Anna Harriette Leonowens


Anna Harriette Leonowens (5 November 1831 – 19 January 1915) born Anna Harriet Emma Edwards, was an Anglo-Indian or Indian-born British travel writer, educator, and social activist.

She became well-known with the publication of her memoirs, beginning with The English Governess at the Siamese Court (1870), which chronicled her experiences in Siam (Thailand), as teacher to the children of the Siamese King Mongkut. Leonowen’s own account has been fictionalised in Margaret Landon’s 1944 best-selling novel Anna and the King of Siam, as well as films and television series based on the book, most notably Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1951 hit musical The King and I.

During the course of her life, Leonowens also lived in Aden, Australia, Singapore, the United States and Canada. Among other achievements, she co-founded the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

Early life and family

Leonowens’ maternal grandfather, William Vawdrey (or Vaudrey) Glascott, was an English-born commissioned officer of the 4th Regiment, Bombay Native Infantry, in the Bombay Army. Glascott arrived in India in 1810, and was apparently married in 1815, although his wife’s name is not known. According to biographer Susan Morgan, the only viable explanation for the complete and deliberate lack of information regarding Glascott’s wife, in official British records, is that she “was not European”. Morgan suggests that she was “most likely … Anglo-Indian (of mixed race) born in India.” The Glascotts’ first child, Mary Anne Glascott, was born in 1815 or 1816.

Mary Glascott married a non-commissioned officer of the Sappers and Miners, Sergeant Thomas Edwards on 15 March 1829 in Tannah. Edwards was from London and a former cabinetmaker. Tom Edwards’s second daughter was born in Ahmednagar district, India, on 5 November 1831, but her father had died three months earlier. While she was christened Anna Harriet Emma Edwards, Leonowens later changed Harriet to “Harriette” and ceased using her third given name (Emma).

For most of her adult life, Anna Edwards had no contact with her family and took pains to disguise her origins by claiming that she had been born with the surname “Crawford” in Caernarfon and giving her father’s rank as Captain. By doing so, she protected not only herself but her children, who would have had greater opportunities if their mixed-race heritage remained unknown. Investigations uncovered no record of her birth at Caernarfon, news which came as a shock to the town that had long claimed her as one of its most famous natives.

Mary Edwards later married an Irish soldier, Patrick Donohoe of the Royal Engineers. In 1845, Anna’s 15-year-old sister, Eliza Julia Edwards, married James Millard, a Sergeant-Major with the 4th Troop Artillery, Indian Army on 24 April 1845 in Deesa, Banaskantha, Gujarat, India. Their daughter, Eliza Sarah Millard, born in 1858 in India, married on 7 October 1864 in Surat, Gujarat, India. Her husband was Edward John Pratt, a 38-year-old British civil servant who had served in the Indian Navy. One of their sons, William Henry Pratt born 23 November 1887 upon their return to London, England was better known by his stage name of Boris Karloff. Anna Edwards never approved of her sister’s marriage, and her self-imposed separation from the family was so complete that, decades later, when a Pratt relative contacted her, she replied threatening suicide if he persisted.

Anna Edwards’s relationship with her stepfather Donohoe was not a happy one, and she later accused him of putting pressure on her, like her sister (with whom she also fell out), to marry a much older man. In 1847, the family went to Aden, to where Donohoe had been seconded as assistant supervisor of public works. Here Anna Edwards was taught by the resident chaplain and orientalist, the Revd. George Percy Badger, and his wife Maria, a missionary schoolmistress. The Badgers recognised the girl’s aptitude for languages and, in 1849, they took her with them on a tour through Egypt and Palestine.

Marriage, Western Australia, and widowhood

At the end of 1849, Anna Edwards returned with her family to India, where in Poona she married her childhood sweetheart, Thomas Leon (or Lane/Lean) Owens—he later merged his second and last names as Leonowens—over the objections of her stepfather and mother. Her husband was a civilian clerk (rather than the army officer suggested by her memoir). In 1852 the young couple, accompanied by Anna’s uncle W. V. Glasscott, sailed to Australia via Singapore, where they boarded the barque Alibi. The journey from Singapore was long and Anna gave birth to a son, Thomas, on board. On 8 March 1853, nearing the Western Australian coast, the Alibi was almost wrecked on a reef. Ten days later Anna, Thomas, their newborn son and Glasscott arrived in Perth, where Thomas quickly found employment as a clerk in the colonial administration.

In Perth, Anna, at this time going by her middle name, Harriett, tried to start a school for young ladies. In March 1854, later that year, a daughter, Avis Annie was born. In 1855, the Leonowens family moved to Lynton, a remote convict depot north of Geraldton where Thomas was appointed the Commissariat Storekeeper and Anna gave birth to their son Louis there. By early 1857, the Lynton Convict Depot had closed and the Leonowens family were back in Perth, but in April 1857 sailed to Singapore. Soon moving to Penang, Thomas found work as a hotel keeper, only to die of apoplexy, leaving Anna Leonowens an impoverished widow. Thomas Leonowens was buried on 7 May 1859 in the Protestant Cemetery in Penang. Of their four children, the two eldest had died in infancy. To support her surviving daughter Avis and son Louis, Leonowens again took up teaching, and opened a school for the children of British officers in Singapore. While the enterprise was not a financial success, it established her reputation as an educator.

Royal governess

In 1862, Leonowens accepted an offer made by the Siamese consul in Singapore, Tan Kim Ching, to teach the wives and children of Mongkut, King of Siam. The king wished to give his 39 wives and concubines and 82 children a modern Western education on scientific secular lines, which earlier missionaries’ wives had not provided. Leonowens sent her daughter Avis to school in England, and took her son Louis with her to Bangkok. She succeeded Dan Beach Bradley, an American missionary, as teacher to the Siamese court.

Leonowens served at court until 1867, a period of nearly six years, first as a teacher and later as language secretary for the king. Although her position carried great respect and even a degree of political influence, she did not find the terms and conditions of her employment to her satisfaction, and came to be regarded by the king himself as a “difficult woman and more difficult than generality”.

In 1868, Leonowens was on leave for her health in England and had been negotiating a return to the court on better terms when Mongkut fell ill and died. The king mentioned Leonowens and her son in his will, though they did not receive a legacy. The new monarch, fifteen-year-old Chulalongkorn, who succeeded his father, wrote Leonowens a warm letter of thanks for her services. He did not invite her to resume her post but they corresponded amicably for many years. At the age of 27, Louis Leonowens returned to Siam and was granted a commission of Captain in the Royal Cavalry. Chulalongkorn made reforms for which his former tutor claimed some of the credit, including the abolition of the practice of prostration before the royal person. However, many of those same reforms were goals established by his father.

Literary career

By 1869, Leonowens was in New York City, where she opened a school for girls for a brief period on Staten Island, and began contributing travel articles to a Boston journal, Atlantic Monthly, including “The Favorite of the Harem”, reviewed by the New York Times as “an Eastern love story, having apparently a strong basis of truth”. She expanded her articles into two volumes of memoirs, beginning with The English Governess at the Siamese Court (1870), which earned her immediate fame but also brought charges of sensationalism. In her writing, she casts a critical eye over court life; the account is not always a flattering one, and has become the subject of controversy in Thailand; she has also been accused of exaggerating her influence with the king. There have also been claims of fabrication: the likelihood of the argument over slavery, for example, when King Mongkut was for 27 years a Buddhist monk and later abbot, before ascending to the throne. It is thought that his religious training and vocation would never have permitted the views expressed by Leonowens’ cruel, eccentric, and self-indulgent monarch.

Leonowens was a feminist and in her writings she tended to focus on what she saw as the subjugated status of Siamese women, including those sequestered within the Nang Harm, or royal harem. She emphasised that although Mongkut had been a forward-looking ruler, he had desired to preserve customs such as prostration and sexual slavery which seemed unenlightened and degrading. The sequel, Romance of the Harem (1873), incorporates tales based on palace gossip, including the king’s alleged torture and execution of one of his concubines, Tuptim; the story lacks independent corroboration and is dismissed as out of character for the king by some critics. A great granddaughter, Princess Vudhichalerm Vudhijaya (b. 21 May 1934), stated in a 2001 interview: “King Mongkut was in the monk’s hood for 27 years before he was king. He would never have ordered an execution. It is not the Buddhist way.” She added that the same Tuptim was her grandmother and had married Chulalongkorn.(He had 36 wives.)

While in the United States, Leonowens also earned much-needed money through popular lecture tours. At venues such as the house of Mrs. Sylvanus Reed in Fifty-third Street, New York City, in the regular members’ course at Association Hall, or under the auspices of bodies such as the Long Island Historical Society, she lectured on subjects including “Christian Missions to Pagan Lands” and “The Empire of Siam, and the City of the Veiled Women”. The New York Times reported: “Mrs. Leonowens’ purpose is to awaken an interest, and enlist sympathies, in behalf of missionary labors, particularly in their relation to the destiny of Asiatic women.” She joined the literary circles of New York and Boston and made the acquaintance of local lights on the lecture circuit, such as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a book whose anti-slavery message Leonowens had brought to the attention of the royal household. She said the book influenced Chulalongkorn’s reform of slavery in Siam, a process he had begun in 1868, and which would end with its total abolition in 1915. Meanwhile, Louis had accumulated debts in the U.S. by 1874 and fled the country. He became estranged from his mother and did not see her for 19 years.


In 1878, Leonowens’s daughter Avis Annie Crawford Connybeare married Thomas Fyshe, a Scottish banker and the cashier (general manager) of the Bank of Nova Scotia in Halifax, where she resided for nineteen years as she continued to travel the world. This marriage ended the family’s money worries.

Leonowens resumed her teaching career and taught daily from 9 am to 12 noon for an autumn half at the Berkeley School of New York at 252 Madison Avenue, Manhattan, beginning on 5 October 1880; this was a new preparatory school for colleges and schools of science and her presence was advertised in the press. Leonowens visited Russia in 1881, shortly after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, and other European countries, and continued to publish travel articles and books.

She settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, where she again became involved in women’s education, and was a suffragist and one of the founders of the Local Council of Women of Halifax and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. After nineteen years, she moved to Montreal, Quebec.

Leonowens’s son, Louis, returned to Siam and became an officer in the Siamese royal cavalry. He married Caroline Knox, a daughter of Sir Thomas George Knox, the British consul-general in Bangkok (1824–1887), and his Thai wife, Prang Yen. Under Chulalongkorn’s patronage, Louis Leonowens founded the successful trading company that bears his name: The Louis T. Leonowens Co. Ltd., which is still trading in Thailand.

Anna Leonowens met Chulalongkorn again when he visited London in 1897, thirty years after she had left Siam. During this audience the king took the opportunity to express his thanks in person but he also voiced his dismay at the inaccuracies in Leonowens’ books.

Anna Leonowens died on 19 January 1915, at 83 years of age. She was interred in Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal.

Anna Leonowens in fiction and film

Margaret Landon’s novel Anna and the King of Siam (1944) provides a fictionalised look at Anna Leonowens’s years at the royal court, developing the abolitionist theme that resonated with her American readership. In 1946, Talbot Jennings and Sally Benson adapted it into the screenplay for a dramatic film of the same name, starring Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison. In response, Thai authors Seni and Kukrit Pramoj wrote their own account in 1948 and sent it to American politician and diplomat Abbot Low Moffat (1901–1996), who drew on it for his biography Mongkut, the King of Siam (1961). Moffat donated the Pramoj brothers’ manuscript to the Library of Congress in 1961.

Landon had, however, created the iconic image of Leonowens, and “in the mid-20th century she came to personify the eccentric Victorian female traveler”. The novel was adapted as a hit musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, The King and I (1951), starring Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner, which ran 1,246 performances on Broadway and was also a hit in London and on tour. In 1956, a film version was released, with Deborah Kerr starring in the role of Leonowens and Brynner reprising his role as the king. Revived many times on stage (with Brynner starring in revivals until 1985), the musical has remained a favourite of the theatregoing public.

The humorous depiction of Mongkut as a polka-dancing despot, as well as the king’s and Anna’s apparent romantic feeling for each other, is condemned as disrespectful in Thailand, where the Rodgers and Hammerstein film and musical were banned by the government. The 1946 film version of Anna and the King of Siam starring Rex Harrison as Mongkut was allowed to be shown in Thailand, although it was banned in newly independent India as an inaccurate insult by westerners to an Eastern king. In 1950, the Thai government did not permit the film to be shown for the second time in Thailand. The books Romance in the Harem and An English Governess at the Siamese Court were not banned in Thailand. There were even Thai translations of these books by respected Thai writer “Humorist” (Ob Chaivasu).

During a visit to the United States in 1960, the monarch of Thailand, King Bhumibol (a great-grandson of Mongkut), and his entourage explained that from what they could gather from the reviews of the musical, the characterisation of Mongkut seemed “90 percent exaggerated. My great-grandfather was really quite a mild and nice man.” Years later, during her 1985 visit to New York, Bhumibol’s wife, Queen Sirikit, went to see the Broadway musical at the invitation of Yul Brynner. The then ambassador of Thailand to the US gave another reason for Thailand’s disapproval of The King and I: its ethno-centric attitude and its barely hidden insult on the whole Siamese nation as childish and inferior to the Westerners.

In 1972, Twentieth Century Fox produced a non-musical American TV series for CBS, Anna and the King, with Samantha Eggar taking the part of Leonowens and Brynner reprising his role as the king. Margaret Landon charged the makers with “inaccurate and mutilated portrayals” of her literary property and sued unsuccessfully for copyright infringement. The series was not a success and was canceled after only 13 episodes. In 1999 an animated film using the songs of the musical was released by Warner Bros. Animation. In the same year, Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-fat starred in a new feature-length cinematic adaptation of Leonowens’ books, also titled Anna and the King. One Thai critic complained that the filmmakers had made Mongkut “appear like a cowboy”; this version was also banned by censors in Thailand.

Leonowens appears as a character in Paul Marlowe’s novel Knights of the Sea, in which she travels from Halifax to Baddeck in 1887 to take part in a campaign to promote women’s suffrage during a by-election.


Mary Ann Wade


Mary Ann Wade (5 October 1777 – 17 December 1859) was only 11 years old when transported to Australia as the youngest convict aboard the Lady Juliana as part of the Second Fleet. Her family grew to include five generations and over 300 descendants in her own lifetime and today number in the tens of thousands.

Early years in London

Mary was born on 5 October 1777 at Southwark, London to Mary English and George Wade of Westminster, Middlesex and then christened on 21 December 1777 at Saint Olave, Southwark, Surrey, England. She spent her days sweeping the streets of London as a means of begging. On 5 October 1788, Mary with another child, Jane Whiting, 14 years old, stole the clothes (one cotton frock, one linen tippet, one linen cap) from Mary Phillips, an 8 year old, who at the time was collecting water in a bottle at a privy. They then sold the frock to a pawnbroker. Mary was reported by another child to an Officer of the Law who later found the tippet in Mary’s room whereupon she was arrested and placed in Bridewell Prison. Her trial was held on 14 January 1789 at the Old Bailey, where she was found guilty and was sentenced to death by hanging.

Penal transportation

On 11 March 1789, King George III was proclaimed cured of an unnamed madness; it is assumed that he suffered from porphyria, a degenerative mental disease. Five days later, in the spirit of celebration, all the women on death row, including Mary Wade, had their sentences commuted to penal transportation to Australia. She spent 93 days in the Newgate Prison before being transported on the Lady Juliana to Australia, which was the first convict ship to hold a cargo made up entirely of women and children. After an 11-month voyage across the ocean, the ship arrived at Sydney on 3 June 1790 and Wade was sent on to Norfolk Island aboard the Surprise, arriving on 7 August 1790.

Life in Australia

She had two children on Norfolk Island, Sarah to Teague (Edward) Harrigan, an emancipated Irish transportee in 1793 and William in 1795, who is believed to be Jonathan Brooker’s son. When they arrived back in Sydney, Mary lived with Teague Harrigan, with whom she had another son, Edward, in their tent on the banks of the Tank Stream in Sydney in 1803. Teague left to go on a whaling expedition in 1806 and never returned.

Marriage and family

Mary lived with Jonathan Brooker near the Hawkesbury River from 1809. It was here that Mary raised her family which numbered 21 children, seven of whom lived to have their own children. Jonathan was given his Certificate of Freedom in February 1811 and then given a grant of 60 acres (240,000 m2) at Tarrawanna, New South Wales by Governor Macquarie. Mary finally received her Certificate of Freedom on the first of September 1812. In 1816 they settled on the property of Airds (made up of the modern suburbs of Airds, Bradbury, St Helens Park, Rosemeadow, among others) in Campbelltown, New South Wales with their family. Mary married Jonathan Brooker on 10 February 1817 at St Lukes, Liverpool, New South Wales and her husband owned 30 acres (1822) until bushfires destroyed their property (1823) whilst Jon’s livelihood as a Chair-maker by trade ended as his tools were all destroyed. The family became destitute and pleaded to the Governor of the time, Governor Thomas Brisbane, for aid. They recovered with Mary and Jon going on to own 62 acres (250,000 m2) in Illawarra (1828). Here Mary lived until Jon’s death on 14 March 1833, when he was buried in the graveyard of St. Peter’s Church, Campbelltown, NSW. Mary died on 17 December 1859 at the age of 82, in Wollongong, New South Wales and her funeral service was the very first to be held in St Paul’s Church of England, Fairy Meadow, New South Wales with her son donating the land on which the church was built.


At the time of her death, Mary had over 300 living descendants and is considered as one of the founding mothers of the early settlers to Australia. Today her descendants number in the tens of thousands, including Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia. Mary’s story is told in the book “Mary Wade to Us” published as a family tree, noted in the further reading below. This, and the stories of Mr Rudd’s other convict ancestors has now been collated into two leather-bound volumes by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is kept in the National Library of Australia in Canberra.


Babushka Lady

babushka lady (2)

The Babushka Lady is a nickname for an unknown woman present during the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy who might have photographed the events that occurred in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza at the time President John F. Kennedy was shot. Her nickname arose from the headscarf she wore similar to scarves worn by elderly Russian women.
The Babushka Lady was seen to be holding a camera by eyewitnesses and was also seen in film accounts of the assassination. She was observed standing on the grass between Elm and Main streets and she can be seen in the Zapruder film as well as in the films of Orville Nix, Marie Muchmore, and Mark Bell (44 seconds and 49 seconds into the Bell film: even though the shooting had already taken place and most of her surrounding witnesses took cover, she can be seen still standing with the camera at her face). After the shooting, she crossed Elm Street and joined the crowd that went up the grassy knoll in search of a gunman. She is last seen in photographs walking east on Elm Street and neither she nor the film she may have taken have been positively identified.
The Babushka Lady never came forward. The police and the FBI did not find her, and the film shot from her position never turned up, despite a request by the FBI to local photo processors that they would be interested in any pictures or films of the assassination. Jack Harrison, a Kodak technician in Dallas, claimed to have developed on November 22, 1963, the day of the assassination, an out-of-focus color slide for a brunette in her late thirties that showed a view similar to the Babushka Lady’s position.
Beverly Oliver
In 1970, a woman named Beverly Oliver came forward and claimed to be the Babushka Lady. She had worked in 1963 as a singer and dancer at the Colony Club, a strip club that competed with Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club next door. In 1994, she released a memoir entitled Nightmare in Dallas which purports to chronicle the events of the day of Kennedy’s assassination. Oliver said that after the assassination, she was contacted at work by two men who she thought were “either FBI or Secret Service agents”. According to Oliver, the men told her that they wanted to develop her film and would return it to her within ten days, but they never returned the film.
Beverly Oliver’s recollections were the basis for a scene in Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK in which a character named “Beverly” meets Jim Garrison in a Dallas nightclub. Played by Lolita Davidovich, she is depicted in the director’s cut as wearing a head scarf at Dealey Plaza and speaking of having given the film she shot to two men claiming to be FBI agents.
House Select Committee on Assassinations report
In March 1979, the Photographic Evidence Panel of the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations indicated that they were unable to locate any film attributed to the Babushka Lady. According to their report: “Initially, Robert Groden, a photographic consultant to the committee advised the panel as to pertinent photographic issues and related materials. Committee investigators located many of the suggested films and photographs, however, some items were never located, i.e. the Babushka Lady film, a color photograph by Norman Similas, and the original negative of the Betzner photograph.”
Public hearings of the Assassination Records Review Board
On November 18, 1994, assassination researcher Gary Mack testified before the Assassination Records Review Board that he had recently been told by an executive in Kodak’s Dallas office that a woman in her early 30s with brunette hair brought in film purported to be of the assassination scene while they were processing the Zapruder film. According to Mack, the executive said the woman explained to federal investigators already at the film processing office that she ran from Main Street across the grass to Elm Street where she stopped and snapped a photo with some people in the foreground of Kennedy’s limousine and the Texas School Book Depository. Mack said that he was told by the Kodak executive that the photo was extremely blurry and “virtually useless” and indicated that the woman likely went home without anyone recording her identification. After suggesting that the woman in the story may have been the Babushka Lady, Mack then told the Board, “I do not believe that Beverly Oliver is the Babushka Lady, or, let me rephrase that, she certainly could be but the rest of the story is a fabrication.”
Also appearing that same day before the ARRB as “Beverly Oliver Massegee”, Oliver stated that she was 17 years old at the time of the assassination. She told the Board that she was filming with an “experimental” 8 mm movie camera approximately 20 to 30 feet from Kennedy when he was shot and that the film was confiscated by a man who identified himself as an FBI agent. According to Oliver, she handed over the camera because the man was an authority figure and because she feared being caught in possession of marijuana.

Sarah Emma Edmonds


Sarah Emma Edmonds (December 1841 – September 5, 1898), was a Canadian-born woman who is known for serving as a man with the Union Army during the American Civil War. A master of disguise, Edmonds exploits were described in the bestselling Nurse and Spy in the Union Army. In 1992, she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.

Civil War Service

Sarah Emma Edmonds had always been adventurous; her interest in adventure was sparked by a book she read in her youth called Fanny Campbell, the Female Pirate Captain, telling the story of Fanny Campbell and her adventures on a pirate ship while dressed as a man. Fanny remained dressed as a man in order to pursue other adventures, to which Edmonds attributes her desire to cross dress. During the Civil War, she enlisted in the 2nd Michigan Infantry on her second try, disguising herself as a man named “Franklin Flint Thompson,” the middle name possibly after the city she volunteered in, Flint, Michigan. She felt that it was her duty to serve her country and it was truly patriotic. Extensive physical examinations were not required for enlistment at the time, and she was not discovered. She at first served as a male field nurse, participating in several campaigns under General McClellan, including the First and Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, the Peninsula Campaign, Vicksburg, and others. However, some historians today say she could not have been at all these different places at the same time.

Frank Thompson’s career took a turn during the war when a Union spy in Richmond, Virginia was discovered and went before a firing squad, and a friend, James Vesey, was killed in an ambush. She took advantage of the open spot and the opportunity to avenge her friend’s death. She applied for, and won, the position as Franklin Thompson. Although there is no proof in her military records that she actually served as a spy, she wrote extensively about her experiences disguised as a spy during the war.

Traveling into enemy territory in order to gather information required Emma to come up with many disguises. One disguise required Edmonds to use silver nitrate to dye her skin black, wear a black wig, and walk into the Confederacy disguised as a black man by the name of Cuff. Another time she entered as an Irish peddler woman by the name of Bridget O’Shea, claiming that she was selling apples and soap to the soldiers. Yet another time she was “working for the Confederates” as a black laundress when a packet of official papers fell out of an officer’s jacket. When Thompson returned to the Union with the papers, the generals were delighted. Another time, she worked as a detective in Maryland as Charles Mayberry, finding an agent for the Confederacy.

Edmonds’ career as Frank Thompson came to an end when she contracted malaria. She abandoned her duty in the military, fearing that if she went to a military hospital she would be discovered. She checked herself into a private hospital, intending to return to military life once she had recuperated. Once she recovered, however, she saw posters listing Frank Thompson as a deserter. Rather than return to the army under another alias or as Frank Thompson, risking execution for desertion, she decided to serve as a female nurse at a Washington, D.C. hospital for wounded soldiers run by the United States Christian Commission. There was speculation that Edmonds may have deserted because of John Reid having been discharged months earlier. There is evidence in his diary that she had mentioned leaving before she had contracted malaria. Her fellow soldiers spoke highly of her military service, and even after her disguise was discovered, considered her a good soldier. She was referred to as a fearless soldier and was active in every battle her regiment faced.

Edmonds’ Memoir

In 1864, Boston publisher DeWolfe, Fiske, & Co. published Edmonds’ account of her military experiences as The Female Spy of the Union Army. One year later, her story was picked up by a Hartford, CT publisher who issued it with a new title, Nurse and Spy in the Union Army. It was a huge success, selling in excess of 175,000 copies.

Personal Life

In 1867, she married L. H. Seelye, a Canadian mechanic, with whom she had three children.

Later Life

In 1886, she received a government pension of $12 a month for her military service, and after some campaigning, was able to have the charge of desertion dropped, and receive an honorable discharge. In 1897, she became the only woman admitted to the Grand Army of the Republic, the Civil War Union Army veterans’ organization. Edmonds died in La Porte, Texas, and is buried in the GAR section of Washington Cemetery in Houston.


A number of fictional accounts of her life having been written for young adults in the 20th century, including Ann Rinaldi’s Girl in Blue.

She was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1992.

Edmonds’ book was reprinted again in 1999 with a new title, Memoirs of a Soldier, Nurse and Spy.


Narcissa Prentiss Whitman


Narcissa Prentiss Whitman (March 14, 1808 – November 29, 1847) was an American missionary in the Oregon Country of what would become the state of Washington. Along with Eliza Hart Spalding (wife of Henry Spalding), she was the first European-American woman to cross the Rocky Mountains in 1836 on her way to found the Protestant Whitman Mission with husband Dr. Marcus Whitman near modern day Walla Walla, Washington.

Early life

Narcissa Prentiss was born in Prattsburgh, New York, on March 14, 1808. She was the third of nine children of Judge Stephen and Clarissa Prentiss. She was the oldest of the five girls, followed by Clarissa, Mary Ann, Jane, and Harriet. She also had four brothers. Like many young women of the era, she became caught up in the Second Great Awakening. She decided that her true calling was to become a missionary, and was accepted for missionary service in March 1835. Narcissa was educated at the Franklin Academy in Prattsburgh before her marriage to Dr. Marcus Whitman on February 18, 1836 in Angelica, New York. Her birthplace in Prattsburgh is open to the public as the Narcissa Prentiss House.

Journey west

Shortly after their wedding, Narcissa and Marcus, along with the also recently married Henry and Eliza Spalding, headed west for the Oregon Country in March 1836 to begin their missionary activities amongst the natives. The journey was by sleigh, canal barge, wagon, river sternwheeler, horseback, and foot. The founder of Ogden, Utah, Miles Goodyear, traveled with them until Fort Hall. On September 1, 1836, they arrived at Fort Walla Walla, a Hudson’s Bay Company outpost near present day Walla Walla, Washington. They then traveled on to Fort Vancouver where they were hosted by Dr. John McLoughlin before returning to the Walla Walla area to build their mission. Narcissa was one of the first white women to cross the Rocky Mountains and live in the area. She was something of a novel addition to the community for the local Native Americans, the Cayuse.

Whitman Mission

The Whitman Mission began to take shape in 1837, eventually growing into a major stopping point along the Oregon Trail. Methodist missionary Jason Lee would stop off in 1838 at the mission on his way east to gather reinforcements in the United States for his mission in the Willamette Valley. Then, in 1840, mountain man Joseph Meek, whom the Whitmans met on their journey to the area, stopped off on his way to the Willamette Valley.

Built at Waiilatpu, the settlement was about six miles (10 km) from Fort Walla Walla and along the Walla Walla River. At the mission, Narcissa gave Bible classes to the native population, as well as teaching them Western domestic chores that were unknown to the Native Americans. Besides the missionary goals of converting the natives, she also ran the household. Her daily activities included cooking, washing and ironing clothes, churning butter, making candles and soap, and baking.

On March 14, 1837, on her twenty-ninth birthday, Narcissa gave birth to the first white American born in Oregon Country. She named her Alice Clarissa after her two grandmothers, and she would be their only natural child. Unfortunately, she drowned in the Walla Walla River on June 23, 1839. Unattended for only a few moments, she had gone down to the river bank to fill her cup with water and fell in. Though her body was found shortly after, all attempts to revive her failed. However, other children came to the mission, including the seven Sager orphans, to whom Narcissa became a second mother.

Just before winter, in late 1842, Marcus traveled back east to recruit more missionaries for the mission. During the time he was away, Narcissa traveled west and visited other outposts in the territory including Fort Vancouver, Jason Lee’s Methodist Mission near present day Salem, Oregon, and another mission near Astoria, Oregon. Marcus returned with his nephew Perrin from his trip East in 1843.

Whitman Massacre

Throughout their time in Oregon Country, Narcissa and Marcus encountered trouble with the native tribes. The Cayuse and the Nez Percé tribes were suspicious of the activities and the encouragement of the Americans. As early as 1841, Tiloukaikt had tried to force them to leave Waiilatpu and the ancestral homeland.

In 1847, a measles epidemic broke out among the native population. Spread to the natives by contact with whites, the native population lacked immunity to the disease and it spread quickly. The American populations had some limited immunity to measles which meant a lower mortality rate than the natives. This discrepancy stirred discontent among the natives who felt Marcus was only curing the white people while letting Indian children die. The resentment concerning all the different issues boiled over on November 29, 1847 when Tiloukaikt and others attacked the mission killing both Marcus and Narcissa. This event would be remembered as the Whitman Massacre, in which eleven others were killed and many more taken hostage.


Joséphine de Beauharnais


Joséphine de Beauharnais ( 23 June 1763 – 29 May 1814) was the first wife of Napoleon I, and thus the first Empress of the French.

Her first husband Alexandre de Beauharnais was guillotined during the Reign of Terror, and she was imprisoned in the Carmes prison until her release five days after Alexandre’s execution. Through her daughter, Hortense, she was the maternal grandmother of Napoléon III. Through her son, Eugène, she was the great-grandmother of later Swedish and Danish kings and queens. The reigning houses of Belgium, Norway and Luxembourg also descend from her. She did not bear Napoleon any children; as a result, he divorced her in 1810 to marry Marie Louise of Austria.

Joséphine was the recipient of numerous love letters written by Napoleon, many of which still exist. Her Château de Malmaison was noted for its magnificent rose garden, which she supervised closely, owing to her passionate interest in roses, collected from all over the world.

Early life and first marriage

Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie was born in Les Trois-Îlets, Martinique to a wealthy white Creole family that owned a sugar plantation. She was a daughter of Joseph-Gaspard Tascher (1735–1790), chevalier, Seigneur de la Pagerie, lieutenant of Troupes de Marine, and his wife, the former Rose-Claire des Vergers de Sannois (1736–1807), whose maternal grandfather, Anthony Brown, may have been Irish, albeit with an Anglo-Saxon name.

The family struggled financially after hurricanes destroyed their estate in 1766. Edmée (Desirée for the French), Joséphine’s paternal aunt, had been the mistress of François, Vicomte de Beauharnais, a French aristocrat. When François’s health began to fail, Edmée arranged the advantageous marriage of her niece, Catherine-Désirée, to François’s son Alexandre. This marriage would be highly beneficial for the Tascher family, because it would keep the Beauharnais money in their hands; however, twelve-year-old Catherine died on 16 October 1777, before leaving Martinique for France. In service to their aunt Edmée’s goals, Catherine was replaced by her older sister, Joséphine.

In October 1779, Joséphine went to France with her father. She married Alexandre on 13 December 1779, in Noisy-le-Grand. Although their marriage was not happy, they had two children: a son, Eugène de Beauharnais (1781–1824), and a daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais (1783–1837), who married Napoléon’s brother Louis Bonaparte in 1802. On 2 March 1794, during the Reign of Terror, the Comité de Salut public ordered the arrest of her husband. He was jailed in the Carmes prison in Paris. Considering Joséphine as too close to the counter-revolutionary financial circles, the Committee ordered her arrest on April 18, 1794. A warrant of arrest was issued against her on 2 Floréal, year II (April 21, 1794), and she was imprisoned in the Carmes prison until 10 Thermidor, year II (28 July 1794).

Her husband was accused of having poorly defended Mainz in July 1793, and considered an aristocratic “suspect”, was sentenced to death and guillotined, with his cousin Augustin, on 23 July 1794, on the Place de la Révolution (today’s Place de la Concorde) in Paris. Joséphine was freed five days later, thanks to the fall and execution of Robespierre, which ended the Reign of Terror. On 27 July 1794 (9 Thermidor), Tallien arranged the liberation of Thérèse Cabarrus, and soon after that of Joséphine. In June 1795, a new law allowed her to recover the possessions of Alexandre.

Marriage to Napoléon

Joséphine de Beauharnais, now a widow, had affairs with several leading political figures, including Paul François Jean Nicolas Barras. In 1795, she met Napoléon Bonaparte, six years her junior, and became his mistress. In a letter to her in December, he wrote, “I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night’s intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses.” In January 1796, Napoléon Bonaparte proposed to her and they married on 9 March. Until meeting Bonaparte, she was known as Rose, but Bonaparte preferred to call her Joséphine, the name she adopted from then on.

The marriage was not well received by Napoléon’s family, who were shocked that he had married an older widow with two children. His mother and sisters were especially resentful of Joséphine as they felt clumsy and unsophisticated in her presence. Two days after the wedding, Bonaparte left to lead the French army in Italy. During their separation, he sent her many love letters. In February 1797, he wrote: “You to whom nature has given spirit, sweetness, and beauty, you who alone can move and rule my heart, you who know all too well the absolute empire you exercise over it!”

Joséphine, left behind in Paris, began an affair in 1796 with a handsome Hussar lieutenant, Hippolyte Charles. Rumors of the affair reached Napoléon; he was infuriated, and his love for her changed entirely.

In 1798, Napoléon led a French army to Egypt. During this campaign, Napoléon started an affair of his own with Pauline Fourès, the wife of a junior officer, who became known as “Napoléon’s Cleopatra.” The relationship between Joséphine and Napoléon was never the same after this. His letters became less loving. No subsequent lovers of Joséphine are recorded, but Napoléon had sexual affairs with several other women. In 1804, he said, “Power is my mistress.”

In December 1800, Joséphine was nearly killed in the Plot of the rue Saint-Nicaise, an attempt on Napoléon’s life with a bomb planted in a parked cart. On December 24, she and Napoleon went to see a performance of Joseph Haydn’s Creation at the Opéra, accompanied by several friends and family. The party travelled in two carriages. Joséphine was in the second, with her daughter Hortense, her pregnant sister-in-law, Caroline Murat, and General Jean Rapp. Joséphine had delayed the party while getting a new silk shawl draped correctly, and Napoléon went ahead in the first carriage. The bomb exploded as her carriage was passing. The bomb killed several bystanders and one of the carriage horses, and blew out the carriage’s windows; Hortense was struck in the hand by flying glass. There were no other injuries and the party proceeded to the Opéra.

Empress of the French

The coronation ceremony, officiated by Pope Pius VII, took place at Notre Dame de Paris, on December 2, 1804. Following a pre-arranged protocol, Napoléon first crowned himself, then put the crown on Joséphine’s head, proclaiming her empress. Shortly before their coronation, there was an incident at the Château de Saint-Cloud that nearly sundered the marriage between the two. Joséphine caught Napoléon in the bedroom of her lady-in-waiting, Élisabeth de Vaudey, and Napoléon threatened to divorce her as she had not produced an heir. Eventually, however, through the efforts of her daughter Hortense, the two were reconciled.

When, after a few years, it became clear she could not have a child, Napoléon while he still loved Joséphine, began to think very seriously about the possibility of divorce. The final die was cast when Joséphine’s grandson Napoléon Charles Bonaparte who had been declared Napoléon’s heir, died of croup in 1807. Napoleon began to create lists of eligible princesses. At dinner on November 30, 1809, he let Joséphine know that — in the interest of France — he must find a wife who could produce an heir. From the next room, Napoléon’s secretary heard the screams.

Joséphine agreed to the divorce so the Emperor could remarry in the hope of having an heir. The divorce ceremony took place on January 10, 1810 and was a grand but solemn social occasion, and each read a statement of devotion to the other.

On March 11, Napoléon married Marie-Louise of Austria by proxy; the formal ceremony took place at the Louvre in April. Napoléon once remarked after marrying Marie-Louise that “he had married a womb”. Even after their separation, Napoleon insisted Josephine retain the title of empress. “It is my will that she retain the rank and title of empress, and especially that she never doubt my sentiments, and that she ever hold me as her best and dearest friend.”

Later life and death

After the divorce, Joséphine lived at the Château de Malmaison, near Paris. She remained on good terms with Napoléon, who once said that the only thing to come between them was her debts.

In March 1811 Marie Louise delivered a long-awaited heir, to whom Napoleon gave the title “King of Rome”. Two years later Napoleon arranged for Joséphine to meet the young prince “who had cost her so many tears”.

Joséphine died of pneumonia in Rueil-Malmaison on May 29, 1814, four days after catching cold during a walk with Tsar Alexander in the gardens of Malmaison. She was buried in the nearby church of Saint Pierre-Saint Paul in Rueil. Her daughter Hortense is interred near her.

Napoleon learned of her death via a French journal while in exile on Elba, and stayed locked in his room for two days, refusing to see anyone. He claimed to a friend, while in exile on Saint Helena, that “I truly loved my Joséphine, but I did not respect her.” Despite his numerous affairs, eventual divorce, and remarriage, the Emperor’s last words on his death bed at St. Helena were: “France, the Army, the Head of the Army, Joséphine.”(“France, l’armée, tête d’armée, Joséphine”).


Hortense’s son became Napoléon III, Emperor of the French. Eugène’s son Maximilian de Beauharnais, 3rd Duke of Leuchtenberg married into the Russian Imperial family, was granted the style of Imperial Highness and founded the Russian line of the Beauharnais family, while Eugene’s daughter Joséphine, married King Oscar I of Sweden, the son of Napoléon’s one-time fiancée, Désirée Clary. Through her, Joséphine is a direct ancestor of the present heads of the royal houses of Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden and of the grandducal house of Baden.

Through the Leuchtenberg inheritance, the Norwegian royal family holds Joséphine’s emerald and diamond tiara while the Swedish royal family holds her sapphire parure, amethyst tiara and the Cameo tiara, worn by Sweden’s royal brides.

Another of Eugène’s daughters, Amélie de Beauharnais von Leuchtenberg, married Emperor Pedro I of Brazil (also former king Pedro IV of Portugal) in Rio de Janeiro, and became Empress of Brazil, and they had one surviving daughter.

Time journalist Nathalie Alexandria Kotchoubey de Beauharnais, was a direct descendant of Joséphine through her son Eugène and the Russian line founded by Josephine’s grandson Maximilian de Beauharnais, 3rd Duke of Leuchtenberg. She married André Laguerre, longtime managing editor of Sports Illustrated in 1955 and had two daughters, Michèle and Claudine.

Nature and appearance

Biographer Carolly Erickson wrote, “In choosing her lovers Rose [Josephine] followed her head first, then her heart”, meaning that she was adept in terms of identifying the men who were most capable of fulfilling her financial and social needs. She was not unaware of Napoleon’s potential. Joséphine was a renowned spendthrift and Barras may have encouraged the relationship with Général Bonaparte in order to get her off his hands. Josephine was naturally full of kindness, generosity and charm, and was praised as an engaging hostess.

Joséphine was described as being of average height, svelte, shapely, with silky, chestnut-brown hair, hazel eyes, and a rather sallow complexion. Her nose was small and straight, and her mouth was well-formed; however she kept it closed most of the time so as not to reveal her bad teeth. She was praised for her elegance, style, and low, “silvery”, beautifully modulated voice.

Patroness of roses

In 1799 while Napoleon was in Egypt, Josephine purchased the Chateau de Malmaison. She had it landscaped in an “English” style, hiring landscapers and horticulturalists from the United Kingdom. These included: Thomas Blaikie, a Scottish horticultural expert, another Scottish gardener, Alexander Howatson, the botanist, Ventenat, and the horticulturist, Andre Dupont. The rose garden was begun soon after purchase; inspired by Dupont’s love of roses. Josephine took a personal interest in the gardens and the roses, and learned a great deal about botany and horticulture from her staff. Josephine wanted to collect all known roses so Napoleon ordered his warship commanders to search all seized vessels for plants to be forwarded to Malmaison. Pierre-Joseph Redouté was commissioned by her to paint the flowers from her gardens. Les Roses was published 1817-20 with 168 plates of roses; 75-80 of the roses grew at Malmaison. The English nurseryman Kennedy was a major supplier, despite England and France being at war, his shipments were allowed to cross blockades. Specifically, when Hume’s Blush Tea-Scented China was imported to England from China, the British and French Admiralties made arrangements in 1810 for specimens to cross naval blockades for Josephine’s garden. Sir Joseph Banks, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, also sent her roses. The general assumption is that she had about 250 roses in her garden when she died in 1814. Unfortunately the roses were not catalogued during her tenure. There may have been only 197 rose varieties in existence in 1814, according to calculations by Jules Gravereaux of Roseraie de l’Haye. There were 12 species, about 40 centifolias, mosses and damasks, 20 Bengals, and about 100 gallicas. The botanist Claude Antoine Thory, who wrote the descriptions for Redouté’s paintings in Les Roses, noted that Josephine’s Bengal rose R. indica had black spots on it. She produced the first written history of the cultivation of roses, and is believed to have hosted the first rose exhibition, in 1810.

Modern hybridization of roses through artificial, controlled pollination began with Josephine’s horticulturalist Andre Dupont. Prior to this, most new rose cultivars were spontaneous mutations or accidental, bee-induced hybrids, and appeared rarely. With controlled pollination, the appearance of new cultivars grew exponentially. Of the roughly 200 types of roses known to Josephine, Dupont had created 25 while in her employ. Subsequent French hybridizers created over 1000 new rose cultivars in the 30 years following Josephine’s death. In 1910, less than 100 years after her death, there were about 8000 rose types in Gravereaux’s garden. Bechtel also feels that the popularity of roses as garden plants was boosted by Josephine’s patronage. She was a popular ruler and fashionable people copied her.

Brenner and Scanniello call her the “Godmother of modern rosomaniacs” and attribute her with our modern style of vernacular cultivar names as opposed to Latinized, pseudo-scientific cultivar names. For instance, R. alba incarnata became “Cuisse de Nymphe Emue” in her garden. After Josephine’s death in 1814 the house was vacant at times, the garden and house ransacked and vandalised, and the garden’s remains were destroyed in a battle in 1870. The rose Souvenir de la Malmaison appeared in 1844, 30 years after her death, named in her honor by a Russian Grand Duke planting one of the first specimens in the Imperial Garden in St. Petersburg.


Ruth Miriam Goldbloom


Ruth Miriam Goldbloom, ( December 5, 1923 – August 29, 2012) was a Canadian philanthropist who co-founded the Pier 21 museum in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was born and raised in New Waterford, Nova Scotia, to immigrant parents. Their immigrant experience influenced her throughout her life and was a major factor in her helping to found Pier 21. She became the first Jew to Chair Mount Saint Vincent University’s board, which was a Catholic women’s university at the time. She was the chancellor of the Technical University of Nova Scotia in the 1990s and fundraising chair for the Halifax area United Way. She was inducted into the Order of Canada for her work with charities in the 1980s and 1990s.

Early life

Goldbloom was born and raised as Ruth Miriam Schwartz, in New Waterford, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Her grandparents and parents immigrated to Canada from the Pale of Settlement, Russian Empire, with their immigrant experience influencing her throughout her life. She attended both Mount Allison University and McGill University. She met Richard Goldbloom at McGill, and married him in 1946. They moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, from Montreal in 1967 with their family.

Community work

When Goldbloom moved to Halifax in 1967 with her husband and family, she began to get involved in the community. She was a fundraising chair for the Izaak Walton Killam Children’s Hospital, where her husband was the Physician-in-Chief. She became a fundraiser for Mount Saint Vincent University, at the time a women only Catholic institution. In the 1980s, she became the first Jew to chair the University’s board. In 1989, she became the first chairwoman of the Halifax United Way’s annual fundraising drive. She served as the Chancellor for the Technical University of Nova Scotia before it merged with Dalhousie University. She became a fundraiser for the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in 2009. She and her husband were also involved with the Arts community, and they helped support Symphony Nova Scotia and its precursor the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra.

Pier 21

Goldbloom co-founded the Pier 21 Society in 1990, which eventually established the Pier 21 Museum. She spearheaded the fundraising efforts to raise $16 million to build a new museum at the pier, which opened in 1999. In 2009, the year that Pier 21 was designated a National Museum of Immigration, Goldbloom noted that she always wanted it “to become the second museum outside of Ottawa to be a national museum of immigration.” Pier 21 operated as an ocean liner terminal and immigration entry point from 1928 to 1971. It was converted to the Pier 21 museum in 1999 and became Canada’s National Museum of Immigration in 2009, with Goldbloom present as the Prime Minister announced the museum’s new status.


She was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 1992 for her fundraising work at the Halifax United Way and at Mount Saint Vincent University. She was later promoted to an Officer of the Order of Canada in April 2000 for her work at Pier 21 and as Chancellor of the Technical University of Nova Scotia. Goldbloom was awarded the Order of Nova Scotia in 2008 for her volunteer work in social, religious and heritage organizations in that province. She was awarded seven honorary doctorate degrees from Dalhousie University, Mount Saint Vincent University, Nova Scotia Community College, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Mount Allison University, University of King’s College, and Acadia University. As well, she was awarded numerous awards from Jewish organizations, and community groups.

Goldbloom died from cancer on August 29, 2012, aged 88. She was survived by her husband, Dr. Richard Goldbloom, three children, seven grandchildren and four great grand children. A large public funeral was held next to Pier 21 at the Cunard Centre, with the premier of Nova Scotia, Darrell Dexter; Lt. Governor John James Grant; other government officials and prominent people in attendance.


Klara Hitler

Hitler's Mother

Klara Hitler ( 12 August 1860 – 21 December 1907) was an Austrian woman, and the mother of Führer Adolf Hitler.

Family background and marriage

Born in the Austrian village of Spital, Weitra, Waldviertel, her father was Johann Baptist Pölzl and her mother was Johanna Hiedler. Either Johanna Hiedler’s father Johann Nepomuk Hiedler or his brother Johann Georg Hiedler (who is presumed and accepted as the father) was the biological father of Klara Heidler’s husband, Alois Hitler, Sr.. Therefore, Klara and Alois were most likely first cousins once removed.

Klara came from old peasant stock, was hard-working, energetic, pious, and conscientious. According to Dr. Bloch, who treated her, she was a very quiet, sweet, and affectionate woman.

In 1876, three years after Alois Hitler’s first marriage to Anna Glasl-Hörer, Alois hired 16-year-old Klara as a household servant. After the death of his second wife — Franziska Matzelsberger — in 1884, Alois and Klara were married on 7 January 1885 in a brief wedding held early that morning at Hitler’s rented rooms on the top floor of the Pommer Inn in Braunau. Klara found the wedding to be a short ceremony. Alois then went to work for the day at his job as a customs official. Their first son — Gustav — was born four months later, on 15 May 1885. Ida followed on 23 September 1886. Both infants died of diphtheria during the winter of 1886-1887. A third child, Otto, was born and died in 1887.

Adolf was born 20 April 1889, followed by Edmund on 24 March 1894 and Paula on 21 January 1896. Edmund died of measles on 28 February 1900, at the age of five. Klara’s adult life was spent keeping house and raising children, for which, according to Smith, Alois had little understanding or interest.

Klara was very devoted to her children and, according to William Patrick Hitler, was a typical stepmother to her stepchildren, Alois Jr. and Angela.

Klara was a devout Roman Catholic and attended church regularly with her children. Of her six children with Alois, only Adolf and Paula survived to adulthood.

Alois and Klara’s children were:

  • Gustav Hitler (born 10 May 1885, died of diphtheria on 8 December 1887 in Braunau am Inn)
  • Ida Hitler (born 23 September 1886, died of diphtheria 2 January 1888 in Braunau am Inn)
  • Otto Hitler (born and died 1887 in Vienna, lived three days)
  • Adolf Hitler (born 20 April 1889, committed suicide 30 April 1945), German dictator
  • Edmund Hitler (born 24 March 1894, Passau, died of measles, 28 February 1900, Leonding)
  • Paula Hitler (born 21 January 1896, died 1 June 1960), the last surviving member of Hitler’s immediate family.

Later life and death

When Alois died in 1903, he left her a government pension. She sold the house in Leonding and moved with young Adolf and Paula to an apartment in Linz, where they lived frugally.

Klara Hitler first discovered a lump in her breast in 1905 but initially ignored it. After experiencing chest pains that were keeping her awake at night, Klara finally consulted the family doctor, Eduard Bloch, in January 1907. Dr. Bloch chose not to inform Klara that she had breast cancer and left it to her son Adolf to inform her. Dr. Bloch told Adolf that Klara had a small chance of surviving and recommended that she undergo a radical mastectomy. The Hitlers were devastated by the news. According to Dr. Bloch, Klara “accepted the verdict as I was sure she would – with fortitude. Deeply religious, she assumed that her fate was God’s will. It would never occur to her to complain.” Klara underwent the mastectomy at Sisters of St. Mercy in Linz whereupon the surgeon, Dr. Karl Urban, discovered that the cancer had already metastasized to the pleural tissue in her chest. Dr. Bloch informed Klara’s children that her condition was terminal. Adolf, who had been in Vienna ostensibly to study art, moved back home to tend to his mother as did his siblings. By October, Klara’s condition had rapidly declined and Adolf begged Dr. Bloch to try a new treatment. For the next 46 days (from November to early December), Dr. Bloch performed daily treatments of iodoform, a then experimental form of chemotherapy. Klara’s mastectomy incisions were reopened and massive doses of iodoform soaked gauze was applied directly to the tissue to “burn” the cancer cells. The treatments were incredibly painful and caused Klara’s throat to paralyze leaving her unable to swallow. The treatments proved to be futile and Klara died at home in Linz from the toxic medical side-effects on 21 December 1907. Owing to their mother’s pension and money from her modest estate, the two siblings were left with some financial support. Klara was buried in Leonding near Linz.

Adolf Hitler, who had a close relationship with his mother, was devastated by her death and carried the grief for the rest of his life. Dr. Bloch later recalled that “In all my career, I have never seen anyone so prostrate with grief as Adolf Hitler.” In his autobiography Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote that he had “…honored my father, but loved my mother” and said that his mother’s death was a “dreadful blow….” Decades later, in 1940, Hitler showed gratitude to Dr. Bloch (who was Jewish) by allowing him to emigrate with his wife from Austria to the United States.

Removal of tombstone

On 28 March 2012, the tombstone marking Alois Hitler’s grave (and that of his wife, Klara) in Town Cemetery in Leonding was removed, without ceremony, by a descendant, according to Kurt Pittertschatscher, the pastor of the parish. The descendant is said to be an elderly female relative of Alois Hitler’s first wife, Anna, who has also given up any rights to the rented burial plot. The plot was covered in white gravel and left with its distinguishing single tree which has since been removed, but the grave is very easy to locate. The remains of Hitler’s parents are still interred in the grave.


Lucille Teasdale-Corti


Lucille Teasdale-Corti, (January 30, 1929 – August 1, 1996) was a Canadian physician, surgeon and international aid worker, who worked in Uganda and contributed to the development of medical services in the country.

Early life in Canada

Born in Montreal East, Quebec on 30 January 1929, Lucille Teasdale was the fourth of seven children. Her father René ran a grocery store in Avenue Guybourg, Saint-Léonard, Montreal.

She was educated as a boarder at Collège Jésus-Marie d’Outrement, a select Catholic college by nuns whose methods she thought to be very strict. A visit to the college by some nuns who had worked as missionaries in China acted as a catalyst for her, then aged 12, to consider becoming a doctor, this coming on top of voluntary work which she had done in a clinic serving the disadvantaged people of the Plateau Mont-Royal from which she had gained a conviction that the worst injustic was disease and that she could do something about it.

She won a scholarship to attend medical school at the University of Montreal, starting in 1950. Females were not common in the medical profession at that time and her class of 110 students included only eight women. She graduated in 1955, becoming one of the first female surgeons in Quebec, and took work at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Sainte-Justine, Montreal.

It was at this time, while working in the pediatric department, that she first met the Italian doctor, Piero Corti. He was working at the hospital to obtain a specialist qualification in pediatrics, to add to those in radiology and neuropsychiatry which he already had. Corti showed an interest in her but Teasdale was concentrating on her job, working up to 16 hours a day and sometimes fainting in the operating theater as a consequence.

A condition of completing her postgraduate training was that she must agree to work for a period of time in a hospital abroad. Teasdale tried to obtain work in the USA but was turned down by 20 hospitals. She later said that this was “probably because I was a woman”.

France and Uganda

In September 1960 Lucille traveled to France to work at l’Hôpital de la Conception in Marseille, and, although she lacked confidence in her own abilities she was nonetheless highly regarded by staff members there. She had been unhappy with the Canadian health-care system which, to her, appeared to be an immoral one because it had both private and public sectors, and patients in the private sector obtained better treatment. She thought indeed that medicine was so interesting that doctors should pay for the honor of practicing it.

It was while working in Marseilles that Corti approached her: he needed a surgeon at a small clinic which had been established in Uganda and to which he had recently been invited and had hopes of turning into a hospital. The clinic was located in a small village of the Acoli tribe, 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) from Gulu. It was run by a staff of six Combonian nuns and consisted of an outpatient unit and around 40 maternity beds. She agreed to go with Corti, initially for a period of two months, and arrived in May 1961. On 10 June 1961 she performed her first operation, on a makeshift table, and thereafter spent mornings treating outpatients and afternoons in theater.

Facilities improved as Corti spent his time soliciting donations from abroad. The clinic was renamed Lacor Hospital, after the nearby town, and Teasdale returned to France after extending her stay from two months to four.

She returned in December 1961, finding herself unable to be separated from Corti. They were married in the hospital chapel on 5 December and on 17 November 1962 she gave birth to their daughter Dominique. At this time Teasdale was seeing around 300 outpatients each morning and then performing operations in the afternoon, in conditions which were poor due to, amongst other things, a fluctuating supply of electricity, shortage of suitable medication and the poor quality of the water supplied.

She also spent time educating Acoli mothers who were uninformed about medical science and were utilising the traditional practice of ebino, the extraction of infants’ canine tooth buds, which supposedly cures disease, but in fact often causes bacterial infections.

Uganda, a British protectorate, gained independence on 9 October 1962. Years of civil unrest and then outright civil war followed, involving the supporters of the dictators Amin Dada (1971–1978), Milton Obote (1979–1985) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (1986–2006), as well as an invasion by Tanzanian troops. By the end of Amin’s period in power there had been an estimated 300,000 victims. The hospital received its share of the wounded and the dying, causing Teasdale-Corti to become a war surgeon and increasing her workload further. The hospital not merely dealt with the casualties but also suffered from looting and the kidnap of staff members. During this time Teasdale continued to expand her abilities and expertise and, in 1979, performed her first bone graft, this being on a wounded soldier in an attempt to avoid the alternative of amputation.

In 1972 she and her husband established a school of nursing at the hospital to train local people; from 1982 she ran a program at Makerere University, Kampala for the training of surgical residents and also arranged the work preparation of Italian doctors intending to work in Africa.


Teasdale-Corti had prided herself on her stamina, working extremely long hours in difficult circumstances. When her health began to deteriorate and her ability to sustain a heavy workload was consequently reduced, she sought medical advice for herself. The diagnosis, which is variously said to have been made in Italy and by Anthony Pinching (an immunologist) in London, was that she was suffering from AIDS, probably as a consequence of operating on a victim of the civil war.

She suffered the consequences of the illness for a further eleven years, with trips to San Raffaele Hospital in Milan in order to receive treatment for herself. She died on 1 August 1996, weighing 33 kg, in Besana in Brianza, Italy, to which she had recently moved in search of treatment for herself. A copy of what is believed to be her last letter exists and describes the situation of both the hospital and herself at the time. Her body was returned to Uganda and interred in the grounds of the hospital. A few months after her death Corti had his fourth heart attack; and he eventually died seven years later, of pancreatic cancer. He had continued working at the hospital, had conducted research into AIDS with Dr J W Carswell, and was buried next to his wife.

In 1993, three years before her death she and her husband had established the Lucille Teasdale and Piero Corti Foundation in Montreal, followed two years later by a similar body based in Milan. These were intended to ensure the continued existence of the hospital. By that time she had performed more than 13,000 operations and the hospital had grown to have 465 beds and departments covering numerous specialities. As at 2011 Dominique, the couple’s daughter and herself a doctor of medicine, continues to run the Foundations.

A TV movie of the story was made in 2000.