At school, Mendels was a fierce child nicknamed: wild Josje. She became a woman with little regard for bourgeois morals. She was just as autonomous an author and celebrated for her animated female characters. This biography portrays the life of a versatile woman, both an extraordinary human and a unique author. Sylvia Heimans was the first to gain access to the archive of Josepha Mendels and used the years she spent on research to paint a broad picture of a remarkable woman. Mendels was a shining example for many modern women that struggled with their identity and expectations after the sexual revolution of the 1960s. How to escape the forbidding corset of marriage and family life? How to develop your talents and fight for your autonomy as an emancipated woman and still lead a complete life including erotica, love and perhaps motherhood.
Josepha Mendels grew up in an orthodox-Jewish family at the beginning of the twentieth century. But she had a hard time finding her voice. She started writing as a governess and left rigid Holland to move to an unrestrained Paris at age 34. She would become a renowned author after WWII - being crowned but also tarnished. Mendels has a flamboyant personality, but her lively character has a deep and sad history. Losing her entire family during WWII cast a shadow on the success of her life work.
But she did succeed in freeing herself from her orthodox youth. She was the lover of the beat poet Simon Vinkenoog after the war and a friend of author Anna Blaman. She became famous and honoured as an author for her strong, independent female characters. And Josepha emphasized that she was not part of any group. Neither Jewish, feminist nor just an author, ‘society will not dictate me into doing or being anything. I will only do whatever I want to do. I will die a not-so-decent lady’.
Who is this remarkable woman who conquered the expectations of her surroundings and chose a new path? Who defied all standards to become one of the first unmarried mothers of her choice? Who made her debut as an actress at age seventy-two and stood scantily clad on the stage of a Paris theatre?