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
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
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
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
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
Women Heroes of World War II; 26 stories of espionage, sabotage, resistance & rescue – by Kathryn J Atwood
I was lucky enough to be contacted by Kathryn J Atwood, author of several books about the extraordinary lives of women during the First & Second World Wars. Kathyrn had come across the Sheroes of History blog, and rightly guessed that I might be interested in reading her books.
Continue reading Book Review: Women Heroes of World War II – by Kathryn J Atwood
Nancy Wake was a New Zealand born journalist turned spy for the British in France during WWII.
Born the youngest of six children, she was majorly affected when her father abandoned the family. At the age of sixteen, she ran away from home and made her way as a nurse. After receiving an unexpected windfall, a bequest left by an aunt, she traveled to London and received training in journalism. She became a European correspondent for a newspaper and situated herself in France. In this role, she had the opportunity to travel to Vienna and see firsthand the ill treatment of Jewish people, and “saw roving Nazi gangs randomly beating Jewish men and women in the streets”.
Continue reading Nancy Wake
I pray that it never will end.
The sand and the sea
And the waves breaking and sighing
And high over the water
The wind blowing free.
The lightning and rain and the darkness descending
And ever and ever the nature of man.
(Translated from the original Hebrew)
The above prayer, which is recited at a majority of Holocaust memorial services, was written by a remarkable young woman whose short life was destined to have an impact on many people especially within Israel.
Continue reading Hannah Szenes