mountaineering trailblazer

A trailblazer in the very literal sense of the word, Lizzie Le Blond was one of the first generations of women to take part in the sport of mountaineering, breaking societal rules to do so. Born Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed, the only child of Captain and Mrs Hawkins-Whitshed of Killincarrick House in Greystones, County Wicklow, she inherited the family estate at the age of 11 after her father’s death in 1871. She married Colonel Frederick Burnaby, a soldier, adventurer and author, in 1879. Shortly after the wedding,…Continue Reading “History’s Rebel Girls – Lizzie Le Blond”

Historian and activist Gerda Lerner can be credited with making women’s and gender history a recognised research subject. Lerner said, when she started working on women’s history in the 1960’s, the field did not exist. It was not a recognised area of research, and according to Lerner, people didn’t think women had a history worth knowing. Her professors thought she was wasting her talents pursuing an exotic specialty. ‘Men develop ideas and systems of explanation by absorbing past knowledge and critiquing and superseding it. Women,…Continue Reading “History’s Rebel Girls – Gerda Lerner”

fraulein doktor mademoiselle docteur

Fräulein Doktor or Mademoiselle Docteur was the codename for a female spy who acted on behalf of the German military high command during the First World War. Her real name was Elsbeth (Elisabeth) Schragmüller. She was born in 1887 into an affluent family, which afforded her a good education. Schragmüller was one of the first generation of German women to obtain a university degree. She graduated with a PhD in Political Science from the university of Freiburg in 1913. With the outbreak of the First…Continue Reading “History’s Rebel Girls – Fräulein Doktor”

martha gellhorn

Journalist and writer Martha Gellhorn has been hailed as one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century. During her long career, Gellhorn covered almost all major conflicts of the era, from the Spanish Civil War to World War II, from Vietnam to the US invasion of Panama. Born in 1909 in St. Louis Missouri, Gellhorn was raised by liberal parents who helped to found a co-educational school based on equal treatment of students regardless of their gender. Her mother Edna was a suffragette…Continue Reading “History’s Rebel Girls – Martha Gellhorn”

communism gdr childhood

I was born in a country that today doesn’t exist anymore. It was called the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany. Founded in 1949, after the Second World War, as a socialist bulwark against West Germany, it became a satellite state of the USSR. The GDR officially ceased to exist in 1990, following the reunification of West and East Germany which had been ushered in by the peaceful revolution of 1989. What was it like growing up in ‘real socialism’? My memories are of…Continue Reading “Barbie, Lenin and fake hand grenades – Memories of a childhood in the GDR”

iwd women's day

Today marks Mother’s Day in Ireland. The early Christian tradition of Mothering Sunday, celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, is used today to acknowledge the achievements of mothers and to flog a few greeting cards along the way. I’m being very cynical here, I know. From what I can observe from my Irish friends, Mother’s Day is often celebrated as a genuine expression of love for their mothers and a way of thanking them for all they have done. It’s a day where the…Continue Reading “Women’s or Mother’s Day?”

sheehy skeffington

Irish suffragette Hanna Sheehy Skeffington (1877-1946) was at the forefront of the fight for women’s rights as equal citizens of Ireland. As a republican, Sheehy Skeffington also fought for an independent Ireland, but always related this struggle to how it would impact on women. In 1909 she was quoted saying ‘Until the women of Ireland are free, the men will not achieve emancipation.‘ Historian and biographer of Sheehy Skeffington, Margaret Ward, stated that Hanna Sheehy Skeffington ‘challenged both the imperial connection with Britain and the…Continue Reading “History’s rebel girls – Hanna Sheehy Skeffington”

In recent months the abortion debate in Ireland seems to have gathered momentum and pressure on the government has been growing to call a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution, the amendment which gives equal status to the rights of the mother and the unborn. In an attempt to break the stigma surrounding abortion, many Irish women have been sharing their abortion stories publicly, amongst them Irish Times columnist and writer Róisín Ingle, as well as actress and comedian Tara Flynn….Continue Reading “Protesting for choice – a lesson from history”

gerda taro

In today’s post I thought I’d try something a bit different and instead of talking about myself all the time, I’ll talk about an interesting woman from history. I’m hoping to make this a regular feature with posts about once a month or so introducing women, alive or dead, who have made a great contribution to society and have just been all round kickass ladies. Taking inspiration from the Bikini Kill song ‘Rebel Girl’, history’s rebel girls should serve as a reminder of how awesome…Continue Reading “History’s rebel girls – Gerda Taro”