Susan Travers was born in England in 1909. She grew up in the South of France, playing tennis and going to parties. She also became the only woman to ever serve in the French Foreign Legion.
Her autobiography, published when she was 90, details her experiences during the war. I read it several years ago and it has stuck with me. The descriptions of battle and conditions in North Africa were vivid.
The book was written with the help of Wendy Holden, and obviously some elements were probably polished or sidelined for readability. But the role of a woman in WWII battle experiences is particularly illuminating.
At the start of the war, Travers signed up as a nurse. Later she joined De Gaulle's Free French Forces. She went on to become the driver for a medical officer in the Foreign Legion. With the legion, she continued as a driver of variously cars, trucks and ambulances. She later served in the First Indochina War.
Her adventures are spiced up by her affairs, particularly with the men she served alongside. This made it awkward for her to tell her story; she waited until all the other characters had died before feeling free to publish it.
Welcome readers to one part of a month long festival of Women's History, in honour of Women's History Month. This was an idea from Sharon Howard and you can read more here
Also participating in this endeavour will be:
Jen Newby, Writing Women’s History
Judith Weingarten, Zenobia: Empress of the East
Penny Richards, Disability Studies
Heather Prescott, Knitting Clio
Another Damned Medievalist, Blogenspiel
Sharon Howard, Early Modern Notes
So drop by their sites and check on updates during the month. Heather was first out of the gates with her introduction to the carnival.
You can also follow the discussion on twitter by looking for the tags #whc11 and #twitterstoriennes.
For my first contribution, I wanted to look at one woman born on this day: but depressingly few women are listed in the various "born on this day" sites - which rather sums up the problem of women being ignored by history. Aside from the occasional queen or saint, women don't start appearing in such lists until you reach those born in the latter nineteenth century.
But I'll be back later today with my first History Heroine.