Flora Sandes

A Little History; Heroines In History

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It has been a while since I wrote a post for my “A Little History” series and for its return I thought I would share with you some of my heroines in history. Unfortunately I can’t list all of the brilliant women in history that I have looked up to over the years, my post would go on for days if I did. So I have chosen these five women who were so very different and yet so incredible in their own right. These five women were strong and independent and courageous.

Grace Darling

Grace Darling

I don’t know if anyone knows about Grace but she was a brave and brilliant young woman in the Victorian era. Grace lived with her father in a lighthouse on the Farne Isles, off the Northumberland coast when in Autumn 1838 she spotted the ship wreck of the SS Forfarshire on the rocks on a nearby Island, while looking out of her bedroom window. She and her father determined that the rough sea was too harsh for the life boat so together her and her father got in their own little row-boat and set off towards the wreck. Grace and her father rescued 13 people and then made their way back to the safety of their lighthouse home.

Grace was after that inundated with gifts and accolades because the bravery she showed on that day, I can’t even think how much courage it must have taken to step into that tiny row-boat and row out on to that turbulent sea.

Grace later became ill and in October 1842 she died at the tender age of 26 from Turberculosis, Grace was an ordinary young woman who selflessly put her own life on the line to rescue other’s and because of her bravery she changed how women were perceived in that era.

Flora Sandes

Flora Sandes

Flora Sandes was the only British woman to serve as a soldier on the frontline and in the trenches during WWI, but she didn’t just serve as just a regular soldier she worked her way through the ranks to become a Sergeant Major. The story of how Flora managed to get there is just as incredible, she was a St Johns Ambulance volunteer , she shot a man in self-defense and went to Serbia to serve as a nurse. Once in Serbia she was separated from her colleagues and she did the only thing she could to survive and that was to join the Serbian army as a soldier.

The fact that she was a 40-year-old British women and the daughter of a clergyman didn’t mean a thing, she fought side by side with the men – The Serbian army accepted women at that point – and she fought so well that she was quickly promoted. Flora was injured by a grenade which put an end to her military career but the Serbian Military honoured her with their highest award – the Order of the Karadordes Star for her bravery.

Violette Szarbo

Violette Szarbo

Violette was by far one of the bravest women in British history, she was an incredible woman. Violette was half French and half English, in 1940 she married a French officer who died in battle the same year, following his death Violette wanted a bit of excitement and adventure she joined the FRench Section of the Special Operations Executive or SOE and worked as a Secret Agent in occupied France.

It was on one of her missions that she was captured and taken tp Ravensbruck concentration camp, where after months of interrogations and she refused to speak, she and two of her SOE colleagues were executed.

In 1946 Violette Szarbo was the first British woman to be posthumously awarded the George Cross, the medal was pinned to the chest of her daughter Tania who was wearing a dress her mother had bought her on one of her missions to Paris. There is a brilliant film about her called “Carve Her name With Pride” which stars the amazing Virginia Mckenna.

Emily Bronte

Emily Bronte

Emily was an absolute hero of mine when I was growing up, Wuthering Heights is just about the best piece of literature there is, I just loved how raw and real it is. How she captured how powerful and moving the moors and it’s inhabitants can be.

From all accounts about Emily she was a shy, home-loving recluse who loved nothing better than wandering around the moors, happy in her own little world and on her own. She is often refered to as intensely creative and passionate, a free spirit and an iconic tortured genius. and going by the brilliance that Wuthering Heights is, I thing k I would agree. She was strong in her own way, by all accounts she didn’t want the whole husband and family thing, she was more than happy in caring for her family and doing what she wanted when she wanted and I really admire that.

“She should have been a man – a great navigator. Her powerful reason would have deduced new spheres of discovery from the knowledge of the old; and her strong imperious will would never have been daunted by opposition or difficulty, never have given way but with life. She had a head for logic, and a capability of argument unusual in a man and rarer indeed in a woman… impairing this gift was her stubborn tenacity of will which rendered her obtuse to all reasoning where her own wishes, or her own sense of right, was concerned” Quoted by Constantin Hegar

Queen Elizabeth 1

Queen Elizabeth I

It may be an obvious one but I do like how strong and resilient Elizabeth was, she was an incredible woman who was living and ruling in a mans world she was under constant prejudice because of her sex and under constant pressure from her advisors telling her that she needed a husband to succeed in their world. I admire her for her stiff upper lip and fact that, yes she was a woman in a powerful position but she didn’t cave in under the pressure and she protected her people and her country when they needed her the most.

Most men in that position would have crumbled with all the back stabbing and underhand goings on that circulated the court, but not Elizabeth, she proved that a woman can survive a man’s world. All my heroines have that same courage and passion and each one of them have gone out into a mans world and made it her own, they have proved that we women don’t need knights in shining armour to ride in and save the day. . .We can save our selves.

If you want to know more about my heroines then check out the links below.

Grace Darling / Violette Szabo / Emily Bronte  / Queen Elizabeth I / Flora Sandes