Mildred Jeter:Marriage Advocate by Linda Harris Sittig



One evening in 1950, seventeen-year-old Richard Loving decided to walk several miles through the isolated back country of Caroline County, Virginia. His destination was a well-known farmhouse where the Jeter Brothers would be playing bluegrass.

When he arrived, he found the place packed with other music lovers; but, his eyes locked in on one particular girl. Asking around, he found out she was the Jeters’ younger sister. Tall, willowy, and seemingly shy, Mildred Jeter made an indelible impression on him.

The months went by and Richard continued to visit the farmhouse, to listen to the music and to get to know the younger sister.

Mildred Jeter was only eleven, six years younger than Richard. This, however did not stop him from beginning a courtship that lasted for the next eight years.

Two months shy of her nineteenth birthday, Mildred became pregnant. Without any hesitation, Richard asked her to marry him.

The story could have just ended there with the couple living happily ever after.

But, Mildred Jeter was black and Richard Loving was white. In 1958, it was illegal within the state of Virginia for people classified as white to marry anyone classified as colored.

Richard and Mildred drove instead to Washington D.C., where they wed. They carried their coveted marriage license back to Caroline County and settled into their new role as husband and wife.

Five weeks into their marriage they were awakened in the middle of the night by the county sheriff and two deputies who broke into their home, burst into their bedroom, and shined flashlights in their faces. “What are you doing with this women?” the sheriff supposedly barked.

“I’m his wife,” Mildred calmly replied. Richard pointed to the marriage certificate hanging on the wall. “That’s no good here,” was the sheriff’s terse reply.

The couple was hauled off to jail and arrested. Richard was released the next morning, but Mildred stayed behind bars for several additional days. Eventually, the couple pleaded guilty to having broken the Virginia anti-miscegenation law. In court, the judge sentenced them each to a full year in prison, then suspended the sentence if they agreed to leave Virginia, and not return for 25 years.

Richard and Mildred packed their belongings and moved out of state.

The Loving’s settled into a blue-collar life in Washington D.C. and started to raise their children there. However, Mildred missed her family and the peacefulness of a rural lifestyle. When their young son was hit by a car in 1963, Mildred decided it was time for them to go home.

Knowing they would be arrested as soon as they stepped foot back in Caroline County, Mildred wrote to Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, stating their cause and asking for help. Bobby Kennedy promptly referred her to the American Civil Liberties Union, who took up the case.

Their case dragged on for years. First, their lawyers attempted to have the original judge set aside his previous verdict. He refused. The next step was to take the case to the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals; that court upheld the lower court. With nothing to lose, Mildred and Richard’s lawyers proceeded to file an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court was made up of six white male judges, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren. On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously decided in favor of Loving v. Virginia, declaring that all anti-miscegenation laws across the country violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

It was a landmark legal decision. For Richard and Mildred, it meant they could finally live together in peace, and they returned to Caroline County. Unfortunately, Richard was killed by a drunk driver in 1975. Mildred continued to live in Virginia, a quiet, unassuming life.

What makes this story even more interesting is that Mildred Jeter was multi-racial. Her ancestry included Caucasian, Native American, and African heritage. But in the 1950s, any Negro ancestry meant that your ethnicity was considered to be black, and the Virginia law specifically forbid persons of ‘color’ to marry a white person. Persons of color, however, only referred to Negros. The Virginia anti-miscegenation statute had been on the books since 1662, but, did not include Native Americans. This was due to Virginia being settled by one John Rolfe, who in addition to introducing tobacco into the Jamestown settlement (making the community financially stable), also married an Indian princess, Pocahontas. Being descended from that illustrious union was considered prestigious and therefore the anti-miscegenation law did not apply to whites marrying Native Americans.

Mildred Jeter Loving stood up for her belief that marriage was a God given right, for everyone. When asked about how it felt to be a Civil Rights Activist, she replied, “I didn’t set out to be an activist, I only wanted to come home and be a married woman.”

If you enjoyed this month’s blog and would like to read more fascinating stories about strong women, just sign up on the right side-bar to become a follower. StrongWomenInHistory has followers in over 64 countries. If you have a strong woman to nominate, someone who lived her life to make this a better world, and deserves recognition, please send me her name in the comments section. I will research her.

Until next month’s post, you can catch me on Twitter: @lhsittig, my web page:, or take a look at my strong woman novel on Amazon:

~ Linda ~



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Helen, Elvira, Marie, Filleaul, Charlotte, Margaret, and Alice: Gold Medal Winners by Linda Harris Sittig



A young woman enters the pool arena, takes off her towel, and shakes her hands in an effort to calm her nerves.

When the announcer calls, she mounts the diving board and serenely walks to the front edge. One deep breath and then she catapults herself into space, tucking her body into not just one, but three forward somersaults before straightening out and diving into the blue waters of the pool—her body making a perfect entrance with no hint of a splash.

This girl is a modern Olympian, participating in a competition that dates back to 776 B.C. when the first Olympic Game was held in Olympia, Greece, to honor Zeus, the father of all Greek gods and goddesses.

The rules were different in the ancient Olympics. All the participating athletes had to be Greek citizens and could hail from every corner of the Greek empire, stretching from Iberia (modern day Spain) to the Black Sea (modern day Turkey). Athletes had to appear one month in advance of the games, in order to train, and attest that they had been practicing for the previous 10 months.

The games were always held at the first full moon after the summer solstice (approximately middle of July) and during the games a sacred truce was declared. No individual Greek city-state could start a war and no arms could be carried in the vicinity of Olympia.

And of course, the competition was open only to men.

In the beginning, the Olympiad lasted for one day and contained only one event—the stadion foot race of 600 feet. As the years progressed, the games added more events and stretched over a three-day, then five-day period. The agenda eventually grew to 18 events.

All contestants competed in the nude, perhaps to prevent clothing from slowing them down.

The ancient games included running, long jump, shot put, javelin, boxing, pankration (similar to martial arts), and equestrian events. For 12 centuries athletes walked through a special portal to enter the stadium for the main events, and the hippodrome for the equestrian races.

Events were not timed. You simply won if you beat out all the other competitors. Winners stood before a cheering crowd, estimated to be as many as 45,000 spectators sitting on the embankments around the stadium. The illustrious olive wreath was bestowed as a symbol of excellence. If an athlete broke a rule during the competition, he was then excluded from all future Olympiads.

And so the Olympics progressed for over a thousand years until in 393 C.E. when Emperor Theodosius decreed that all cult practices, including the Olympiads, be abolished.

Fast forward to 1894, Baron Pierre de Coubertin concocted the idea of re-inventing the Olympic Games. His intention was to have the modern games hosted in Paris, and he founded the International Olympic Committee. The countries that were invited, however, all voted to have the new games debut in Athens, Greece.

In 1896, after a hiatus of 1,179 years, the Olympics returned.

Women were still not allowed to participate on the grounds that they would overdevelop their muscles and prove to be uninteresting.


Four years later when the next round of Olympiads was scheduled to occur in Paris, France, at the 1900 World’s Fair, women athletes had won the privilege of competing.

The gold medals for women in the 1900 games went to the following:

Helen de Pourtales, Switzerland, part of the sailing team. She was 32 years old.

Elvira Geurra, Italy, competed in the equestrian events. She was 45.

Marie Ohner and Filleaul Brohy, France, competed together in croquet.

Charlotte Cooper, Great Britain, was the first woman to win in an individual event; tennis. She was 35.

Margaret Abbott, United States, won as part of the golf team. She was 23.

It would take another thirty-six years before African-American female athletes were allowed to represent the United States during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.Then, in 1948, Alice Marie Coachman, at the age of 25, became the first African-American female athlete to be awarded a gold medal during the Olympics. She won in London for the high jump.

These women made Olympic history, not just by participating and/or  winning gold medals, but by being role models for all future female athletes.

Today, every participating country sends women athletes to the Olympics and more than 40 percent of all contestants are female.

Allyson Hopkins, thank you for asking how women became involved in the Olympics.

Thank you, readers, for supporting Strong Women in History. Please pass my blog onto friends and encourage them to become followers.

Catch me on Twitter @LHSittig or my website LINDASITTIG.COM. Want to learn about my favorite strong woman? Go to for my novel, Cut From Strong Cloth.

Do you have a woman to nominate for Strong Women in History? Please leave me your information in the comments section of this blog.

~ Linda ~





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Margaret Gaffney Haughery: Saint of New Orleans by Linda Harris Sittig




Almost two centuries before Hurricane Katrina wreaked devastation upon the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, a different type of villain stalked the city.

That villain was hunger. It rooted itself in the poor parishes of the city, and its tentacles clutched at the hundreds of orphans in the streets.

One woman waged war against it: Margaret Gaffney Haughery.

Born in County Leitrim, Ireland, in 1813, Margaret emigrated to America at the age of five with her parents and two siblings. Arriving at Baltimore, the family settled into a hardscrabble life until 1822, when a yellow fever epidemic killed both the parents within days of each other. The fever also took the youngest child.

Orphaned at the age of nine, Margaret was then separated from her older brother when he wandered off into the city and simply disappeared.  A neighbor woman offered Margaret sanctuary in her home, but insisted that Margaret start working as a domestic washer-girl to earn her keep.

By the age of ten, Margaret had joined the American work force, but her wages went solely to her guardian.

Twelve years later Margaret left domestic servitude by marrying Charles Haughery. The young couple relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana.

Unfortunately, the climate did not agree with Charles, he soon contracted a sickness and died. A few months later their infant child, Frances, also perished.

Bereft and left alone once again, Margaret faced destitution, but she knew how to launder and press clothes. She sought employment at the St. Charles Hotel and soon had a place to live and a steady paycheck. On her days off, she volunteered at the nearby Poydras Orphan Asylum run by the Sisters of Charity.

The plight of the orphans must have struck a chord deep within Margaret’s soul. Perhaps she saw in them a former version of her younger self.

She began to save every penny from her job, eventually buying two cows which allowed her to start up a modest milk-selling business. Each morning she would pull a milk cart through the city and sell her milk door to door. At each house she asked for any left-over food she could take to the orphanage.

Whether she had the luck of the Irish, or good business sense, her two-cow dairy grew within two years to a herd of forty cows. In addition to milk, she began to offer cream and butter as well.

With the success of her milk business underway, Margaret decided to expand and thought about the type food she could provide the orphans on a daily basis.

Bread was the answer. With grit and determination Margaret opened one of the earliest steam bakeries in the South. The added bonus was that Margaret could now offer employment to others, and she increased her financial holdings.

With the success of the bakery, Margaret used her own money to finance the openings of four additional orphanages.

A further testament to Margaret’s tenacious personality occurred in 1861 when the Civil War reached New Orleans. Union General Benjamin Butler occupied the city and declared martial war with curfews and no-cross boundaries. Margaret ignored the warnings and drove a wagon herself to deliver a load of bread flour to an orphanage situated behind enemy lines.

When she died in 1882, pallbearers at her funeral included two Lieutenant Governors of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans. During her funeral cortege, as her coffin was carried in the streets, thousands of people stopped what they were doing and stood by the side of the road to pay their respects.

Two years later, the city of New Orleans erected a statue in her honor. It was the first public American monument dedicated to a woman and the money had come in donations of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollar bills. At its unveiling, children from every orphanage in the city stood in attendance.

In spite of her generous charitable contributions through the years and her own sparse lifestyle, Margaret had still amassed a considerable estate. In her will, she left every penny to the different orphanages of the city; regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity.

Her will was signed with a simple cross. Too busy with feeding the poor, Margaret had never learned to read or write.

Thank you to Eileen Rice, follower of this blog, for alerting me to Margaret’s story.

I invite all readers to sign up on the right hand sidebar to become followers of this blog. I am trying to reach 1,000 readers this year. Currently the blog is being followed in 64 countries. You can also catch me on Twitter @LHSittig or my website, My debut novel, Cut From Strong Cloth is on Amazon.

~ Linda ~

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Eugenie Thomas Duke and Margaret Vossberg Hellmann: the Mayonnaise Queens by Linda Harris Sittig


Many people erroneously assume that America is divided North and South by The Mason-Dixon Line; the survey boundary that separates Pennsylvania from Maryland and West Virginia.

In truth, America is divided North and South by mayonnaise.

Yes, mayonnaise, created in Spain and popularized by the French since the mid-eighteenth century, this condiment has garnished generations of American salads and sandwiches. Its long-lasting influence in our country can be traced to two families: the Duke’s and the Hellmann’s, or more specifically, Eugenie Thomas Duke and Margaret Vossberg Hellman.

A tremendous rivalry between the brands still exists with loyal fans steeply entrenched in respective camps. In order not to show any partiality (yet), I will present the stories in alphabetical order.

Eugenie Thomas was born in Columbus, Georgia in 1881. At the age of 19, she married Thomas Duke, an electrician, and the couple eventually moved to Greenville, South Carolina.

In 1917 thousands of soldiers were living at Camp Sevier, only six miles north of Greenville. Eugenia decided that she could start a sandwich business, making pimento, egg salad, and chicken salad sandwiches, and sell them to the army camp.

With the help of her daughter, Eugenia made the sandwiches daily, carried them on the local train to the camp, and sold them to the army canteens for ten cents each. Her profit amounted to two cents per sandwich.

The popularity of her enterprise led Eugenia to increase her sales by also selling sandwiches to the shops on Main Street and to local textile mills; eventually expanding her business to the fashionable city hotel dining rooms as well.

Five years into her sandwich business, Eugenia had received many letters from soldiers asking for the recipe to her delicious sandwich spread. Rather than give out the recipe, she started bottling her mayonnaise and selling it as a separate product. Her husband joined her in the business.

The ingredients included oil, egg yolks, and cider vinegar. Because sugar had been rationed during the years of WWI, she left it out of the recipe.

Her mayonnaise became known as Duke’s Real Mayonnaise and by 1929 they sold the lucrative business to the C.F. Sauer Company.

Eugenia lived to be 90 years old and left her culinary mark on mayonnaise history. Originally sold only in the South, Duke’s Real Mayonnaise is available across the nation, but has its most loyal followers in the Carolinas and Georgia. Duke’s is recognizable by its bright yellow cap.

Margaret Vossberg emigrated from Germany to the United States with her family at the turn of the twentieth century and settled in New York City. There, her family opened a very successful delicatessen.

In 1904 Margaret married Richard Hellmann, whom she knew from her earlier years in Germany. Richard worked as a wholesale grocer but had the immigrant’s aspiration of one day owning his own company.

One year into their marriage, Richard found a vacant store on Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side of New York City. He promptly decided that he and Margaret could now open their own delicatessen.

They worked together day and night with hardly a break until the delicatessen was a success. A major draw was their mayonnaise. Made fresh daily, they tinkered with the recipe until they found the perfect combination. While the recipe was a closely guarded secret, most culinary researchers believed the Hellmann’s used oil, raw egg yolks, white vinegar, salt, sugar, and a dash of lemon juice.

The fresh batches of mayonnaise sold out quickly each day.

By 1912 Margaret and Richard Hellman entered the profitable market of manufacturing mayonnaise wholesale and distributed it coast to coast, but it still remained a Northern favorite.

Margaret died in 1920 and Richard sold Hellman’s in 1927 to Best Foods. The jar, however, still continues to have its iconic blue cap.

Eugenie and Margaret’s lives shared a familiar parallel—women who became business entrepreneurs through diligence and hard work.

It is hard to pinpoint today the fervent dedication people have to a particular brand of mayonnaise. Perhaps it harks back to childhood with the taste of a perfect pimento cheese sandwich or a summertime tomato sandwich on white bread. For the generations of Americans who grew up during the Great Depression, sandwiches laced with mayonnaise were a daily staple.

Regardless of where your loyalty lies, you can thank these two women for helping to bring the ultimate gift to America foodies—the perfect mayonnaise.

I was raised on Hellmann’s. Need I say more?

~ Linda ~

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Anna Connelly: Lifesaver by Linda Harris Sittig

building-690043_640One hundred forty-six people perished in a matter of minutes in one of New York City’s most horrific fires—The Triangle Waist Company Fire in March of 1911. Most of the victims were young immigrant girls, all of them perished needlessly.

A significant number of lives might have been saved if the owners of the garment factory, located in the Asch Building in lower Manhattan, had installed Anna Connelly’s invention.

Fires in New York City were nothing new, but by 1900 what had changed was the height of the buildings. As the city grew, the buildings grew upward into the age of the skyscraper.

Unfortunately, many, if not most of the fire wagons had ladders and hoses that were only capable of reaching the fourth floor. When fires broke out on the upper floors of a building, the conflagrations quickly spread and anyone trapped above the fourth floor had a dismal chance of survival.

The Triangle Fire broke out on the upper three floors of the ten-story building.

Safety codes were extremely limited and lenient at the turn of the twentieth century in cities across America. Like many other entrepreneurs, the owners of the Triangle Waist Company paid more attention to increasing their profits than they did to ensure the safety of their workers.

Located on the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street, the Asch Building had been designed with wide open upper floor patterns, making  the space ideal for garment work. The rooms were gigantic with numerous long tables for cutters of the cotton fabric. The building had two small elevators and each floor had an exit door that was shielded by a partition. This purposeful design guaranteed that only one worker at a time could exit. The night watchman could then inspect each girl’s handbag, in the event she was trying to smuggle extra scraps of cloth out of the factory.

If you take the high flammability of cotton, small elevators, a puny fire escape, wide open rooms, and an exit that would allow only one person at a time to vacate the building…it was a space designed for a fire calamity.

According to the newspaper reports, the fire broke out on the eighth floor, quickly spread upward, and the workers trapped within the Triangle Company had literally no chance of survival. Some jumped to their deaths down an empty elevator shaft, others leaped from windows, but most of them died in the flames.

In 1887 Anna Connelly of Philadelphia had submitted a patent for her newest invention—a fire escape bridge. The precursor to modern-day fire escapes had already been invented, but Connelly’s patent was for a bridge type structure that would connect adjacent buildings at the roof line. If a fire broke out and people could get to the top of the building, they could escape across the ‘bridge’ to safety at the building next door. In the patent drawing, one can see that the bridge was open at both ends, and had steel or iron railings along the sides to prevent anyone from falling off—especially people running and pushing in panic mode.

Little is known of Anna Connelly’s life. According to city records, she was already filing patents by 1877 for less significant inventions, but her fire escape bridge is her most valuable contribution.  Like many other women inventors, her name is only mentioned briefly in history. No modern fire escape safety system bears her name.

If only the owners of the Asch Building had paid attention to the potential lifesaving ability of her invention, the Triangle Fire might have had a different outcome.

I hope you enjoyed learning about another strong woman.If you have not yet signed up to be a follower of this blog, please do so on the right sidebar.

You can also catch me on Twitter @LHsittig or my web page: My books appear on

~ linda ~


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Sanora Babb: Strong Woman of the Dust Bowl by Linda Harris Sittig

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This particular strong woman is near and dear to my heart, because of her one supposed failure.

Born in 1907 in Red Rock, Oklahoma, when the land was still a territory, Sanora Babb moved frequently as a child. When she was six, her unemployed father moved the family to eastern Colorado to homestead a 320-acre farm, where hundreds of acres were devoted to growing grasses for the making of brooms.

The isolated farm sat on the vast High Plains of Colorado and the family lived in a single room dugout, their home ‘papered’ on the inside with sheets of newspapers. Those pages were Sanora’s first exposure to the world of written stories, and journalism. Using the newspaper sheets, Sanora taught herself how to read.

After repeated crop failures the family moved on, first to Kansas and eventually to the panhandle of Oklahoma. There, Sanora and her sister were finally able to attend school. Although Sanora was eleven when she walked into her first classroom, she later graduated valedictorian of her high school class.

She worked odd jobs after high school while writing on the side, and landed her first journalism job as a cub reporter for the Kansas Garden City Herald.  Then in 1929, she moved to Los Angeles and was hired by the Los Angeles Times.

The stock market crash a few months later, plunging the country into the Great Depression. Sanora found herself unemployed and homeless. Undeterred, she found work as a secretary, and she continued to write.

On a trip home to see her mother, Sanora was astounded to see families she had known as prosperous, now waiting on soup lines along with evicted farmers. The visit made her acutely aware of the misery that the Dust Bowl and The Great Depression had thrust upon the people of the Oklahoma.

By 1938, Sanora was back in California and hired as an assistant to Tom Collins, the head of the local Farm Security Administration program. Together they traveled throughout the central California valley talking to migrant workers about federal programs that could offer them assistance. Everywhere they traveled, Sanora took copious notes for a novel she was writing about the Okies experience of surviving the devastation of the Dust Bowl, only to find a system of widespread discrimination in the migrant worker camps.

A year later she sent her manuscript, Whose Names Are Unknown, to Random House, and the editor, Bennett Cerf was so impressed he offered her a publishing contract. Her novel told the story of two Okie families whose lives had been decimated by the Dust Bowl and had packed up all their belongings and headed to California where they hoped to establish new lives. Once in California, they encountered bigotry and hatred and the hellish experience of life in the migrant camps.

Sound familiar? It should. While Sanora was taking notes about the migrant families, her boss Tom Collins was secretly sharing those notes with a friend who was also writing a novel. That friend was John Steinbeck.

Back in New York, Bennett Cerf and Random House were on the verge of publication when Viking Press launched The Grapes of Wrath to immediate success. Bennett Cerf had to make the decision of rescinding Sanora’s contract because he felt that a second novel on the same subject would not sell.

The Grapes of Wrath went on to win the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and made John Steinbeck a household name.  When asked about his research on the book, Steinbeck said he had made a few visits to the migrant camps with his good friend Tom Collins, and he would be forever grateful for the notes provided to him by Collins. Sanora Babb’s name was never mentioned.

Sanora decided not to attempt another novel but continued to write short stories. She became the common law wife of James Wong Howe, a noted Hollywood cinematographer, but could not legally marry him because of California’s anti-miscegenation laws (marrying a person of another race). Those laws were repealed in 1948 and Sanora formally married James in 1949.

She did go on to write several novels and at the age of 97 her original novel, Whose Names Are Unknown, was published. She died the following year in 2005. Critics have compared The Grapes of Wrath to Whose Names Are Unknown and have ascertained that Sanora’s novel was written with the eye of a true journalist, marrying raw details to unparalleled human compassion for a group of people who defined the true meaning of being an Okie.

Sanora Babb, I hope I did you proud. The Grapes of Wrath will never mean the same to me again.

Thanks to blog follower, Bucky Schriver for Sanora’s name.

If you have not yet told a friend about this blog, please do and ask them to become a follower. My goal is to reach 700 followers by summer. Catch me on twitter @LHSittig or or on Amazon with my novel, Cut From Strong Cloth.




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Isabelle Eberhardt and Noor Inayat Kahn by Linda Harris Sittig


It has often been said that actions speak louder than words. However, actions coupled with the written word can last even longer.

Both of the women I have chosen for this month’s blog hail from unique backgrounds. Blessed with good educations, they exhibited courage in the face of tyranny, and both followed the Muslim faith.

And, although separated by several decades, they both drew inspiration for  writing while living in Paris, France.

Isabelle Eberhardt was born in Switzerland in 1877 and from her teenage years showed a strong interest in the history of North Africa. Extremely competent in languages, she spoke French, Russian, German, and Italian, and later became fluent in Arabic as well.

In addition to languages, Isabelle had a talent for writing and became published by the age of eighteen. After the success of her first written piece, she began to focus her writing on the culture of North Africa, even though she had never been there. Two years later, after several more pieces were published, she journeyed with her mother to Algeria. Together, they chose to live outside the European quarter, and thus alienated themselves from the French population.

When her mother died a few months later, Isabelle decided to convert to Islam and remain in Algeria. She soon began to dress as an Arabic man in order to freely roam throughout Northern Africa to explore the culture. When her funds ran out, she left for Paris to write about French colonialism.

She eventually returned to Algeria, met an Algerian soldier and married him, and continued to write. For the next several years she studied Islam, wrote for newspapers advocating the theme of decolonization for North Africa, and traveled widely.

At the age of twenty-seven, in 1904, while renting a small mud house with her husband, a flash flood struck the area and Isabelle was killed. Many of her previously unpublished manuscripts were made public after her death and she was eventually regarded as a force of literacy action in the decolonization movement.

It would take Algeria another fifty-eight years before the country achieved independence from France.

Noor Inayat Kahn was born ten years after Isabelle Eberhardt died, but she was also a champion against political oppression.

Born in Moscow to a Muslim-Indian father and American mother, Noor Inayat Kahn initially moved with her family to London. Soon, the family relocated to Paris where Noor received much of her education and became fluent in both English and French.

She started her writing career penning children’s stories, but when France fell to the Nazi occupation in 1940, Noor escaped to England. There, she joined the British Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and trained to become a wireless operator.

Her mastery of dual languages made her an asset and she was quickly recruited to become a special agent. She would go on to spend two years as an active member of the French Resistance transmitting messages to the British.

In October of 1943, she was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to solitary confinement in a German prison. One year later she was transferred to the Dachau concentration camp and executed by a firing squad.

She was thirty years old.

Both Isabelle and Noor left their mark on the world through their writings, their courageous acts against political domination, and by being strong young women.

It helps to remember that good people exist in all parts of the world, regardless of religious and ethnic diversity.

Strong women might come from a variety of backgrounds, but they are united by their passion of trying to make this a better world for others.

Thank you to Harley Gamble who shared Isabelle’s story with me.

And, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BLOG! Strong Women in History is starting its 5th year with over 600 followers in 64 different countries. Give the blog a birthday present by sharing it with a new friend and telling them to become a follower, too.

You can catch me also on Twitter @LHsittig, my website at, and Amazon: I am currently hard at work finishing my second novel, Last Curtain Call, which features a strong female protagonist caught up in the violent coal mining strike of 1894, and was inspired by the life of a real woman.

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