Dorothy Lawrence dresses as man to report in WWI

Dorothy Lawrence
Dorothy Lawrence

Private Denis Smith went out to the front lines for the British during WWI. Only a handful of people knew that Denis Smith was Dorothy Lawrence, a woman, not yet twenty years old, dressed as a man to report from the front lines.

Her journey to the battlefield began with a desire to be a journalist and report about the war. Dorothy traveled from England to France, where she befriended two British soldiers in 1915. She asked them to help her get a khaki uniform, which they did. The group, who she would refer to as the “khaki accomplices,” soon became ten men, who taught Dorothy to drill and march and helped transform her look. After a haircut, darkened look, and razored cheeks for a shaving rash appearance, Dorothy felt ready.

Ten days later, feeling ill and worried about being discovered, which would place the men who helped her in danger, Dorothy revealed her identity to the commanding sergeant. She was arrested, questioned as a potential spy, and eventually released.

Dorothy Lawrence dresses as man to report in WWI” sources: Sapper Dorothy Lawrence, the Only English Woman Soldier, Late Royal Engineers, 51st division, 179th Tunnelling Company, B.E.F.

A snapshot biography of singer Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald was shy, and she loved to dance. But most of all, she loved to sing. “The only thing better than singing is more singing,” she would say.

Ella was born in Newport News, Virginia, in 1917 to unmarried parents who separated about two years after her birth. She grew up without her birth father, as her mother married another man. When Ella was fifteen, her mother passed away, leaving Ella’s stepfather to care for her. But he neglected and abused Ella before he too soon passed away.

Ella struggled for a few years after. She dropped out of school, was arrested, sent to reform school, where there too, she was abused. She ran away from the school, living anywhere she could find shelter in Harlem. But after singing on the streets of Harlem and then winning some singing competitions, she was invited to join a band. And from there, life changed; her singing career took off.

As her career blossomed, Ella also received much help along the way. One such person was Marilyn Monroe. “I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt,” Ella would say. “It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again.”

Amongst her many career accomplishments, Ella would win thirteen Grammy Awards along with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. But more than the awards, she was beloved by fans and other artists. A fellow singer remarked about Ella, “She was the best. She was the best there ever was.”

“A snapshot biography of singer Ella Fitzgerald” sources: Gottlieb, William P. Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald, New York, N.Y., ca. 1946, Monographic. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/gottlieb.02871/> / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_Fitzgerald

A snapshot biography of Anne Frank

Anne Frank

Anne Frank loved to write. She dreamt of being a journalist one day.

But when she was thirteen years old, her family went into hiding to avoid deportation to a concentration camp. They were Jewish, and this was Amsterdam during the Holocaust.

In hiding, Anne kept a diary, as writing brought her joy. In her words, “When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!”

Eventually, Anne and her family were discovered, arrested, and sent to a concentration camp. There most of the family, including Anne, perished. Her diary, however, survived and was published after the war. And while Anne never had the chance to become a journalist, her words continue to live on, influencing many worldwide.

“A snapshot biography of Anne Frank” sources: Photo collection Anne Frank House, Amsterdam / The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank / Wikimedia Commons

A snapshot biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe biography

Harriet Beecher Stowe had a gift for words and the courage to use them. With vigor, she would voice what she believed right at seeing wrongs in society. 

Born in Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1811, Harriet grew up in a family that believed in the importance of making a positive impact in the world. Raised with that mindset, well educated, Harriet found her way to contribute by writing books. 

Throughout her life, she would write thirty books and numerous articles. But it was her most famous work, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that helped shift society. The story, written about slavery in the U.S. and the impact of enslavement on people, was published first in serial form in 1851 and then as a book in 1852. It had an initial print run of five thousand copies. Three hundred thousand copies were sold within a year, and about two million copies within five years. While unconfirmed, President Lincoln reportedly said, “So this is the little lady who made this big war,” upon meeting Harriet in 1862. 

Shortly before writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet wrote, “I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak… I hope every woman who can write will not be silent.”

“A snapshot biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe” sources: https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/june-05/ / https://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org / Hedrick, Joan D. (1994). Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-506639-5. / National Archives and Records Administration / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Beecher_Stowe / Wikimedia Commons

A snapshot biography of actress Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman

In a time of glamorous stars, Ingrid Bergman was simple. Described as naturally shy, sweet, considerate, conscientious, a hard worker, she would become the biggest female box office star of her time.

Born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1915, Ingrid experienced much sorrow in her youth. Her mother passed away when Ingrid was two and a half years old. Her father passed away when she was fourteen. Sent to live with an aunt, the aunt passed away six months later. Ingrid went to live with another aunt and her five children.

The many challenges she experienced didn’t change her dream of becoming an actress. From a young age, Ingrid knew she wanted to act. Acting for the first time in a film came in 1932, her first speaking role in 1934, by her early 20s, Ingrid was a star in Sweden and would soon become a star in the U.S.

Ingrid went on to have a long and global acting career. She spoke Swedish, German, English, Italian and French, and acted in all five languages. And she won numerous awards for her films, including three Academy Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards, a Tony Award, four Golden Globe Awards, and a BAFTA Award.

“A snapshot biography of actress Ingrid Bergman ” sources: Press release publicity photo of Ingrid Bergman for film Gaslight, 1944 / Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ingrid_Bergman,_Gaslight_1944.jpg)

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A snapshot biography of abolitionist Thomas Garrett

Thomas Garrett

“Judge thou has left me not a dollar, but I wish to say to thee and to all in this courtroom that if anyone knows a fugitive who wants a shelter and a friend, send him to Thomas Garrett and he will befriend him.”

Thomas Garrett said these words as part of his closing argument in response to a judge, who said, “Thomas, I hope you will never be caught at this business again.”

The business being referred to was helping enslaved people escape to the north. The trial, which took place in 1846, was a lawsuit by two slaveowners for help Thomas provided a family that escaped. Thomas received a guilty verdict and a fine, leaving him in financial ruin. 

But he continued helping enslaved people escape. From his home in Wilmington, Delaware, the dividing line between North and South in the U.S., Thomas, an ardent abolitionist, was instrumental to the Underground Railroad. Working with Harriet Tubman and others, Thomas was able to help about 2,500 people make their way to freedom. 

He actively worked on behalf of minority groups into his early 80s, retiring shortly after the passing of the 15th Amendment in 1870. 

“A snapshot biography of abolitionist Thomas Garrett” sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Garrett / Kathleen Lonsdale, Is Peace Possible?, Penguin Books, 1957, p. 124 (referring to Speak Truth to Power by the AFSC) / Portrait taken circa 1850, Boston Public Library / Wikimedia Commons / Quote: History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2 (1874) by Henry Wilson, p. 85; also in Station Master on the Underground Railroad: The Life and Letters of Thomas Garrett (2005) by James A. McGowan, p. 65

Katharine Hepburn quote: “Kindness is one of the…

“Kindness is one of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon another. If someone is in need, lend them a helping hand. Do not wait for a thank you. True kindness lies within the act of giving without the expectation of something in return.”

– Katharine Hepburn

Photo source: Portrait of Katharine Hepburn is a publicity photograph taken in 1941 / Metro Goldwyn Mayer / Wikimedia Commons