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
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
Born in San Rafael, California in 1887, Louise was the only daughter of mining magnate John Franklin Boyd and the well-bred Louise Cook Arner. As a young woman, she became a prominent socialite like her mother and was groomed to assume control of her father’s financial empire. Upon the death of her parents, Louise Arner Boyd became a millionairess in her early thirties. Unmarried and with no living relatives, she was freed from the gilded cage that had constrained her for so long. Continue reading Louise Arner Boyd (1887-1972)
During the Second World War large numbers of women were recruited to work in factories to meet the labour shortage caused by men going to fight in the war. Many factories in Birmingham supported war production, including Cadbury’s, the British Small Arms Company and Austin Motors. Spitfires were also made in a factory in Castle Bromwich. All of these companies employed women during the war. Continue reading Women Factory Workers in Birmingham during the Second World War
Noor Inayat Khan was a Second World War SOE agent, also famously known as the “Spy Princess”.
Noor was born under the shadows of the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. Her father was a Sufi saint and her mother an American. Her father had followers all over the world and he was in Moscow to preach his teachings in the royal court. When the First World War broke out her family moved to Great Britain. They then moved to Paris, France permanently. They were gifted a house by one of her father’s followers in Suresnes in the outskirts of Paris. They named it as “Fazil mahal” meaning “Home of Love”. Continue reading Noor Inayat Khan – The Spy Princess
Dorothy Howell was an exceptional British musician, who composed over 130 pieces during her lifetime.
Dorothy was born in Handsworth, Birmingham in 1898. Her five siblings were all musical, and their father, an ironmaster by trade, was a self-taught pianist, who became the Musical Director at their local church. Dorothy’s mother was also musical, an accomplished violinist & soprano. The family used to spend time singing and playing together.
By the age of 13 Dorothy was already composing pieces. She wrote a set of six pieces for piano that were inspired by the popular Tales of Beatrix Potter. Dorothy studied at a number of convent schools in Birmingham, Belgium & London, but at the age of just 15, with promising musical abilities, she enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM). There she was taught by great composers and pianists including Tobias Matthay and Sir J B McEwen. Continue reading Dorothy Howell
One of the most successful World War II rescue operations was created by a 23 year-old woman named Andrée de Jongh.
De Jongh was born in 1916 in German-occupied Belgium and was raised in the shadow of what was then called the Great War. Long before she reached adulthood, De Jongh’s schoolmaster father made certain his daughter was well-versed in Belgium’s wartime history, both its villains and its heroes. Topping the list of the latter were two women executed in Brussels by the Germans: Belgian spy Gabrielle Petit and British nurse Edith Cavell. Continue reading Andrée de Jongh and the Comet Line
This is the second of our two-parter about Mary Lindell. If you haven’t already, you can read Part 1 here.
By 1939 Mary Lindell, who had stayed in France, had become the Comtesse de Milleville and had three children. This did not stop her putting on her Red Cross uniform, with medals, and going and volunteering for service.
Continue reading Mary Lindell Part 2
The Night Witches were the world’s first all-female flight unit, a Soviet regiment who became feared amongst Nazi pilots during the Second World War. Continue reading The Night Witches
Born on 11th September 1895, Mary Ghita Lindell was on course to live an intriguing life. She was nearly 19 when the Great War broke out and her father said ‘The honour of Great Britain is saved. We are now at war with Germany. Mary you will have to go.’
So Mary Lindell, as expected, enlisted in the Red Cross’s Volunteer Aid Detachment. While with the VAD she had her first run in with hierarchy; this would lead to her being imprisoned for one night in a stable block, taking the form of two altercations with the same Matron. One day VAD Lindell had the unenviable task of Continue reading Mary Lindell Part 1