Violet Van Der Elst

Violet Van der Elst (1882-1966) was born Violet Dodge, in Surrey, England. The daughter of a coal porter and a washerwoman, she herself worked as a scullery maid. She became a successful businesswoman by developing Shavex, the first brush-less shaving cream.

In the 1930s she married Jean Van der Elst, a Belgian painter.

Having amassed a huge personal fortune she purchased Harlaxton Manor, in Lincolnshire, England.

She gained publicity from her vocal campaigns against capital punishment, and stood three times, unsuccessfully, as a candidate to be an M.P.. She fought Putney at the 1935 General Election as an Independent, coming third. She fought Hornchurch at the 1945 General election as an Independent, coming fourth.

She wrote the book On the Gallows in 1937 as part of her efforts to eradicate the death penalty. In the same year she published a collection of 13 ghost stories, The Torture Chamber and Other Stories.

Her campaigning, her behaviour, and unsuccessful political career reduced her fortune, forcing her to sell her house and move to a flat in Knightsbridge, London, in 1959.

She died in 1966, penniless and largely forgotten, the year after capital punishment for murder was abolished in Britain.

In the 2005 film Pierrepoint, she is played by Ann Bell.

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Famous quotes containing the words der, violet and/or van:

    Under the lindens on the heather,
    There was our double resting-place.
    —Walther Von Der Vogelweide (1170?–1230?)

    A violet by a mossy stone
    Half hidden from the eye!
    Fair as a star, when only one
    Is shining in the sky.
    William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

    The first day that we landed upon that fatal shore
    The planters they came round us full twenty score or more,
    They rank’d us up like horses, and sold us out of hand
    Then yok’d us unto ploughs, my boys, to plow Van
    Dieman’s Land.
    —Unknown. Van Dieman’s Land (l. 9–12)