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
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
Mary Quaile was born in Dublin on 8 August 1886. The Quailes emigrated to England in 1889 or 1890. Mary left school aged 12, working as a domestic servant, which she later described as “by no means a bed of roses.” She went abroad, working in the French port of Brest for a time where she gained a working knowledge of French, a skill that no doubt later proved very useful at international trade union meetings. Back in Manchester she became enthused by trade unionism after the well-known trade union organiser Margaret Bondfield came to Manchester to organise women workers. Continue reading Mary Quaile
“In Scotland they made her a Doctor, In Serbia we would have made her a Saint.” – Serbian saying.
Elsie Inglis was born in Naini Tal, India to Scottish parents. Her father was employed by the East India Company and the family returned to Edinburgh in 1878 when Elsie was 14. Elsie’s parents believed, unusual for this time, that both boys and girls should have equal access to education and were supportive of Elsie’s decision to study medicine. Women won the right to obtain medical degrees in 1876 and when the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women was opened in 1886 Elsie decided to study there, graduating in 1892. Continue reading Dr Elsie Inglis
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
Katherine Mary Harley nee French, sister of Sir John French, (leader of the British army at the outbreak of World War 1,) and Charlotte Despard, was born on May 3rd 1855, less than three months after the death of her father. Her childhood was blighted by her mother’s ill health and by the age of ten she was an orphan. Katherine was sent to boarding school and then travelled to India to stay with her sister Maggie. There she met and married George Ernest Harley, a soldier. A little over a year later still in India she gave birth to her first child Florence.[i]
In many ways Alice Ann Wheeldon was an ordinary, middle aged woman, seen by her neighbours as a relatively unexceptional lady. Born in 1866 in Derby, Alice had four adult children, Nellie, Hettie, William Marshall and Winnie, and made her living as a dealer of second-hand clothes, working and living in her shop at 12 Pear Tree Road. However, Alice was anything but ordinary. A passionate socialist radical, Alice was a committed anti-war campaigner, a suffragette and provided safe houses to Conscientious Objectors (COs) during the First World War. She sheltered many COs above her unassuming shop, before helping them gain safe passage to America or Ireland.