Category Archives: Activists & Revolutionaries

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

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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

Mum Bett and the Freedom Suit (Elizabeth Freeman)

Elizabeth Freeman, first known as Mum Bett or Mumbet, was born around 1742 to African parents who were enslaved by Pieter Hogeboom in Claverack, New York. Hogeboom’s daughter Hannah married Col. John Ashley of Sheffield, Massachusetts, and Bett, most likely inherited by Hannah in 1758, moved to their household.

The story of her leaving the Ashley household varies. They state that Hannah, in an angry fit, tried to hit Bett’s younger sister Lizzie with a heated kitchen shovel. Bett, stood in the way and was hit instead, causing a deep wound. Bett left, and refused to come back. When Col. Ashley asked the law to bring back his “property,” Bett contacted lawyer Theodore Sedgwick. Stories recount that when Sedgwick inquired as to how she got the idea that she deserved to be free, she said “By keepin’ still and mindin’ things.” Continue reading Mum Bett and the Freedom Suit (Elizabeth Freeman)

Sarah Parker Remond

Sarah was born on 6 June 1826 in Salem, Massachusetts, the second youngest  child of the ten offspring of John and Nancy Remond. Salem was 14 miles from Boston and Sarah says that it contained “about 25,000 inhabitants, who are characterised by general intelligence, industry and enterprise and few  towns in the States can boats of more wealth and  refinement than Salem.” Continue reading Sarah Parker Remond

Patsy Takemoto Mink

Patsy Takemoto Mink was a Japanese-American politician who spent decades fighting sexism and racism. She broke many barriers during her life, especially when she was elected to the House of Representatives in 1965 to represent Hawaii, which had become a state in 1959. Mink was not only the first non-white, but also the first Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) woman, in addition to being the youngest person to represent the youngest State of the nation in Congress. Continue reading Patsy Takemoto Mink

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

Freda White

For a short time in the sixties and early seventies I had two great female friends. I was in my twenties, Frances Gordon in her fifties and Freda White in her late seventies. I had recently graduated from Glasgow University and was accumulating educational qualifications; Frances had a degree from the LSE gained in the 1930s and was a linchpin in the political and cultural life of Edinburgh; Freda was among the first graduates from Somerville College, Oxford, an author, journalist, campaigner and lecturer of international renown. Continue reading Freda White