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
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
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
Jacqueline (Jackie) Cochran may not be as well-known as her fellow aviator friend Amelia Earhart, but she goes down in history as one of the most incredible female flyers of all time. To this date she still hold more aviation records than any person, male or female, dead or alive!
Jackie was born in Florida in 1906. Information about her childhood varies, some accounts say she was raised by an adopted family – others that she simply claimed that she was adopted. Either way, their circumstances were humble. At a young age Jacqueline got a job at a local hairdressers, where she swept & shampooed. She keenly observed the hairdressers and before long had become a hairdresser herself. She moved to New York where she secured a position hairdressing at Saks Fifth Avenue, cutting the hair of the rich & famous.
Continue reading Jacqueline Cochran – faster, higher, longer
One of the most important women in African politics in the first half of the twentieth century was Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, who was from the Yoruba people who had traditional structures which allowed women to be involved in decision-making and administration.
Funmilayo was born in 1900 to parents who were Christian, English-speaking trading agents for British merchants. Her parents believed, unusually for the time, that girls should be educated as well as boys so Funmilayo went to school where she showed academic promise. With the help of family and friends, at the age of nineteen she was sent to England to continue her education. She boarded with a British family and stayed for three years, returning to Nigeria in 1923 when she became a teacher in her home region of Abeokuta.
Continue reading Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti – ‘Vagina’s Head Seeking Vengeance’