a nervous breakdown and had left the Mills behind her. She moved away from the back-to-backs to better housing with the support of her extended family and was able to start a small dressmaking business with her sister.
Few know of SPARs, the World War II Women’s Reserve of the United States Coast Guard, and their brilliant director—Captain Dorothy C. Stratton. Dorothy ingeniously named the organization after she was selected as director by a room full of admirals.
In 2012, First Lady Michelle Obama commissioned a coast guard cutter in honor of Dorothy Stratton. It was the first time in history that a Legend-class National Security Cutter was named after a woman, and the first time that a first lady sponsored a coast guard or navy ship. Today, the Cutter Stratton protects America’s shoreline.
Yes you read that right, this week’s post is about a Shero who was not only a princess, but also a pirate and, just for good measure, an actual goth! If you don’t love Princess Alfhild (also known as Awilda or Alvilda) already, you soon will.
The story of this awesome pirate princess was recorded by a chap called Saxo Grammaticus in his 12th Century book, ‘Gesta Danorum’ (Deeds of the Danes).
Princess Alfhild was the daughter of Siward, King of the Goths, who lived during the 5th Century in what is now Sweden. In true princess style, her parents kept her locked in her room guarded by two vicious snakes. Any potential suitors would have to first defeat her reptilian body guards.
Germaine de Staël made her reputation in at the end of the 18th century Europe as a writer whose charisma, wit and keen intelligence attracted politicians, philosophers, poets and artists. Her life spanned the Age of Enlightenment, French Revolution, Napoleon’s reign and the dawn of the Romantic era. She was a celebrated essayist, political agitator and novelist with a passion for theatre. Her politics so threatened Napoleon that he had her exiled from Paris.
Gracia Mendes Nasi was one of the most influential and wealthy Jewish women of Europe in the 1500s. Her family was originally from Spain but was expelled from the country as all Jewish people were at the time. They fled to Portugal but were forced to convert to Catholicism during the Inquisition.
She married a wealthy trader, Francisco Mendes Benveniste, whom she was connected to through her mother’s side of the family. While they had a public and lavish Catholic wedding, they also had a private Jewish ceremony and rituals. Francisco died soon after, leaving Gracia a young widow with an infant daughter. He also left Gracia in charge of half of his business, leaving the other half to his brother Diogo. This was a very unique situation, as most women did not hold positions of any power.