Category Archives: Europe

Jane Austen

England recently released a new ten-pound note, featuring beloved author Jane Austen. She will become the second woman only to the Queen to grace the front of an English bank note, which is clear evidence in her continuing fandom and the enduring interest in her work.

The author of the classics Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Northanger Abbey published her work anonymously and did not claim notoriety until her siblings took it upon themselves to publish two previously unprinted books following her death. It was, therefore, not until the mid-19th century that she gained widespread notability. Continue reading Jane Austen

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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

Winifred Atwell

A relative mentioned in passing that we may be related to the internationally famous, classically trained Trinidadian pianist Winifred Atwell – I had no idea of this.  A further call to my relative revealed she had kept a newspaper cutting from 1954 and I was astonished to learn that Winifred’s hands were insured  for £40,000 in the 1950s!  Winifred was an international celebrity, known in households at home with Stephen Bourne citing her as a’folk hero for the British working classes.’ (Bourne 2001).  My relative also told me that Elton John named one of his touring piano’s after Winifred and looking further I see that Elton names Winifred as one of his most early influences.  Continue reading Winifred Atwell

Delia Derbyshire

Delia Derbyshire was a pioneer in electronic music who created one of the most well known TV theme tunes of all time.

Delia was born in Coventry in 1937, only two years before the outbreak of the Second World War. When the war began the government encouraged parents of young children like Delia to send them away to the relative safety of the countryside,  however many chose not to. Initially, Delia’s parents were amongst them. She stayed in Coventry and lived through the famous Coventry Blitz, which razed the city to the ground. The sound of the air raid siren sounded night after night made a lasting impact on Delia, in her later life she reflected: Continue reading Delia Derbyshire

Edith Picton-Turbervill

When I lived in Wellington Shropshire during the 90s I learnt that Edith Pargeter ( better known as Ellis Peters ), had lived in the area. But it was only by chance that I found out about another Edith – Edith Picton-Turbervill . I discovered that she was by far the most important Edith. However, there wasn’t one plaque or memorial to her and she seemed all but forgotten. I read about her in a biography of Jennie Lee. My Edith had been a very early Labour Member of Parliament for the area and as I was interested in politics, I became curious to discover her story. Continue reading Edith Picton-Turbervill

Honor Frost

We have all heard stories of the lost city of Atlantis, or have marvelled at the possibility of exploring the sunken Titanic, but not many of us have heard of the name ‘Honor Frost’. Frost is responsible for helping the possibility of such adventures being realised (well, perhaps not the exploration of Atlantis) as a pioneer of deep-sea archaeology. Continue reading Honor Frost

Dr Isabella Stenhouse’s Sheroic Journey

Isabella Stenhouse served as a doctor during the First World War, but is that enough to make her a Shero? In fact, what makes any ordinary girl into a Shero? Joseph Campbell analysed hero stories from around the world. He found that they followed a remarkably constant pattern that he called  The Hero’s Journey. If Isabella’s journey matched Campbell’s model, would she qualify as a Shero?  Continue reading Dr Isabella Stenhouse’s Sheroic Journey