We live in an age of admiration for ‘strong women’ but the original strong woman was around many years ago in the shape of Katie Sandwina, ‘the strongest woman that ever lived’.
Sandwina was born Catherine Brumbach in Bavaria in 1884, the second eldest of fourteen children of a circus family. Both her parents performed feats of strength and it was little wonder that Sandwina should follow them. Read more ›››
Jeannie Rousseau was an Allied spy during World War Two whose intelligence work led directly to the raid on Peenemunde that disrupted the V-1 and V-2 rocket programme and saved thousands of lives.
Rousseau was born in 1919 in Brittany, the daughter of a World War One veteran and French Foreign Ministry official. She was a brilliant linguist and graduated in languages in 1939. Read more ›››
My subject this week is Qiu Jin, feminist, poet and revolutionary who became a martyr known as the Chinese Joan of Arc.
Qiu was born in 1875 in Xiamen in the south-east of China. She endured an unhappy marriage and came into contact with new ideas, in particular, the Tongmenghui secret society which advocated the overthrow of the Qing, the last imperial dynasty. Read more ›››
Marina Popovich held over one hundred aviation records in forty different aircraft and yet she is probably the greatest pilot that the west has never heard of.
She was born Marina Lavrentievna Vasiliyeva in 1831 in the Smolensk Oblast in the west of Russia and was evacuated to Novosibirsk in south-central Russia during World War Two. Read more ›››
A revolutionary this week in the shape of Italian nationalist Felice Orsini whose attempt to assassinate Napolean III had political repercussions throughout Europe.
Orsini was born in the small city-state of Meldola but from the age of nine, he was put in the care of his uncle, Orso Orsini, in whose care he received a strict religious education. Read more ›››
One of the essential elements of a successful hoax, apart from a credulous public, is to create a story that just might be true.
In 1894, the Russian journalist Nicolas Notovitch published La vie inconnue de Jesus Christ which purported to reveal that Jesus has spent many years as both teacher and scholar at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Read more ›››
This week’s subject is William Chester Minor, the man who made the greatest contribution of quotations for the Oxford English Dictionary from his cell in Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum where he was serving a life sentence for murder.
Minor was born in Ceylon in 1834, the son of missionaries from New England. At the age of fourteen, he returned to America and later studied at Yale Medical School, graduating in 1863. Read more ›››
Hedy Lamarr was one of the great Hollywood stars of the 1930s and 1940s but behind the glamour, she led a secret life as the inventor of the technology that we now use in wi-fi and Bluetooth.
Lamarr was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna in 1914, the daughter of a successful bank director. Read more ›››