Franco’s female political prisoners: Tomasa Cuevas

Franco’s female political prisoners: Tomasa Cuevas

Although the victory of the Nationalist army on 1st April 1939 at the hands of leader General Francisco Franco[1] officially put an end to the Spanish Civil War[2] (1939-1939), the violence was far from over.

Now formally instated, the Francoist dictatorship, which had begun establishing control over the country since the start of the Civil War, was faced with the task of rebuilding the nation. This would be done through a combined focus on the regeneration and implementation of National-Catholic values through legal reform, propaganda, and public morality, and the elimination of the so-called enemies of Spain – particularly communists, republicans, and masons – through social denigration, mass imprisonment, torture, and execution. For women, Francoism meant a return to the ideals of Christian motherhood, with the downfall of the nation attributed to female emancipation.

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Maria Bochkareva & the ‘Women’s Battalion of Death’

Maria Bochareva was a determined, skilled and brave Shero who formed and led the very first women’s battalion in the First World War. Emmeline Pankhurst called her ‘The greatest woman of the century’!

Maria was born in Russia in 1889. The start of her story is not a happy one: She came from a poor family and had an abusive father. Determined to escape this life she got married when she was only 15. Unfortunately things didn’t get much better for Maria, as her first husband was also abusive towards her. Maria left him and soon re-married. Her second husband turned out to be not much better than the first, he was a thief and after sticking with him for so long she eventually left him when he too became violent towards her.

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Mary Trevelyan (1897-1983)

Mary Trevelyan founded the International Students House, London.

Mary Trevelyan was born on 22nd January 1897 to the Reverend George Philip Trevelyan and his wife, Monica Phillips. Both Mary’s grandfathers were vicars and she was raised in a family committed to public service.The eldest of six children, Mary had a privileged childhood in a well-connected, upper-middle class family. As well as being the great great-granddaughterof a baronet, she was second cousin to the historian, G.M. Trevelyan. Mary Trevelyan grew into a determined, idealistic and energetic adult. Her friend, the poet T. S. Eliot, described her as ‘industrious, honest, and moderately temperate’ [1].

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Yennenga – Warrior Princess

Yennenga was an African princess who lived over 900 years ago. She was known as a brave warrior and famous for her strong spirit. Today she is considered to be the mother of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso and is has become a cultural icon.

Much of what we know about Yennenga today comes from oral tradition; stories that have been passed down through history. In some stories Yennenga is known as ‘Poko’ or ‘Yalanga’.

Yannenga was the daughter of King Nedega, who ruled over the Dagomaba Kingdom (which is now part of Northern Ghana.) Yennenga’s three brothers all commanded their own battalions, and as she grew Yennenga also learnt the skills of a warrior. She was an expert horse rider and learnt how to use a javelin, spear and bow. She was a match for any of the men in her father’s armies, and soon she led her own command.

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Lorna Wing

Lorna Wing (1928 – 2014) became one of the world’s leading experts in autism; she died in June this year.

Lorna was born in Kent and trained as a medical doctor, specialising in psychiatry.  She met her future husband while studying medicine and they had a daughter, who was diagnosed in 1962 at the age of three with autism.  This led Lorna to change the focus of her work to childhood developmental disorders and her work was ground-breaking.

As a researcher she refined the sub-groups within a diagnosis of autism, coined the term Asperger’s syndrome (to describe behaviours observed by the Austrian psychiatrist, Hans Asperger) and contributed to the eventual development of autism as a spectrum condition.  She also described the “triad of impairments” which all people with autism show.  Researchers following Lorna owe a great debt to her work.

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Helen Keller

At the Visitors Center to the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, there is a statue of Helen Keller as a young girl, next to a water pump. The statue depicts the famous ‘eureka’ moment when she first connects the word water that her teacher was trying to teach her in sign language, to the water itself. This is the enduring image of Helen Keller, the little blind and deaf girl who learned how to interact in the world through the patience of her teacher and overcame her obstacles to eventually go to Harvard. All of which is true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

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The Women of the Special Operations Executive

During the Second World War the UK’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) had around 50 agents who were female. A small number of these women became fairly well-known, the best examples of these are Violette Szabo, Odette Sansom- Hallowes, and Noor Inyat Khan.

Many of the other female agents can be considered as fairly unknown characters in our history. Some agents found a little fame after the war that had nothing to do with their wartime service for example Lorraine Adie Copeland, wife of CIA agent Miles Copeland, mother of Stuart Copeland and brilliant archaeologist.

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