Lady Bios

  • Agatha Christie [ europe ]

    Agatha Christie Agatha Christie (Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller) was born in 1890 in Torquay, Devon, South West England into a comfortably well off middle class family. What made her upbringing unusual, even for its time, was that she was home schooled largely by her father, an American. Her mother, Clara, who was an excellent storyteller, did not want her to learn to read until she was eight but Agatha, bored and as the only child at home (she was a much loved “after thought” with two older siblings) taught herself to read by the age of five. At this time her father, not well since the advent of financial difficulties, died after a series of heart attacks. Clara was distraught and Agatha became her mother’s closest companion. They found a way to move forward and from the age of 15 Agatha boarded at a succession of pensions and took piano and singing lessons. She could have been a professional pianist but for her excruciating shyness in front of those she did not know. By the age of 18 she was amusing herself with writing short stories – some of which were published in much revised form in the 1930s. Various marriage proposals followed. But it was in 1912 that Agatha met Archie Christie, a qualified aviator who had applied to join the Royal Flying Corps. Their courtship was a whirlwind affair with no money.   They married on Christmas Eve 1914. He would be unfaithful. Agatha had a course of psychiatric treatments to deal with her life.  
  • Alice Harris [ europe ]

    Alice Seely HarrisAlice (Seeley) Harris (1870–1970) was an English missionary and an early documentary photographer.  At 19 , Alice entered the Civil Service and was later appointed to the Accountant General’s office in GPO London which she later left to enter Doric Lodge, the RBMU’s (Region Beyond Missionary Union, previously the Congo Balolo Mission) Missionary Training College and in 1894, met her future husband John Harris with whom she would have four children. Finally in 1897, after seven years of trying, Alice was accepted to go out to the Congo Free State. Alice was appalled and saddened at what she witnessed in the so-called Congo Free State and began campaigning for the human rights of the Congolese natives to be recognized. It would be Alice's  photography that helped  expose the human rights abuses in the Congo Free State under the regime of Leopold II, King of the Belgians whose  method of coercion included whipping, hostage-taking, rape and murder, and burning of gardens and villages. Read more of Alice at Autograph ABP and listen to an interview with Alice in her later years.    
  • Alice Swaim [ europe ]

    alice mackenzie swaim scotlandAlice Mackenzie Swaim, ( 1911-1996) internationally renowned poet, was born  at Craigdam, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Alice is the product of intellectual parents (father was a minister and mother had Master in Arts degree) and of a cultural environment extraordinaire.  The many poems that she created can have classical allusions because in childhood and youth she read practically all of the classics. Alice remembered her early years in Scotland as idyllic and wrote often of the beauty of those days and of her childhood by the sea. In 1928, when she was just seventeen years of age, the family emigrated to America and settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  In 1932, at her family’s home in Pittsburgh, Alice married William Thomas Swaim, Jr., a minister’s son. Alice was a member of many writers organizations as well as poet critic, a columnist writer, book reviewer and poet judge.  Her work has been published in well over 100 periodicals. Alice earned more than 800 awards and citations one of which was Woman of the Year Award. Read more.
  • Anais Nin [ europe ]

    Anais Nin Anais Nin was an author in France and became an established author in the United States. She wrote journals (which span more than 60 years, beginning when she was 11 years old and ending shortly before her death), novels, critical studies, essays, short stories, and erotica. A great deal of her work, including Delta of Venus and Little Birds, was published posthumously. Anais is hailed by many critics as one of the finest writers of female erotica. She was one of the first women known to explore fully the realm of erotic writing, and certainly the first prominent woman in the modern West known to write erotica. Anais was married several times  and referred to her simultaneous marriages as her “bicoastal trapeze” In 1973 Anais Nin received an honorary doctorate from the Philadelphia College of Art. She was elected to the United States National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1974. She died in Los Angeles in 1977, three years after being diagnosed with cancer.
  • Angela Merkel [ europe ]

    Angela Merkel Angela Merkel (born Angela Dorothea Kasner 1954) in Hamburg, Germany grew up in the then German Democratic Republic. She earned a doctorate in physics in 1978  and later worked as a research scientist  at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry from 1978 to 1990. Angela has been the Chancellor of Germany since 2005 and the Leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since 2000. She is the first woman to hold either office. In 2007 Angela became  President of the European Council and chaired the G8, the second woman to do so. She played a central role in the negotiation of the Treaty of Lisbon and the Berlin Declaration. One of her priorities was also to strengthen transatlantic economic relations by signing the agreement for the Transatlantic Economic Council on 30 April 2007. Angela has played a crucial role in managing the financial crisis at the European and international level and has been referred to as "the decider". In domestic policy, health care reform and problems concerning future energy development have been major issues during her Chancellorship. She has been married twice and has no children.  Read so much more about this powerful woman on wikipedia.
  • Anna Perera [ europe ]

    FroAnna Pereram Anna's website: Anna Perera was born in London to a Sri Lankan, Buddhist father and Irish, Catholic mother and grew up twenty miles away. After teaching English in two secondary schools in London, she ran a unit for teenage boys who were excluded from school and later did an MA in Writing For Children at Winchester University. She lives in London and has a grown-up son. In 2006, she attended a gig for the charity where she learned children had also been abducted and rendered to Guantanamo Bay. This event was the inspiration for the critically acclaimed novel which has been translated into several languages and nominated for many awards, including shortlisting for The Costa Children’s Book Award. Her recent YA Novel: The Glass Collector tells the story of 15 year old Aaron and his life in the slums of present day Egypt.
  • Anne Frank [ europe ]

    Anne Frank Annelies Marie Anne Frank (1929–1945) was a diarist and writer and is one of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Her wartime diary "The Diary of a Young Girl" has been the basis for several plays and films. Born in the city of Frankfurt in Weimar Germany, she lived most of her life in or near Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Born a German national, Frank lost her citizenship in 1941. She gained international fame posthumously after her diary was published. It documents her experiences hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. Read more about Anne and her life on her personal website. Go into Anne's hiding place in 3D.
  • Annie Besant [ europe ]

    Annie Besant Annie Besant (1847 – 1933) was a prominent British socialist, theosophist, women’s rights activist, writer and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self-rule. In 1867, Annie at age 20, married a clergyman and  had two children, but Annie’s increasingly anti-religious views led to a legal separation. She then became a prominent speaker for the National Secular Society (separation of church and state). In 1877 she and friend Charles Bradlaugh  were prosecuted for publishing a book on birth control. The scandal made them famous. Annie became involved with union actions including the Bloody Sunday demonstration and the London matchgirls strike of 1888. She was a leading speaker for the Fabian Society and the Marxist Social Democratic Federation (SDF). She was elected to the London School Board, topping the poll even though few women were qualified to vote at that time. Annie died in India after doing much in that country. Check out the many more things that Annie accomplished in her lifetime.  
  • Audrey Hepburn [ europe ]

    AudreAudrey Hepburny Hepburn (born Audrey Kathleen Ruston; 1929–1993) was a British actress and humanitarian and was recognized as a film and fashion icon.  Audrey was active during Hollywood’s Golden Age and was ranked by the American Film Institute as the third greatest female screen legend in the history of American cinema and has been placed in the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame. She is also regarded by some to be the most naturally beautiful woman of all time.
  • Betty Williams [ europe ]

    Betty Williams (born 1943, Belfast, Northern Ireland) is a co-recipient with Mairead Corrigan of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her work as a cofounder of Community of Peace People, an organisation dedicated to promoting a peaceful resolution to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Betty Williams was drawn into the public arena after witnessing the death of three children on 10 August 1976, when they were hit by a car whose driver was a member of the IRA and  later fatally shot by British police. Within two days of the tragic event, she had obtained 6,000 signatures on a petition for peace and gained wide media attention.  
  • Brenda Ueland [ europe ]

    Brenda Ueland 1 Brenda Ueland (born 1913-2006)  spent her life as a staunch feminist and is said to have lived by two rules: To tell the truth, and to not do anything she didn't want to. She freelanced for many publications including the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, Golfer and Sportsman, and varied newspapers. She was a staff writer for Liberty Magazine and the Minneapolis Times, among other publications. She was also an  editor script writer for radio shows. In 1946, while covering the treason trials of Vidkun Quisling, Brenda was awarded the Knight of Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olaf by the Norwegian government. Brenda was concerned with animal welfare and regularly spoke out against vivisection. She worked in a no-kill animal shelter established in 1952. Brenda wrote at least 2 books If You Want to Write: a Book about Art and Me: A Memoir. She was married 3 times each ending in divorce and had one child.  By her own account she had many lovers. Brenda was very physically active well into her old age walking up to 9 miles a day.  She  set an international swimming record for people over 80 years old. Find more info at the Minnesota Historical Society.  
  • Charlotte Brontë [ europe ]

    Charlotte BronteCharlotte Brontë (1816 – 1855) was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters whose novels have become classics of English literature. She first published her works  which includes Jane Eyre, under the pen name Currer Bell. She also wrote Villette, Shirley, Emma and the Professor. Charlotte's  mother died of cancer in 1821, leaving five daughters; two of which would die of  tuberculosis in June 1825 because of poor conditions in their school. Their father brought them home and would school the 3 sisters there for a time. Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls in 1954.  She became pregnant soon after her wedding, but her health declined rapidly because of perpetual nausea and ever-recurring faintness. She died, with her unborn child, on 31 March 1855, aged 38. Her death certificate gives the cause of death as phthisis (tuberculosis).
  • Coco Chanel [ europe ]

    Coco Chanel Coco Chanel (Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel) a child of an unwed laundry women (1883-1971), was a French fashion designer and founder of the Chanel brand. She is the only fashion designer listed on Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Along with Paul Poiret, Chanel was credited with liberating women from the constraints of the "corseted silhouette" and popularizing the acceptance of a sportive, casual chic as the feminine standard in the post-World War I era. Coco was known for her lifelong determination, ambition, and energy which she applied to her professional and social life. She achieved both success as a businesswoman and social prominence thanks to the connections she made through her work. These included many artists and craftspeople to whom she became a patron. Chanel's life choices generated controversy, particularly her behaviour during the German occupation of France in World War II.  
  • Constance Markievicz [ europe ]

    Constance Markievicz Constance Georgine Gore-Booth  was born in London (1868 – 1927) but lived in Ireland. Constance decided to train as a painter and was to become a landscape artist but, at the time, only one art school in Dublin accepted female students. In 1892, she went to study at the Slade School of Art in London where she first became politically active and joined the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). Later she moved to Paris and enrolled at the prestigious Académie Julian where she met her future husband, Count Casimir Markievicz  an artist from a wealthy Polish family which made her a countess. Constance became involved with Irish politics in 1908 and became  an Irish Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil politician, revolutionary nationalist, suffragette and socialist. In 1909 she founded a para-military nationalist scouts organization that instructed teenage boys and girls in the use of firearms. In 1916 she became second in command under James Connolly the leader of the Easter Rebellion and would be sentenced to death for her part in the rebellion. It was commuted because she was female. In December 1918, she was the first woman elected to the British House of Commons, though she did not take her seat and, along with the other Sinn Féin  formed the first Dáil Éireann. She was also one of the first women in the world to hold a cabinet position (Minister for Labour of the Irish Republic, 1919–1922). Having dispensed her possessions to the poor of Dublin she died penniless. Read more about Constance,  a most remarkable woman.
  • Corrie Ten Boom [ europe ]

    Corrie Ten Boom Corrie ten Boom (Cornelia 1892-1983) was a Dutch Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II and was imprisoned for it. Her most famous book, The Hiding Place, describes the ordeal. On 28 February 1944, a Dutch informant told the Nazis about the Ten Booms’ work and the Nazis arrested the entire Ten Boom family. They were sent to Scheveningen prison; and those who survived were  finally sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany. Corrie was released on December 28, 1944. The Jews whom the Ten Booms had been hiding at the time of their arrests remained undiscovered and all but one, an old woman named Mary, survived.  
  • Diana Athill [ europe ]

    diana-athillDiana Athill (born 1917) is a British literary editor, novelist and memoirist.  After the war, Diana helped her friend André Deutsch establish the publishing house Allan Wingate, and five years later, in 1952, she was a founding director of the publishing company that was given his name. She retired from Deutsch in 1993 at the age of 75, after more than 50 years in publishing. She continues to influence the literary world through her revealing memoirs expecially Somewhere Towards the End. Diana professes to have had many love affairs with married men.  She says, "I never particularly wanted children, but it came out in liking lame ducks for men".
  • Diana Vreeland [ europe ]

    Diana Vreeland Diana Vreeland (September 29, 1903 – August 22, 1989), was a noted columnist and editor in the field of fashion in France. Diana worked for the fashion magazines Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue and as a special consultant at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1964.
  • Dorothy Hodgkin [ europe ]

    Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin was born in Cairo, Egypt (1910 – 29 July 1994) was a British chemist who developed protein crystallography for which she won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964. She advanced the technique of X-ray crystallography, a method used to determine the three-dimensional structures of biomolecules. Among her most influential discoveries are the confirmation of the structure of penicillin and the structure of vitamin B12. Dorothy married Thomas Lionel Hodgkin and had 3 children.  At the age of 24, Dorothy began experiencing pain in her hands. A visit to a doctor led to a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis which would become progressively worse and crippling over time with deformities in both her hands and feet. In her last years, Dorothy spent a great deal of time in a wheelchair but remained scientifically active despite her disability.
  • Eleanor Duse [ europe ]

    Eleanor DuseEleonora Duse (1858 -1924) was an Italian actress, often known simply as Duse. She is regarded as one of the greatest actresses of all time, noted for her total assumption of the roles she portrayed. Both her father and her grandfather were actors, and she joined the troupe at age four. Due to poverty, she initially worked continually, traveling from city to city with whichever troupe her family was currently engaged. Eleonora was introverted and private, rarely giving interviews. She found public appearances to be a distraction, and once remarked to a journalist that away from the stage, "I do not exist".
  • Eleonora Duse [ europe ]

    Eleonora Duse (1858 -1924) was an Italian actress regarded as one of the greatest actresses of all time, noted for her total assumption of the roles she portrayed. Over the course of her career, Eleonora became well-known and respected for her assistance to young actors and actresses. On 30 July 1923 Eleonora became the first woman (and Italian) to be featured on the cover of Time magazine. She died of pneumonia at the age of 65 in Pittsburgh while on the eastward return leg of a tour of the United States.
  • Elizabeth 1 [ europe ]

    elizabeth 1Elizabeth I  of England (1533 – 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, the childless Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife, who was executed two and a half years after Elizabeth's birth. Anne's marriage to Henry VIII was annulled, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her half-brother, Edward VI, ruled until his death in 1553, bequeathing the crown to Lady Jane Grey and ignoring the claims of his two half-sisters, Elizabeth and the Roman Catholic Mary, in spite of statute law to the contrary. Edward's will was set aside and Mary became queen, deposing Lady Jane Grey. During Mary's reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels. Elizabeth's reign is known as the Elizabethan  era. The period is famous for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. Elizabeth is acknowledged as a charismatic performer and a dogged survivor in an era when government was ramshackle and limited, and when monarchs in neighbouring countries faced internal problems that jeopardized their thrones. Such was the case with Elizabeth's rival, Mary, Queen of Scots, whom she imprisoned in 1568 and had executed in 1587.  
  • Emma Thompson [ europe ]

    Emma Thompson Emma Thompson (born 1959) is a British actress, comedian, screenwriter and author. Thompson won multiple acting awards, including an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress for her work. In 1977, she began studying for an English degree at Newnham College, University of Cambridge. During this time, Emma had a “seminal moment” that turned her to feminism and inspired her to take up performing. She had discovered the book The Madwoman in the Attic, “which is about Victorian female writers and the disguises they took on in order to express what they wanted to express. This completely changed her lif. “I’m an atheist; I suppose you can call me a sort of libertarian anarchist. I regard religion with fear and suspicion. It’s not enough to say that I don’t believe in God. I actually regard the system as distressing: I am offended by some of the things said in the Bible and the Qur’an and I refute them.” Despite this, she has said that “The guiding moral principles, the ethical principles, much of the philosophy of the Christian tradition, if properly applied, is very good”. Emma is outspoken on the environment and human rights, and has authored two books.
  • Etta Palm d’Aelders [ europe ]

    Etta Lubina Johanna Palm d'Aelders (1743 – 1799) received a good education, which was remarkable for a girl in her age in a non-aristocratic family. Her marriage was not happy and her husband disappeared to the East Indies. Later, through all her connections of high circles  and her lovers she ended up in Paris living near the Palais Royal and was recruited for the French secret service.  Her missions allowed her to move up into the political life where she became a feminist who was outspoken during the French Revolution. This lead to her giving an address called the Discourse on the Injustice of the Laws in Favour of Men, at the Expense of Women to the French National Convention on 30 December 1790. In 1795 the French revolutionary armies invaded the Netherlands and Etta became suspect Etta was put under arrest in the fortress of Woerden together with her old spymaster Van de Spiegel. She was released at the end of 1798, but her health had suffered so much that she died the following March. Like many female activists, Etta  did not explicitly articulate a program for equal political rights for women, though that would no doubt have been her ultimate aim. Instead she worked to bring about a change in morals and customs that would in turn foster a more egalitarian atmosphere for women. She gave this address at a meeting of the Confederation of the Friends of Truth, the first political club to admit women as full members.
  • Etty Hillesum [ europe ]

    Etty Hillesum (Esther) Etty Hillesum (15 January 1914 – 30 November 1943) was a Jewish woman whose letters and diaries, kept between 1941 and 1943, describe life in Amsterdam during the German occupation. In the diaries, one can clearly see how the deepening anti-Jewish measures affected Etty Hillesum’s life. She applied  for a position with the Jewish Council and  received an appointment to the office on the Lijnbaansgracht (later the Oude Schans) on 15 July 1942. She later transferred to the department of “Social Welfare for People in Transit” at Westerbork on 30 July 1942. Before her final departure for Westerbork, Etty gave her Amsterdam diaries to Maria Tuinzing. Etty asked her to pass them along to the writer Klaas Smelik with the request that they be published if she did not return. In 1947, Maria Tuinzig turned over the exercise books and a bundle of letters to him. His daughter Johanna (Jopie) Smelik then typed out sections of the diaries, but Klaas Smelik’s attempts to have the diaries published in the 1950s proved fruitless. It wasn’t until 1981 that  Het verstoorde leven  was published in Dutch and  in 1999 that it was  translated into English ( An Interrupted Life) was republished. Learn more of Etty Hillesum here.  
  • Florence Nightingale [ europe ]

    Florence Nightingale Florence Nightingale (1820 –1910) was a celebrated English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. She came to prominence while serving as a manager of nurses trained by her during the Crimean War, where she organised the tending to wounded soldiers. She gave nursing a highly favourable reputation and became an icon of Victorian culture, especially in the persona of “The Lady with the Lamp” making rounds of wounded soldiers at night. She went to St Thomas’ Hospital in London which was the first secular nursing school in the world.  The Nightingale Pledge taken by new nurses was named in her honour. Florence was of the opinion that women craved sympathy and were not as capable as men.  She criticized early women’s rights activists for decrying an alleged lack of careers for women at the same time that lucrative medical positions, under the supervision of Nightingale and others, went perpetually unfilled. Florence was a prodigious and versatile writer. In her lifetime much of her published work was concerned with spreading medical knowledge. Some of her tracts were written in simple English so that they could easily be understood by those with poor literary skills. She also helped popularize the graphical presentation of statistical data. Much of her writing, including her extensive work on religion and mysticism, has only been published posthumously.  
  • Freya Stark [ europe ]

    Freya StarkDame Freya Madeline Stark, Mrs Perowne (1893 – 9 May 1993) was an explorer and travel writer. She wrote more than two dozen books on her travels in the Middle East and Afghanistan, as well as several autobiographical works and essays. She was one of the first non-Arabians to travel through the southern Arabian Deserts. For her ninth birthday Freya received a copy of One Thousand and One Nights, and became fascinated with the Orient. She was often ill while young and confined to the house, so she found an outlet in reading which influenced her greatly.
  • Henrietta Szold [ europe ]

    Henrietta Szold Henrietta Szold (1860 – 1945) was a U.S. Jewish Zionist leader and founder of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America. In 1942, she co-founded Ihud, a political party in Mandatory Palestine dedicated to a binational solution. Henrietta established the first American night school to provide English language instruction and vocational skills to Russian Jewish immigrants in Baltimore. Beginning in 1893, she worked as the first editor for the Jewish Publication Society, a position she maintained for over 23 years. The sole woman at the JPS, Szold's duties included the translation of a dozen works, writing articles of her own, editing the books, and overseeing the publication schedule. In 1899 she took on the lion's share of producing the first American Jewish Year Book, of which she was sole editor from 1904 to 1908." She also collaborated in the compilation of the Jewish Encyclopedia. Learn more about Henrietta at the Jewish Women's Archive.
  • Lita Ford [ europe ]

    Lita Ford Rossana Lita Ford (born 1958) is a British-American rock guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, who was the lead guitarist for The Runaways in the late 1970s before embarking on a solo career in the 1980s. Lita's website.  
  • Magdalena Abakanowicz [ europe ]

    Magdalena Abakanowicz Magdalena Abakanowicz (born June 20, 1930, in Falenty, Poland) is a Polish sculptor and fiber artist. She is notable for her use of textiles as a sculptural medium. She was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, Poland from 1965 to 1990 and a visiting professor at University of California, Los Angeles in 1984. Abakanowicz currently lives and works in Warsaw. Have a look at her abundance of work.  
  • Mairead Corrigan Maguire [ europe ]

    Mairead MaguireMairead Corrigan (Maguire) (born 1944),  is a peace activist from Northern Ireland who co-founded the Women for Peace, which later became the Community for Peace People, an organization dedicated to encouraging a peaceful resolution of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. She was awarded the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize. Mairead became active with the Northern Ireland peace movement after three of her sister's children, Anne Maguire, were killed by a car driven by Danny Lennon, a Provisional Irish Republican Army  fugitive who had been fatally shot by British troops while trying to make a getaway. After a prolonged battle with depression over the loss of her children, her sister committed suicide in 1980. A year and a half later, Mairead would marry Jackie Maguire, her late sister's widower. She has three stepchildren and two children of her own. Mairead is an outspoken critic of U.S. and British policy in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has also  been personally critical of U.S. President Barack Obama’s leadership. There is so much more to read about Mairead's accomplishments on wikipedia.