Thursday, 27 June 2019

Milunka Saviç (1888 – 1973) - Serbian

Milunka Saviç was born on 28th June 1888 in the Kingdom of Serbia.

When her brother was served with his call-up papers for the Second Balkan War in 1913, Milunka elected to take his place.    She cut her hair, wore men's clothes and fought bravely, receiving a medal and promotion for her bravery.   She was wounded and only then was her subterfuge discovered.

During the First World War, Milunka earned medals from France, Britain, Serbia and Russia for her bravery.  After the War, Milunka turned down an offer to go and live in France and receive a French pension in recognition of her contribution. 

During the Second World War she was imprisoned by the Germans in Bajinca Concentration Camp for ten months.    After the Second World War, Milunka  adopted three orphaned children.    Her bravery was finally recognised in the 1970s when she was awarded a pension and an apartment by the Belgrade City Assembly.  She died in 1973 and there is a street in Belgrade named after her.
The Great Fire in Salonika, William Thomas Wood (1877 - 1958)

During the First World War, British artist William Thomas Wood served as a kite-balloon observer in the Royal Flying Corps. He was appointed Official War Artist in 1918. Largely as a result of his war experience, Arthur J. Mann hired William to illustrate his book “The Salonika Front” ( A. & C. Black, London, 1920)..

Milunka featured in the first exhibition of Inspirational Women of World War One which you will find in the book "No Woman's Land A Centenary Tribute to Inspirational Women of World War One", available here

The Balkan Wars took place in the Balkan Peninsula in 1912 and in 1913.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Helen Hagan (1891 - 1964) – American pianist, composer and teacher

Helen Eugenia Hagan was born on 10th January 1891 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the daughter of John A. and Mary Estella Neal Hagan. Helen’s mother taught her to play the piano and she went on to study at schools in New Haven, Connecticut. She began playing the organ for the Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church in New Haven when she was nine years old.

Helen studied at Yale University with Stanley Knight and graduated in 1912 with a bachelor's degree in music, playing her own Concerto in C Minor in May 1912 at Yale. She was the first known African American woman to earn a degree from Yale University.

Awarded the Samuel Simmons Stanford scholarship to study in Paris, Helen travelled to France to study with Blanche Selva and Vincent d'Indy, and graduated from the Schola Cantorum in 1914. She returned to the United States when war broke out in 1914 and began a career as a concert pianist, touring from 1915 to 1918. In 1918 she was music director (meaning music department chair) at Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College.

In early 1919, Helen travelled to France to entertain black troops of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), along with Joshua Blanton and the Rev. Henry Hugh Proctor, under the auspices of the YMCA.

In 1920 Hagan married John Taylor Williams of Morristown, New Jersey but continued her concert career (they divorced ca. 1931).[3] She had a music studio in Morristown for at least a decade and was the first African American woman admitted to the Morristown Chamber of Commerce.[4] She taught at the Mendelssohn Conservatory of Music in Chicago and pursued a Masters of Arts degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. In the 1930s she served as dean of music at Bishop College in Marshall, Texas. She also continued to work as a choir director and church organist. She died in New York City on 6th March 1964, after an extended illness.

On September 29, 2016, a crowdfunded monument for Helen Hagan's previously unmarked grave was unveiled at New Haven's Evergreen Cemetery, and the day was declared "Women Making Music Day" by New Haven mayor Toni Harp.

The only work by Helen Hagan that survives is the Concerto in C Minor for Piano and Orchestra. Her other compositions, including piano works and a violin sonata, have been lost.

Source:  Wikipedia

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Freda Winifred Hooper (1902 – 1971) – British singer, dancer, comedienne and impressionist

With thanks to Debbie Cameron for posting the link that led to finding this information

Freda was born on 19th December 1902 in Doncaster, Yorkshire, UK.  Her parents were Albert Hooper, a master butcher, and his wife, Lilie Hooper, nee Stamp.  Freda had a brother Albert Kennerley Hooper, who was born in 1909.

As she grew up, Freda developed a flair for entertaining. She was a talented singer, dancer, comedienne and impressionist. During the First World War, Freda put these talents to use and entertained wounded soldiers at the Hooton Pagnell Hall hospital, overseen by Julia Warde-Aldam.

Freda was only around 14 years old when she entertained these soldiers, but with the photographs kept by Julia, there was a small business card with Freda’s address on it. Freda also entertained inmates and troops at the Balby Union Workhouse. The Hooper family were close personal friends of the Owen family who ran the workhouse, and Freda often entertained there with their son Frank. During Christmas 1915 Freda entertained inmates and soldiers at the Workhouse.

Freda also entertained the population of Doncaster, including one show at the the Divisional Office on South Parade, fundraising for the Christmas Gifts for Soldiers at the Front fund.

In 1928, Freda married Arthur Clifford Cooper.  Their first child, Peter, was born in 1929.  By 1939, Arthur, Freda and their family were living in Balby Road, Doncaster, and Freda was a dance teacher.

Freda died in Doncaster in March 1971.

Find my past
Loads more photos and info here, with photo info and credits…/child-star-freda-hoop…/…/

Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant (1881 – 1965) American journalist and writer; war correspondent WW1

With thanks to our friend Marks Samuels Lasner for reminding me
that I had not yet researched Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant

Elizabeth (Centre) at the
American Hospital, Paris
Known to friends and family as Elsie, Elizabeth was born on 23rd April 1881 in Winchester, Massachusetts, USA.  Her parents were Charles Spencer Sergeant, an executive with the Boston Elevated Railway, and his wife, Elizabeth Blake Shepley Sergeant.  Elizabeth was educated at Miss Winsor's School (now called The Winsor School) in Boston from 1894–1899 and Bryn Mawr College from 1899–1903.

Elizabeth’s younger sister, Katharine Sergeant Angell White, became an editor for the “The New Yorker” and married E. B. White, author of “Charlotte's Web”, who also wrote for “The New Yorker”.  Elizabeth’s nephew Roger Angell, became another writer for “The New Yorker”.

Elizabeth’s first article, "Toilers of the Tenements," was published in 1910 in “McClure's Magazine”, edited at the time by Willa Cather, thus beginning a lifelong friendship between the two women. When the “New Republic”,  an American magazine dealing with politics and the arts,was founded in 1914, Elizabeth became one of its first contributors.

During the First World War, Elizabeth was a war correspondent for the magazine “New Republic”.  She travelled to the Western Front and in 1916 her first book was published – “French Perspectives” – about her experiences in  wartime France.

On 19th October 1918, Eliizabeth was badly injured when her companion picked up a hand grenade that exploded. Elizabeth wrote about her treatment and recovery in her second book, “Shadow-Shapes: Journal of a Wounded Woman, 1920.

After the war, on the advice of her doctor, Elizabeth went to live in Taos, New Mexico in 1920. She wrote about the Pueblo Indians and New Mexico until the mid-1930s. Her work was published in the “New Republic” and the “Nation” magazines. She spent extensive time in New York City and at the Macdowell Colony.

In the mid-1930s, John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, hired her to report on Pueblo social conditions and reactions to the Wheeler-Howard Act. Sergeant moved to Piermont in Rockland County, New York. In the 1930s and 1940s and continued to publish magazine articles.

Elizabeth was staying at the Cosmopolitan Club in New York when she died on 26th January 1965. Her wish was to be cremated and have her ashes buried in the Shepley-Sergeant plot in Winchester, Massachusetts.

Elizabeth’s sister Katharine held a memorial service for her on 12th April 1965 at the Cosmopolitan Club.

“Shadow-shapes; the journal of a wounded woman, October 1918-May 1919”
by Sergeant, Elizabeth Shepley (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston and New York, 1920)is availabnload

Books by Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant

Non fiction

French Perspectives (1916)
Shadow-Shapes: Journal of a Wounded Woman (1920)
Fire Under the Andes: A Group of North American Portraits (1927)
Mr. Justice Holmes (1931)
Willa Cather: A Memoir (1953)
Robert Frost: The Trial by Experience (1960)


Short as Any Dream (1929)


 "Guide to the Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant Papers," Yale University Library
 "New York Times, October 24, 1918".
 Davis, Linda H. (1987). Onward and upward : a biography of Katharine S. White. New York: Fromm International Pub. Corp. ISBN 0880641096. OCLC 18559964.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Mabel FitzGerald (1872 – 1973) - British physiologist and clinical pathologist

With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for telling me about Mabel

Mabel Purfoy FitzGerald was born in 1872 in Preston Candover, near Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK on 3rd August 1872. She was the youngest child of Richard Purefoy FitzGerald, a Magistrate, and his wife Henrietta Mary FitzGerald, née Chester.

Educated at home, Mabel moved to Oxford in 1895 after the death of her parents. She began to teach herself chemistry and biology from books, as well as attending classes at Oxford University between 1896 and 1899, even though women were not at that time allowed to receive degrees.  Mabel continued her studies at the University of Copenhagen, Cambridge University and New York University.

Mabel began to work with Francis Gotch at the physiology department in Oxford and he helped her to have one of her papers published by the Royal Society in 1906.
Mabel in her Laboratory

From 1904, Mabel worked with John Scott Haldane on measuring the carbon dioxide tension in the human lung. After studying the differences between healthy and ill people, the two continued to investigate the effects of altitude on respiration - it is this work that they are most famous for. Mabel's observations of the effects of full altitude acclimatisation on carbon dioxide tension and haemoglobin remain accepted and relevant today.

In 1907, FitzGerald was awarded a Rockefeller travelling scholarship, which allowed her to travel.  She went to work in NewYork and Toronto.

In 1911 Mabel joined C. Gordon Douglas and several other scientists in the now famous Pike’s Peak Expedition in Colorado, led by John Scott Haldane, to investigate human respiration at high altitudes. As the only woman, she was not allowed to travel to the Peak with the men. Instead she travelled alone with her mule around the high and remote mining towns of Colorado to measure the long-term effects of altitude on the people living there.  Mabel published her observations as ‘The Changes in Breathing and the Blood in Various High Altitudes’ in 1913, which is what she become most famous for.
Pike's Peak Expedition

In the summer of 1913 in North Carolina, Mabel made measurements on the breathing and the blood of a total of 43 adult residents chosen from three different locations in the Southern Appalachian chain.

Mabel returned to Britain in 1915 to work as a clinical pathologist at Edinburgh Infirmary, a position that had become vacant due to the war.

During the late 1930s, Mabel retired to Oxford to care for her ageing sisters, who, all unmarried, still lived together in a house in Crick Road.   She lectured in Bacteriology.

For more than two decades, Mabel FitzGerald was almost forgotten by scientists, until she was ‘rediscovered’ in the course of the centenary celebrations of the birth of her mentor, John Scott Haldane, in 1960.

On her 100th birthday, Mabel Fitzgerald finally received academic recognition for her scientific work, as she was awarded an honorary Master of Arts (MA) by Oxford University.

Mabel receiving her Degree

Mabel died in Oxford on 24th August 1973. Her papers (Nachlass) are held by The Bodleian Library in Oxford.


Photo of Mabel as a young woman, in the Laboratory, The Pikes Peak Expedition and receiving her degree. Credits in the article in the links below.…/about-us/mabel-fitzgerald.pdf

Find my Past

Friday, 12 April 2019

Elfriede Riote (1879 – 1960) – German Airship Pilot

Elfriede was born in Alsace on 12th April 1879.  At that time, Alsace was under German rule.
Elfriede's father was a senior civil servant.

In April 1914, Elfriede took her pilot's examination on the Parseval-Luftschiff P VI and in July of that year she gained her pilot’s licence.

Elfriede was not allowed to fly airships during the First World War, so she concentrated on l ecturing about flying.  She moved to Berlin after the War. Elfriede then had a guesthouse built on the Island of Ruegen in the Baltic Sea and gave lectures about aviation.

Photo from:

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Mary Roberts Rinehart (August 12, 1876 – September 22, 1958) - American writer and nurse

Mary Roberts Rinehart was born Mary Ella Roberts on 12th August 1876 in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, now part of Pittsburgh. After graduating from school, Mary enrolled at the Pittsburgh Training School for Nurses at Pittsburgh Homeopathic Hospital, graduating in 1896. She described the experience as "all the tragedy of the world under one roof." After graduation, Mary married Stanley Marshall Rinehart (1867–1932), a doctor she had met during her training. They had three sons - Stanley Jr., Alan, and Frederick.

Mary began writing seriously after the stock market crash of 1903. She was 27 that year, and wrote 45 short stories. Her first mystery novel was published in 1906.  “The Circular Staircase”, published in 1907, was the novel that propelled her to national fame. According to Mary's obituary in the “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette” in 1958, the book sold 1.25 million copies.  In 1911, after the publication of five successful books and two plays, the Rinehart family moved to Glen Osborne, Pennsylvania.  Today there is a Mary Roberts Rinehart Nature Park in the borough of Glen Osborne at 1414 Beaver Street, Sewickley, Pennsylvania.

During the First World War, Mary worked as a war correspondent for “The Saturday Evening Post” on the Western Front, during which time she interviewed  KingAlbert I of Belgium, Winston Churchill and Mary of Teck, the wife of King George V.   Of that encounter Mary Rinehart wrote:  "This afternoon I am to be presented to the queen of England. I am to curtsey and to say 'Your majesty,' the first time!"   She reported on developments to the American War Department and was in Paris when the First World War Peace Treaty was signed.

Mary contributed regularly to “The Saturday Evening Post” and was a prolific writer. During her prime, she was reputed to be even more famous than Agatha Christie. When Mary died on 22nd September 1958, her books had sold over 10 million copies.