Thanks to my mother and her historically fiendish ways, I discovered that I have a really cool ancestor called Elsie Knocker (29 July 1884 – 26 April 1978). Let’s pause for one moment to reflect on how terribly great this name is?
It seems as if she was my great, great, great aunt, or somewhere thereabout. Despite being a divorcee, widow, single mother and a rumored lesbian (Insert shock horror for the time) she lived an amazing life and truly followed her passion. In her courage, I think there is a lesson for us all.
Elsie was a nurse and ambulance driver in the first world war and won multiple medals along with her friend Mairi Chisholm for bravery. The pair saved hundreds of Soldiers who were on the Western Front in Belgium and were dubbed as the ‘Madonnas of Pervyse.’ They are documented as having been the most photographed ladies during the war and set up their own dressing station just 100 yards from the trenches. They raised all their own funds and equipped with cameras began to photograph the horrors of war around them.
The pair “engaged in multiple battlefield rescues, even carrying fallen men on their backs to their first-aid station. After she and Chisholm rescued a wounded German pilot in No Man’s Land both women were awarded the British Military Medal.”
Elsie was also “an ardent amateur motorbike enthusiast and when riding wore a dark green leather skirt and long leather coat buttoned all the way down with a belt “to keep it all together.” She was known as ‘gypsy’ thanks to her love of the open road and her “membership to the gypsy motorcycle club.” She drove her motorcycle, fitted with a side-car to the front lines. HOW BADASS IS THIS WOMXN?
During the Second World War, she once again joined the war effort and became a senior officer in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. After her son was killed in the war, she decided to return home, where she began to breed chihuahua’s and was always surrounded by at least four of them. She did a lot of work in her later years around animal welfare and was often seen walking her dogs whilst “flamboyantly dressed in large earrings and a voluminous dark cloak.”
I think she is pretty darn fab and her story has inspired me to be a little more courageous, follow my heart and BUY THOSE DAMN MERMAID SHORTS THAT I AM IN LOVE WITH.
A few lessons from Knocker:
- F**k the system and be your own hero. Expand beyond the constraints of what society thinks you should do. Be your own courageous superstar and as result, a hero to others.
- Wear the damn velvet cloak. Always. (Or in my case, the glittery hot pants.)
- Motorbikes are sexy!
- Having a fearless and fabulous bestie/sidekick is freaking amazing. Yay for womxn uplifting each other and supporting each other’s dreams
- Always have lots of doggies.
Oh I wish I could hop in a time capsule and chat to Elsie. I really want to channel more of her courage in my year of being courageous. I have hailed 2017 as the year of commitment and courage. Mostly because 2016 was the year of being brave and I didn’t really commit to that very well. Apart from this one time where I went knee deep into the ocean. This was very brave since my irrational shark phobia permeates both sea and swimming pool experiences for me.
Nonetheless, I think I need to work on being more fearless and a pinch of commitment might help me on that journey. So, it’s time to start embracing my inner Knocker, since in some small capacity, her badass blood doth run through these veins 🙂
Does anyone else have any cool relatives that they have discovered? Or a hero whose courage you want to channel?