Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Sonora Webster Carver - Horse Diving

Sonora Webster Carver
It is said that when you fall from a horse, you get back on right away. This has never been truer when it came to Sonora Webster Carver.

In 1923, 19-year-old Sonora Webster was intrigued by an ad placed in a local newspaper by William Doc Carver, the owner of a carnival act. He was seeking a girl who could swim and dive and was willing to travel. Knowing she was perfect for the job, she applied. For a girl like her, it was her chance to rise out of the trap of poverty.

Pretty and spunky, she got the job and would perform at Steel Pier in New Jersey as a diving girl. She was to mount a running horse as it reached the top of a forty to sixty foot and plunge into a 12-foot deep water tank. On a horse named Red Lips, Al Carver, Doc’s son, taught her how to ride and dive on a horse. She learned how to keep her head tucked down to one side so that when Red Lips raised his head as he jumped up at the bottom of the pool, she would get smacked in the face. In 1924, almost a year later, Sonora and Red Lips made their first dive. They became an instant sensation.

Sonora fell in love with the patient and talented instructor and she married Al in 1928. For nearly three years, everything was fine and her act became more and more popular. But things would soon change.  

In 1931, during a dive, Red Lips Red Lips jumped off the platform unbalanced and went into a steep nosedive. Sonora hit the water with both eyes open. The hard strike displaced her retinas. She was 27 years old and fully blind.

The doctors told her that her career as a diving girl in a carnival act was over. But not even blindness could stop her, from doing what she loved. Why? Because riding was the most fun she could have and she loved it so. She didn't want to give it up. Once she was on the horse, there really wasn't much to do but hold on. The horse was in charge. So With courage, fearlessness, and a great deal of tenacity, Sonora continued to dive horses for 11 more years without the crowd knowing she was blind. She dove until 1942 during World War II when she retired at the age of 73. In all the years of the act, no horse suffered any injury.

She and Al moved to New Orleans where she learned Braille and worked as a Dictaphone typist until her retirement in 1979. Sonora died at the age of 99. To this day, she is a symbol of resilience and the strength of the human spirit.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Top 35 Historical Book Blog

What a lovely surprise it was to learn that my blog, HistoryandWomen.com has won such a prestigious award by Feedspot - Historical Book Blogs!

The criteria for being chosen was based upon:

1. Google reputation and Google search ranking
2. Influence and popularity on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites
3, Quality and consistency of posrts.
4. Feedspot's editorial team and expert review.

A heartfelt thank you to Feedspot! I am grateful that you found my blog and took the time to read my posts. And I am grateful to the almost 4 million viewers who have visited the site. I am humbled by your interest!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The School of Venus or the Ladies Delight Reduced into Rules of Practice

I've been working on a new novel which takes place in 17th century France and New France when I stumbled upon this little gem of a book. The author wrote it in 1680 but chose to remain anonymous. 
The cover is self-explanatory, but if you choose to read further, you will find it full of drawings and descriptions about the "deed" itself. .

The book clearly proves that men and women of this era were far from inhibited when it came to sex. The story is told in dialogue form between the two main characters who are a young teenage virgin named Katy, the young man named Roger who wishes to make her a woman, and her sexually experienced cousin, Frances who likes to be called "Frank". 

In the first part of the book, Frank teaches Katy about erections, the names of erotic body parts, and how sex happens. In the latter part of the book, Katy describes how she was deflowered by Roger and the various sexual positions they tried.

I found the book amusing, of course, and it did provide a bit of fodder for my current work in progress. 

You can access the book for free for your reading device at:


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Masks of 18th Century Venetian Women

My roots are in the Veneto and Abruzzi of Italy and hence I've written more than one novel set in historical Italian peninsula. 

I'm currently working on my 7th novel, TREACHEROUS AFFAIRS. The novel is a retelling of the 18th century novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos entitled Dangerous Liaisons. Although I'm following the basic plot, I've changed the setting from Paris to Venice and the style from epistolatory to third person narrative, so it is completely told in my own words and scenes. 

18th century Venice was at the height of decadence, where Casanova ran rampant and sexual freedoms reigned. Masks were worn all the time - at gambling houses and festivals and balls and political events. Masks do make an appearance in my novel. 

Specific types of masks were made for women. 


Only women wore the Moretta mask or the "muta" (Mute) as it was nicknamed. It is round shaped and of covered with fine black velvet. They called it the Mask of Seduction and mystery for good reason. It covered a woman's face completely. There were no laces to hold the mask on the face. Instead, a woman had to bite a strategically placed button at mouth level to keep it on. Hence, she was unable to speak, adding to her mystery and allure. In this way, a lady's true intentions were unknown, adding to the magic.  


The Colombina was perhaps one of the most popular masks of the time. This is a half mask decorated in an array of colors, fabrics, decorations, and jewels. Often they were made to match a lady's gown! Light-weighted, it covers only the eyes and cheeks, and sometimes the nose. One's identity was obvious. 


The Volto provided covers the entire face which assured a woman could keep her identity completely hidden. Only a woman's voice could reveal her true identity.  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Who was Sultana Nurbanu?

Some claim Nurbanu was a Venetian woman named Cecilia Baffo Veniero abducted abducted from Paros island when it was captured by Barbarossa. Others say she was a Greek woman named Kale Kartanou from Corfu. To this day, no one knows for certain. Once in the folds of the Ottoman Empire, she became known as Nurbanu. Her destiny was to became favourite consort and legal wife of Ottoman Sultan Selim II and mother of Murad III.

Wherever she came from, she one day found herself the head of the Sultan's harem. Despite the Sultan's right to take as many concubines as he wished, Nurbanu was his favorite because of her sharp wit and breathtaking beauty. Because of her propensity for good judgement, he reated her as an advisor and respected her opinion in many matters.  

In return, she was a devoted wife and wonderful mother. When she gave birth to Murad, she knew that one day, when it came time to succession, he might be murdered, as had happened many times in the past where entire families were massacred. Nurbanu was determined never to let this happen. 

Murad was away serving as goveror of Manisa when her husband died in 1574. Nurbanu realized her life's son may be in danger by a usurper of power. Before anyone could learn of her husband's death, she hid his body in the harem in an icebox and then summoned her son to return home. Only when Murad made it home, did she announce her husband's death. In this way, Murad became the next sultan and she became the highest ranking woman in the sultanate and very powerful indeed. She managed the government and acted as co-regent with her son. 

Her reach was long. She was a pen pal of Queen Catherine de Medici of France and the Venetians proudly followed her reign, writing about her often. That's because she was good for the Venetian government. For as much as she was loved by the Venetians, she was spurned by their rivals, the Genoese who resented her unwavering support of all things Venetian. When she died in Istanbul on December 7, 1583, it was suspected she might have been poisoned by a Genoese spy.