By Moira Farr, Army Public Affairs
Ottawa, Ontario — During Women’s History Month, we remember the accomplishments of women in wartime, including the extraordinary Mona Parsons.
She distinguished herself during the Second World War as part of the Dutch resistance against the Nazis, survived years as a prisoner of war in Germany, and eventually returned to Nova Scotia, her courageous actions largely forgotten or unknown until many years after her death.
Parsons was a colourful, independent spirit from an early age. The daughter of Colonel Norval Parsons, himself recognized for his distinguished service during the First World War as commanding officer of the 85th Battalion, she grew up in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
Aspirations to be an actress led her to study and teach drama, and to eventually work as a chorus girl with the Ziegfeld Follies in the 1920s. After her mother’s death, she decided to pursue nursing, and worked in New York City until she met Willem Leonhardt, a wealthy Dutch businessman. They married in 1937 and settled outside Amsterdam at an estate known as Ingleside.
When Germany occupied Holland in 1940, Parsons and her husband decided they had to take action to help Allied Forces. They harboured airmen in their large, secluded home, and helped them out of the country. Eventually, the SS [The Schutzstaffel] became suspicious, paid a visit to the house, and saw through Mona’s efforts to convince them that she was simply a wealthy businessman’s wife…