Born in Bethnal Green, London, England, 1871
Died in Cheshire, England, 1975
Helga Mennefrit is best known for her environmental advocacy against the dragon leather industry, as well as her discovery and cultivation of the plant leather alternative, Hide Weed.
Helga was born to a family of small means in 1871 in Bethnal Green, a suburb of London. Bethnal Green existed in squalor then, and the Mennefrit family existed solely on the income of Helga's father, Edwin, an herbalist. Helga's mother bore no other children, and after Helga's birth, she fell ill with a blood infection that Edwin Mennefrit could not heal. Doctors were not so easily depended upon at that time, especially with the severity of this illness.
Edwin raised Helga as a single father, a pariah at that time, and never remarried. He is quoted below, shortly before his death in 1890, speaking to Helga on his deathbed:
"I have grieved your mother with each breath. Little peace can overcome the perpetual turmoil that roils in my belly, a sickly feeling untouched by any grass or root I could cultivate. I find solace in the curve of your cheek, for it is the mirror of the place I kissed your mother so tenderly for all those years."
Helga's love of botany certainly stemmed from her father's influence. Upon his death, she inherited the little herbalist shoppe and all of its wares. There, she made a meager income for herself as she furthered her studies. In her 21st year, she received an invitation to attend Grimbriar Academy of Magick. Though honored and tempted to take the offer, she instead chose to tend to her father's shoppe and the local people of Bethnal Green. In her letter to the Headmaster at the time, she says:
"I extend my greatest appreciation to you and yours, Headmaster Biddle. I am honored to have been invited to attend your academy. At this time, it is not without great consideration that I must decline your invitation. The health and upkeeping of my community depends on my tending to this little shoppe I call home. I do hope you understand. It is my hope that one day I can write again with the intention of futhering my education within the great walls of Grimbriar, as my mother once did. In the meanwhile, I intend to grow within my little walls, here. They are stark, but not without warmth. Truly - Helga Mennefrit."
In the following years, Helga successfully ran the business and was able to hire assistance. She funded her trip to Vietnam in 1894, where she first discovered Hide Weed.
Helga cultivated a specific breed of Hide Weed that soon made the dragon leather industry irrelevant. The plant's thick leaves were able to withstand fire and were easily sewn into gloves, satchels, and other wares that leather was traditionally used to make. Between 1906 and 1916, Helga fought to be heard by the Mages' Board of Beasts and Biomes (MBBB) about her discovery. By 1920, the MBBB had dissolved the dragon leather industry in favor of the sustainable alternative Hide Weed.
Helga never married. In fact, acquaintances say that the witch never showed much interest in relationships beyond cordial interactions. Her interests lay solely in the cultivation of plants and their uses, especially for use in her late father's shoppe. Passerby spoke of her kind yet quiet demeanor and only reported a shift in the witch's personality when faced with a strict aversion to her moral principles, such as in the case against the dragon leather industry.
Helga kept a small cat in the shoppe for over 23 years. The cat, named Violet after her mother, bore a long-haired white coat and a dainty silver bell about its neck. It greeted guests with gentle chirps and was often seen chewing on plant fronds in the front window.
Helga passed away at her home in Cheshire from natural causes, likely those brought upon by old age. She is survived by her legacy that singlehandedly brought down one of the more corrupt and profitable industries of the Victorian era.