Category Archives: Europe

Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm – War Nurses

“Elsie Knocker has an irresistible inclination towards the greatest possible danger.” Author May Sinclair.

When I first heard about the war-time achievements of Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm, my first thought was not only how remarkable they were, but also how on earth hadn’t I heard about them before?!  It makes me furious that so many extraordinary women have been neglected or ignored –  and I’ve been determined to shine a light on Elsie and Mairi ever since. Continue reading Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm – War Nurses

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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

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

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