Category Archives: 20th Century

Elisabeth Eidenbenz

Elisabeth Eidenbenz  ( 1913 – 2011 ) –  Was a Swiss nurse who set up a maternity home for pregnant Spanish refugee mothers in SW France. She also flouted Swiss neutrality and risked her life to offer a haven to Jewish mothers escaping the Nazi Gestapo.

In 1939, an extraordinary woman Elizabeth Eidenbenz ( 1913 – 2011), opened Maternitat d’ Elne,( the maternity home of Elne). Elne is a small town in South East France. She wanted to offer a safe haven for pregnant women, many of whom were Spanish Republicans who’d escaped into France during ‘The Retirada’ or retreat as a consequence of the Spanish Civil War. The story of what had taken place there had been forgotten Continue reading Elisabeth Eidenbenz

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Alice Arnold of Coventry 1881-1955

Eighty years ago this autumn, Alice Arnold became Coventry’s first woman mayor. Hers is a remarkable story of a woman who was never afraid to speak out wherever she saw injustice. It seems to me to be extremely important to recognise this today, at a time when so many women in public roles face harsh criticism for having and voicing opinions. Continue reading Alice Arnold of Coventry 1881-1955

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy Reassesses “Maternal Instincts”

Before Sarah Blaffer Hrdy came along, maternal nature had been largely defined by highly romanticized Victorian notions, essentially, wishful thinking. Yet, through her research on other primates and cultures, Hrdy learned that polyandrous matings, abortion, infanticide, and abandoning of offspring occur across the natural world. Motherhood comes with a price and when females don’t have the resources or social support they need, they naturally put their own health and the health of the children they already have first. In a crunch they may retrench, or even bail out altogether. Continue reading Sarah Blaffer Hrdy Reassesses “Maternal Instincts”

Izetta Jewel

Born Izetta Jewel Kenney on November 24, 1883, in Hackettstown, New Jersey, actress and activist Izetta Jewel arguably impacted all of our lives in a significant and lasting manner.

An incredibly popular stage actress, Izetta Jewel performed on Broadway, and all around the country, moving to Washington, DC around 1912, after her acting career blossomed on the West Coast. Continue reading Izetta Jewel

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker (1906 – 1975) – Resistance fighter, Civil Rights activist, writer…

And yes a dancer too!

I’ve visited the Chateau des Milandes on the Dordogne River in France twice now. It is in a spectacular setting on a cliff side of the meandering Dordogne. It was the home of the cabaret dancer Josephine Baker, and the glamorous dresses and memorabilia from her career during the 20s and 30s in Paris attract many thousands of visitors. They are displayed on the lower floors of the Chateau. The beautiful chateau has numerous lavish bedrooms with splendid bathrooms that were installed after Josephine Baker lived there, and began to adopt orphans of many nationalities. But, like me, many of these tourists are unaware of her other achievements. They overshadow her dancing career and display her courage, bravery and moral integrity. The real story of Josephine Baker can be discovered on the top floor of the chateau.    Continue reading Josephine Baker

Charlotte Maxeke

With thanks to The Open University for allowing us to repost this piece. Originally posted on their website here.

A rights activist against the exploitation what was prevalent in South Africa, Charlotte Maxeke was South Africa’s first black female graduate and one of the first female freedom fighters. Find out more about her extraordinary story. Continue reading Charlotte Maxeke

Dorothy Vaughan

It as taken a whole 55 years and an exemplary movie Hidden Figures for the world to finally recognise the contributions made by Black African American women in launching John Glen and America’s first satellite into space. In today’s age when NASA’s directors come from all variety of backgrounds, it is easy to forget the pioneers who paved the way for this transformation, into a more accepting society. But it would be unforgivable to overlook the contributions made by some very courageous women who challenged and persevered against discrimination, every step of the way. One of such pioneers was Dorothy Vaughan, a respected mathematician who became NASA’s first African-American manager serving as the head of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ (NACA’s) segregated West Area Computing Unit from 1949 until 1958. Continue reading Dorothy Vaughan