Violet Van der Elst was born in 1882 to a coal-porter father and washerwoman mother. She married Henry Arthur Nathan in 1899 at the age of 17. Four months after his death in 1927, Violet Nathan married Jean Van der Elst, a Belgian artist. Jean was young and passionate about campaigns against capital punishment, which shaped Violet’s interests. Violet Van der Elst was devoted to many social issues, most notably her campaigns against capital punishment. After making and spending several fortunes, she died in a nursing home in 1966, with a fortune reduced to £15,000.