Thursday, December 31, 2009

Martha Jane Canary (1852 - 1903)

Martha Jane Canary-Burke
(Calamity Jane)
May 1, 1852 – August 1, 1903

I was born in Princeton, Missouri in 1852. No one knows much about my early life, but soon after I was born, my mother died. In 1862, my family moved to Virginia City, Nevada, which was then in the early days of the boom.

An Indian uprising separated me from my father and brothers, and at the age of 10 I was thrown into the world to make my own way alone. Although I had great friends and very positive opinions of the proper things that a girl could enjoy, I soon gained a local notariety for my daring horsemanship and skill as a rifle shot.

Most people thought of me as a hard drinking woman with a preference for men's clothing. I spoke and behaved bawdily, chewed tobacco and was handy with a gun. During my life I was an army scout, a bullwhacker, a nurse, a cook, a prostitute, a prospector, a gambler, a heavy drinker and one of the most foul-mouthed people in the West. I set myself apart from other women in that I could work and socialize with hard and tough frontiersmen: from digging for gold, drinking in bars, cussing and dressing like a man, I was mostly accepted by them.

Before I turned twenty, I was appointed as an army scout under a man named Bill. In June of 1876, I partnered with him as an outrider for a wagon train, galloping into Deadwood with a shipment of prostitutes, fresh from Cheyenne.

I had unlimited nerve and entered into the work with enthusiasm, doing good service on a number of occasions. Though I never did a man's share of the heavy work, I went places where old frontiersmen were unwilling to to themselves. My courage and good-fellowship made me popular with every man in the command.

I earned my nickname in 1872 in a peculiar way. Back then, I was at Goose Creek Camp, where a small body of men were stationed. The Indians were giving us a lot of trouble, and there was much fighting.

One day the Captain was surrounded by a large band. They were fighting desperately for their lives, but were being steadily, but surely slaughtered. The Captain was wounded and had fallen off his horse.

In the midst of the fighting, I rode into the very center of the trouble, dismounted, lifted the captain in front of me on my saddle, and dashed out. We got through untouched, but every other man in the gallant company was slaughtered.

When he recovered, the Captain laughingly spoke of me as 'Calamity Jane,' and the name has clung to me ever since.

In 1876, by a daring feat, I saved the lives of six passengers on a stage coach traveling from Deadwood to Wild Birch, in the Black hills country. The stage was surrounded by Indians, and the driver was wounded by an arrow. Although the other six passengers were men, not one of them had nerve enough to take the reins. Seeing the situation, I mounted the driver's seat without a moment's hesitation and brought the stage safely and in good time to Wild Birch.

The citizens of Deadwood dubbed me the "White Devil of the Yellowstone" and "Saint" because I helped nurse the sick during a smallpox plague.

For the remainder of my days, I claimed to have been Wild Bill Hickok’s lover. But the record shows that he had just recently married and his letters home from Deadwood indicate that he was happily wedded. I requested to be buried next to Wild Bill Hickock at Deadwood, South Dakota when I died, and there I rest to this very today.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Anais Nin (1903 - 1977)

Angela Anais Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell

February 21, 1903 - January 14, 1977

Erotic Author

I was born in France.  My father was the composer Joaquin Nin, who grew up in Spain but was born in and returned to Cuba.  My mother, Rosa Culmell y Vigaraud, was of Cuban, French, and Danish ancestry.  I moved to the United States in 1914 after my father deserted the family.  In the United States I attended Catholic schools, dropped out of school, worked as a model and dancer, and returned to Europe in 1923.

I studied psychoanalysis and briefly practiced as a lay therapist in New York.  I was a patient of Carl Jung for a time as well.

Finding it difficult to get my erotic stories published, I helped found Siana Editions in France in 1935.  By 1939 and the outbreak of World War II I returned to New York, where I became a figure in the Greenwich Village crowd.

An obscure literary figure for most of my life, when my journals -- kept since 1931 -- began to be published in 1966, I entered the public eye.  The ten volumes of The Diary of Anaïs Nin have remained popular.  These are more than simple diaries; each volume has a theme, and were written with the intent that they later be published.  Letters I exchanged with intimate friends, including Henry Miller, have also been published.  The popularity of the diaries brought interest in my previously-published novels.  The Delta of Venus and Little Birds, originally written in the 1940s, were published after my death.  

I am also known for my lovers, who included Henry Miller, Edmund Wilson, Gore Vidal and Otto Rank. I was married to Hugh Guiler of New York who tolerated my affairs.  I also entered into a second, bigamous marriage to Rupert Pole in California.  I had the marriage annulled about the time I was achieving more widespread fame.  I was living with Pole at the time of my death, and he saw to the publication of a new edition of my diaries, unexpurgated.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Ave Maria by Celine Dion

One of the most beautiful things about Christmas is the story of the birth of Jesus. Nothing stirs my heart more than that.

The birth of a baby is also about the loving mother and one cannot celebrate Christmas without paying homage to Christ's mother.

The most beautiful rendition of the Ave Maria I've ever heard is by Celine Dion. It brings tears to my eyes every time. It truly is magnificent.

And this is my gift to you.
May you have peace in your life and may you know true joy in the coming year.
May God bless you all.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mary of Nazareth

How did I, a most unassuming young Jewish peasant girl, become the most famous woman in history?  I am shorter than five feet tall, but robust and sturdy.  My strong brown hands are calloused from work. Beneath my veil, I disguise my glossy black hair with a line of red or purple dye running down the center part.  The modest jewellery around my face demonstrates that I am from a decent family.

My clothes were of homespun wool or linen, loose-fitting, in one of the soft colors of natural dyes – either a cream, or a deep faded pink, or a soft blue-grey. I wore leather ankle-boots in winter and sandals in summer. And I cut my dusty toenails with a sharp knife.

Now that my menstrual periods had started, my parents gave serious consideration to choosing a husband for me. The man they settled on was Joseph, a young man not much older than I was. Joseph was well-regarded by the people around him, too.

The proposed marriage contract was worked out between our families. The amount of my dowry was settled, hopefully enough to act as an income for me should Joseph abandon me or should I become widowed. A big feast was celebrated at our betrothal.

Soon thereafter, I my menstrual periods had stopped. Even though I had never lain with a man, I knew for certain I was pregnant. But I was not yet married and this meant I had brought disgrace to all my family. Joseph and I knew he was not the father, and even though my future husband was richly embarrassed by my condition, he decided to marry me nevertheless. The marriage ceremony went ahead, and we became husband and wife.

Some months later, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Once washed, the baby was presented to Joseph, who named the baby, Jesus. By giving my son a name, he accepted him as his own child too.

In Nazareth, our lives revolved around our home, a mud brick house with a courtyard and two rooms - a front, public room with an awning, and a private room behind it. The house had a flat roof with exterior stairs and an awning of woven goats' hair to protect against the sun. This was used by the women as a work-space, an extra room. The inside of the house was quite comfortable, though minimalist by modern standards.

The routine of daily life was broken several times a year by festivals, when we traveled to Jerusalem to visit the Temple and offer sacrifice there. On one of these visits, Jesus became lost for three days in the crowded city streets, and Joseph and I hunted desperately for him. We eventually located him speaking to scholars in the Temple precincts. These learned men seemed to be treating our son as an equal, which made me realize something I had suspected ever since my son was born - that he was nothing like the other children, that he had a special destiny.

This eldest son of ours grew into a complicated young man, too clever and restless to settle easily into an ordinary life in Nazareth. Like many men whose birth was shadowed he was not entirely accepted by the people he grew up with. He was an inspiring, exciting man but not a comfortable one. I watched him with all the anguish and love of a mother, and growing misgivings.

At some stage, Jesus left Nazareth and gained considerable fame as a charismatic teacher and healer. Joseph had disappeared from my life – first away working as a tradesman and later dead.

Nazareth did not celebrate often, so when Jesus returned to the village he was at first greeted warmly. He went to the tiny synagogue and taught there, to men and to women, and people were impressed by what he said. But then things turned sour. The people of Nazareth did not treat Jesus with the respect he had received in the outside world. Jesus resented their skepticism, and did not hide his resentment.

The villagers turned on him and ran him out of town. In the ensuing mêlée, the rougher element among the villagers tried to kill Jesus. It was probably someone in this group who referred disparagingly to Jesus as “the son of Mary” instead of “the son of Joseph”. They disdained my son because they believed him to not have a father. It was a most unbearable experience for I was forced to watch helplessly as my son was being vilified.

On another occasion I tried to see Jesus in another village. He was earning a reputation as a troublemaker, distrusted by powerful people. The clashes he was having were too serious to ignore. I decided to caution Jesus. I gathered my four younger sons and my daughters and went looking for Jesus, to see him or to warn him, or both. As it turned out, things had gone too far for that. Jesus' response to us was certainly not what I expected. “Family?” he asked. “The people who follow me are my family.” The incident profoundly shocked me.

Later, they tortured and beat my son, his injuries too terrible to imagine. As he hung on the cross his body was dying, crumbling under a combination of exhaustion, shock, and suffocation. As long as he could hold himself upright he could breathe, but as he became exhausted and let his body sag forward, the angle of his arms constricted his lungs, and he reverted to a terrible rasping struggle for air. It broke my heart to see him die like this.

After my son’s death, I lived on, venerated by the disciples, watching Jesus’ followers grow. They called him Christus, the Savior, and said he was the divine Son of God. For a poor woman of Galilee, it was too much to fathom.

(Article remixed from

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Enheduana (2285 - 2250 B.C.)

I am Enheduana, and I am the world's earliest known female writer.  My name means "lord or lady ornament of An (the sky or heaven).  I was an Akkadian princess as well as high priestess of the moon god Nanna (Sin) in Ur.  I am a writer of hymns, many of which still exist today.

My father, King Sargon of Akka began the tradition of appointing only the daughters of kings to the post of En of Nanna.  For 500 years afterwards, En Priestesses were so named, just as I was.

Lugal-Ane, a rebellious Sumerian King, temporarily dislodged me from my position, in an attempt to show my imperial appointment to be locally unacceptable. 

I wrote a hymn called Nin-me-sara to the goddess Inanna.  The Sumerian people believed that I had written it so effectively that my prayers to Inanna were answered with 9 victories thus quelling 9 battles between the Sumerians and the Akkadians.  These victories allowed my nephew, Naram Sin, who was then king, to successfully unite Sumer and Akkad for several years.  After this historic coup, I was restored to my post as En of Nanna in Ur.

Nin-me-sara was revered as a sacred document and 500 years after my death, during the Babylonian era, it was used as a text copied by students learning to be scribes.  Over 100 clay tablet copies of the hymn were used to create my translation of nin-me-sara thus pointing out how popular the hymn was.  Few Mesopotamian literary texts have boasted as many copies.

I originally wrote it on an alabaster disk and called myself the"zirru of Nanna," a mysterious term which means the embodiment of the Goddess Ningal, the wife of the moon God Nanna.

Historians have noted that my work displays the concept of a personal relationship with the divine, to wit:

I am yours! It will always be so!
May your heart cool off for me
May your understanding... compassion…
I have experienced your great punishment

My Lady, I will proclaim your greatness in all lands and your glory!
Your ‘way’ and great deeds I will always praise!
In addition, she is the first author to write in the first person. Scribes wrote about the King and the divine, but never about themselves prior to En-hedu-Ana.

I also became famous as the author of several Sumerian hymns.  I am considered the earliest author known by name.  The hymns I wrote to Inanna celebrate my individual relationship with Inanna, thereby setting down the earliest surviving verbal account of an individual's consciousness of her inner life.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Maria Montessori (1870 - 1952)

I was born in the town of Chiaravalle in the province of Ancona, Italy in the year 1870 in an era where it was not common to treat children with respect. The old adage applied – Children should be seen and not heart. My father, Alessandro Montessori, worked in an official capacity for the Italian government and was a respected member of the bourgeois civil service. My mother, Renide Stoppani, came from a wealthy, well-educated family known for their devotion to the liberation and unity of Italy.

It was my mother who encouraged me towards advanced education and convinced me to register at the Regia Scuola Tecnica Michaelangelo Buonarroti in engineering studies at the age of thirteen. I disliked it greatly and knew that this was not a model for an ideal school. I decided to drop out of my engineering program. My family, friends, and especially my father, all cheered the decision for they were shocked that I would choose such an unlady-like profession.

Much to their chagrin, I decided to go to the University of Rome and become a student of their medical program. I graduated with a score of 100 out of 105 in 1896, the first female doctor in Italy’s history.

A month after my graduation, I was chosen to represent Italy in a Women's International Congress in Berlin, Germany. When I returned to Rome, I was appointed as a surgical assistant at Santo Spirito, worked at the children’s hospital, and maintained a private practice.

By 1897 I came to the realization that the children I worked with could not be adequately treated in the hospitals and should instead be educated in schools. Towards this goal, I began to devote more and more of my time towards perfecting education. In 1912 I developed The Montessori Method – a method of learning that used nature to meet the real needs of children.

In 1900 I became a director of a small school for 'challenged' youth. My methods were hailed as experimental, but miraculous. I believed that children should be taught “how” prior to executing a task.

While working there, I had a love affair with a colleague, Dr. Montesano. In 1898, I gave birth to my only child, Mario Montessori. We vowed to keep our relationship and the identity of the father of my son a secret. We pledged that neither of us would ever marry another person. Montesano failed to live up to his end of the bargain, however, and fell in love with and married another woman while still working with me in daily contact. The pain of this betrayal caused me to leave the school. I sent my son to a wet nurse and later to a boarding school.

In 1907 I actively began to emphasize my theories and methods of pedagogy. I became the director for a group of daycare centers for children of the working class in one of the worst neighbourhoods in Rome. My pupils were labelled as “wild and unruly”. Yet, under my guidance and methods, they began to respond. I respected the children and always held them in the highest regard and insisted that the teachers I employed did the same.

The success of our work was amazing. Children younger than three and four years old began to read, write, and initiate self-respect. My method encouraged these underprivileged children to “absorb their culture”. But they absorbed much more than mere reading and writing – they soon progressed to botany, zoology, mathematics, geography, with great ease and spontaneous energy.

Critics complained my methods were too rigorous and harsh. But instead I argued, “I studied my children, and they taught me how to teach them." To hear such a statement today, would not turn heads. In my day, however, everyone was left agape and shocked. Because I believed that the learning environment was just as important as the learning itself, my school was the first to have child-sized tables and chairs made for the students. My schools were often peaceful, orderly places, where the children valued their space for concentration and the process of learning.

My methods completely contradicted traditional forms of educational. For example, adults often reprimand children about runny noses, but never take the time to teach them how to take care of it themselves. I decided to give the children a slightly humorous lesson on how to blow their noses. After I had shown them different ways to use a handkerchief, I ended by indicating how it could be done as unobtrusively as possible. I took out my handkerchief in such a way that they could hardly see it and blew my nose as softly as I could. The children watched me in rapt attention, but failed to laugh. I wondered why, but I had hardly finished my demonstration when they broke out into applause that resembled a long repressed ovation in a theater. When I was on the point of leaving the school, the children began to shout, 'Thank you, thank you for the lesson!'"

On one occasion, a teacher was late. The eager students actually crawled through the window and got right to work while they waited. I created the game of silence, a brief period of meditation that allowed the children to start the day with a sense of peace and focus.

In the latter years of my life, from around 1907 to the mid-1930's, I devoted all of my time and energy in founding schools that taught my method throughout Europe and North America. I also traveled to India and Sri Lanka, and until 1947, I trained thousands of teachers in the Montessori curriculum and methodology.

I lived until 1952 in the Netherlands after a lifetime devoted to the study of child development. I also worked for women’s rights and social reform. My success in Italy led to international recognition, and during my lifetime I traveled the world lecturing and training. ‘Educate for Peace’ was my guiding principle which influenced her every deed.

My work lives on through the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), the organization I founded in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1929 to carry on my work.

I made numerous memorable quotations. Following is a collection of my most famous ones:

Who Am I?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Love Letter - Mary Wollstonecraft to William Godwin

Mary Wollstonecraft was the mother of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. She fell deeply in love with William Godwin, an English journalist, political philosopher and novelist. By November, 1796, Mary became pregnant with their only child, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. She died two weeks after their daughter's birth. Godwin raised Mary surrounded by philosophers and poets, such as Coleridge and Lamb. He also taught Mary to read and spell her name by having her trace her mother's inscription on the stone.

October 4, 1796

I would have liked to have dined with you today, after finishing your essay - that my eyes, and lips, I do not exactly mean my voice, might have told you that they had raised you in my esteem. What a cold word! I would say love, if you will promise not to dispute about its propriety, when I want to express an increasing affection, founded on a more intimate acquaintance with your heart and understanding.

I shall cork up all my kindness - yet the fine volatile essence may fly off in my walk - you know not how much tenderness for you may escape in a voluptuous sigh, should the air, as is often the case, give a pleasurable movement to the sensations, that have been clustering round my heart, as I read this morning - reminding myself, every now and then, that the writer loved me.

Voluptuous is often expressive of a meaning I do not now intend to give, I would describe one of those moments, when the senses are exactly tuned by the ringing tenderness of the heart and according reason entices you to live in the present moment, regardless of the past or future - it is not rapture - it is sublime tranquility.

I have felt it in your arms - hush! Let not the light see, I was going to say hear it - these confessions should only be uttered - you know where, when the curtains are up - and all the world shut out - Ah me!

I wish I may find you at home when I carry this letter to drop it in the box, - that I may drop a kiss with it into your heart, to be embalmed, till me meet, closer.

(Mary Wollstonecraft, Anglo-Irish feminist and writer, to William Godwin, philosopher and writer. She was recovering from her previous passion for Gilbert Imlay, who fathered her daughter, Fanny, and then abandoned her, after which she tried to drown herself in the Thames.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855)

I was born the daughter of a preacher. Along with my sisters, I was raised in a small parsonage in a Yorkshire village. When I was still a child, I lost my mother. As the eldest, I assumed the role of caring for my sisters.

Our home overlooked the village graveyard. To escape from the sight of these surroundings which continually reminded my sisters and I of the loss of our dear mother, we spent our leisure time creating stories of fantasy lands. These fantasy stories often involved our strict, religious aunt. Later in a poem, I wrote: "We wove a web in childhood, a web of sunny air."

After various efforts as schoolmistresses and governesses, my sisters and I began to write. Soon thereafter we published a volume of poems under male names. Sadly, our books sold poorly, but this did not deter us.

I continued to write and completed several novels. On became an instant success and sold very well upon its release in 1854.

The novel continues to be popular today and is recognized as one of the classics of English literature for its originality and strength of writing.

I married my father's curate, but after a short, though happy married life, I died in childbirth in 1855.

Charlotte Bronte

21 April 1816 – 31 March 1855

Novelist and Poet

The human heart has hidden treasures, In secret kept, in silence sealed; The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, Whose charms were broken if revealed.

EVENING SOLACE Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855)

The human heart has hidden treasures,
In secret kept, in silence sealed;--
The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures,
Whose charms were broken if revealed.
And days may pass in gay confusion,
And nights in rosy riot fly,
While, lost in Fame's or Wealth's illusion,
The memory of the Past may die.

But there are hours of lonely musing,
Such as in evening silence come,
When, soft as birds their pinions closing,
The heart's best feelings gather home.
Then in our souls there seems to languish
A tender grief that is not woe;
And thoughts that once wrung groans of anguish
Now cause but some mild tears to flow.

And feelings, once as strong as passions,
Float softly back--a faded dream;
Our own sharp griefs and wild sensations,
The tale of others' sufferings seem.
Oh! when the heart is freshly bleeding,
How longs it for that time to be,
When, through the mist of years receding,
Its woes but live in reverie!

And it can dwell on moonlight glimmer,
On evening shade and loneliness;
And, while the sky grows dim and dimmer,
Feel no untold and strange distress--
Only a deeper impulse given
By lonely hour and darkened room,
To solemn thoughts that soar to heaven
Seeking a life and world to come.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Love Letters - Pietro Bembo to Lucrezia Borgia

Lucrezia Borgia was the daughter of the Spanish Cardinal, Rodrigo Borgia, who later became Pope Alexander VI. Much scandal regarding incest and murder surrounds her. She entered into a passionate affair with Pietro Bembo, (1470-1547), a respected poet and scholar who became a Cardinal in the Vatican who became enraptured by her.

Born of an aristocratic Venetian family, Pietro Bembo wrote many adoring poems to Lucrezia, and they carried on a long correspondence that continued well after they parted. Theirs was an affair of great affection and respect.

October 18, 1503

Eight days have passed since I parted from f.f., and already it is as though I had been eight years away from her, although I can avow that not one hour has passed without her memory which has become such a close companion to my thoughts that now more than ever is it the food and sustenance of my soul; and if it should endure like this a few days more, as seems it must, I truly believe it will in every way have assumed the office of my soul, and I shall then live and thrive on the memory of her as do other men upon their souls, and I shall have no life but in this single thought. Let the God who so decrees do as he will, so long as in exchange I may have as much a part of her as shall suffice to prove the gospel of our affinity is founded on true prophecy. Often I find myself recalling, and with what ease, certain words spoken to me, some on the balcony with the moon as witness, others at that window I shall always look upon so gladly, with all the many endearing and gracious acts I have seen my gentle lady perform--for all are dancing about my heart with a tenderness so wondrous that they inflame me with a strong desire to beg her to test the quality of my love. For I shall never rest content until I am certain she knows what she is able to enact in me and how great and strong is the fire that her great worth has kindled in my breast. The flame of true love is a mighty force, and most of all when two equally matched wills in two exalted minds contend to see which loves the most, each striving to give yet more vital proof...It would be the greatest delight for me to see just two lines in f.f.'s hand, yet I dare not ask so much. May your Ladyship beseech her to perform whatever you feel is best for me. With my heart I kiss your Ladyship's hand, since I cannot with my lips.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Aradia (1313 - Unknown)

I was born beneath a full moon in Tuscany on August 13, 1313, a date clearly chosen for magical reasons. August 13 was a feast day of the ancient Italian goddess, Diana. My father was a widower with four grown children from a previous marriage when he married my mother.

My mother had many miscarriages. Being a pious woman, she purchased numerous masses said on her behalf that she might have a child. She vowed in her heart that any child born living would grow up to be a priest or nun.

Supposedly, after one night of much fasting and prayer, my mother became ravenous. Having finished her vigil, she gathered and ate some walnuts from a tree in Benevento. Shortly thereafter, she discovered she was pregnant. She gave birth to me at the full moon.

Though my mother adored me, her only thought was one day I should become a nun, a dedicated bride of Christ. Yet one day, while looking from my window, I spied a nest of baby birds chirping loudly for their mama and papa. I asked, "Mama, one day I hope to have a nest full of babies like that mama bird."

My mother firmly said, "No!" and explained, "You, my child, are promised to become a bride of Christ. There is no higher calling."

I stamped my foot and declared I had made no such promise. At that point, my mother became so angry she gave me a cuff. I blinked back my tears and said boldly that on no account would I ever be a nun. My mother was very angry.

I fled and appealed to my father. My father, however, had already paid two handsome dowries for his two daughters from the previous marriage. He had no desire to pay for a third. He told me he had only enough money to pay for the lesser dowry that the church took--and that I should be content with the life of a nun if that was what my mother desired.

I did not like what my father said. I declared to both my parents haughtily that I hoped to be married like others, dowry or none. "Mind your tongue unless you want to be locked in your room," my father ordered. To which I replied, "Whether you lock me up or beat me, I will still find some way to escape. You will not make me a nun against my will."

My father was not pleased with my haughtiness. However, at hearing this proclamation, my mother was seriously frightened, for she knew my spirit. She feared force might eventually push her precious maiden into the arms of some rake, ruining me and causing a great scandal.

Turning it all over, my mother thought of an elder cousin, though some say aunt, related to my father through marriage and now a widow. She was a woman well known for her wit, learning, and somber virtue. "Such a governess," my mother thought, "will induce my daughter to become pious and fill her head with devotions."

Eventually, I sought the aid of a priest who might intercede on my behalf with my parents on the subject of becoming a nun. Instead, he admonished me for my sin of disobedience to my parents and then rambled on about the parable of the foolish virgins. In the end, he instructed me to pray for guidance.

In the meantime, my parents appointed her as my governess and she became my constant companion. The lady did not encourage me to become a nun or vex me with pieties. Though I was reminded to say my prayers, I was largely instructed in practical pursuits such as weaving, sewing, spinning, dying cloth, the making of candles and soap, the names of plants and herbs, etc., which might be useful in either a convent or household.

One night when the moon was full and round, I thought I heard my elder cousin's voice speaking or singing softly to someone. By the open window, I spied my kinswoman kneeling in the moonlight, apparently praying, but praying no Latin prayer of the Church.

Much later, when we were alone, I confronted my governess, who first denied everything. At last, she promised to explain all if I would vow secrecy.
"I, like you," she explained, "was brought up to worship an invisible god with contrition and prayers. Yet why give adoration to a god, his son, and their martyrs, who never appear nor give any comfort in this world of misery? There is the Moon, visible in all her splendor and you should worship her. She is the Great Diana, the goddess of the Moon, and she will grant your prayers. Invoke and praise her. If you, too, desire to learn this sorcery, I will teach you the old ways and how to worship Diana."

I converted to the worship of the Moon. My governess required me to learn many charms and conjurations before she would teach me the conjuration to bring admirable suitors. I invoked the Moon, requesting young men of stations suitable to my father.
My mother was distraught that a parade of unknown men suddenly showed an interest in her virgin child. She sent my governess away. She complained bitterly to my father that I was willful and wanton. Angrily, he shut me away in a tower used for storage, with nothing but a stone floor to sleep on. "You will remain in the tower until you become sensible and accept vows to be a nun," he commanded.

I prayed with tears to the full moon for deliverance, and a great storm came up. During the storm, I escaped, for the house shook with wind and the door to my chamber opened. Some say Diana threw a spear of lightning at the tower. Others say a lamp fell over, setting a tapestry aflame. The fire burned a large portion of the house including the tower where they kept me. My father and mother thought I had perished in the flames and they mourned my death.

I hurried away through the night, not knowing where to go. After the storm passed, a brutish fellow spied me and followed me with the intent of doing me harm. Seeing I was followed, I started to run, but tripped on my dress and fell. I looked up at the moon between the clouds and said, "I have no one to defend me. Diana, you alone see me. Therefore I pray to thee!"

A cloud passed over the moon and a white shadow appeared and said, "Rise and go thy way to the safety of my wood. This one shall trouble thee no more." Under the cover of darkness, I ran toward a group of trees. As I reached the shadows of the trees, the moon came out from behind the cloud. I turned and saw the form of my attacker standing still as stone under the cold moon. I hurried on through the woods.
I walked much that night. I rested by an open field until the next evening.
There, when I was alone and without companion, I sat far from human habitation. As fireflies danced over the open field, the moon arose. The fireflies slowly faded away. From the moonlight, there appeared moon white shining ones, thousands of faeries as beautiful as the light of the moon.

"What are you?" I asked the shining ones.

"We are the children of Diana. We are children of the moon," they replied.
"You are lovely," I said.

"You are like us, because you were born when the moon was round and full. For those born under a full moon are children of the moon."

The voice of Diana said to me, "It is true indeed that you, a spirit, are, but you were born to be yet again a mortal. You must go to earth and become a teacher to women and men who seek to learn witchcraft."

Later, I came to a small vineyard and house, with a face crudely carved in a tree stump outside it. There I traded my costly dress for food and the clothes of a peasant.

In my time, many peasants and serfs lived as slaves. In those days, many slaves were cruelly treated. In every palace tortures. In every castle prisoners.
Many oppressed escaped. They fled to the country, to the wood of Diana. Thus, they became thieves and desperate folk. Some had robbed their masters and slew them as they slept, so they dwelt in the forests and mountains as robbers and assassins, all to avoid oppression. They had escaped into the hills and the forest. These people gathered into outlaw bands, living like gypsies and thieves in order to survive.

Dressed as a common woman, I sought them out. I lived with them for a time, practicing my healing craft. They hid me near Nemi, an ancient site for the worship of Diana. In ancient times, a runaway slave, if he were brave, strong and desperate enough, could seek asylum at the grove of Nemi.

In the wood, I heard the plight of these people. The great lords, wicked masters who abused them, evilly treated many, casting them from their homes during a poor harvest. Virtuous girls used as playthings were outcasts as ruined. One girl, Margherita, was branded on the cheek for having an affair with a nobleman's son. After this lord's son refused a pre-arranged marriage, Margherita bore the lord's wrath. Convicted of sorcery for giving her lover a spiced wine philtre, the court, at the lord's insistence, decreed Margherita's nose be cut off if she returned to the area. Some suffered persecution from the Church, ejecting them from the district of the parish, because they kept to the old ways. From those who kept the old ways, I learned as much as I could about the follettos, fauni, sylvani, monachettos, linchettos, and any enchantments I did not yet know. Among these outlaws, I came to know the good women of Diana who believed and professed they had ridden at night upon certain beasts with a hoard of women and Diana, the goddess of the pagans, all in the service of their mistress.

I had such a passion for witchcraft, and became so powerful, that I could no longer hide my greatness. But the lords, who disliked the large band of assassins and thieves, sought us out. One day, while I gathered herbs before dawn, soldiers of the nobility came upon the band. Everyone scattered.

I obtained a pilgrim's dress that I might hide in the open as a pious pilgrim, wandering between Christian shrines--but in truth I sought the old places of power, some of which the Church had built upon. I traveled everywhere. When I slept in people's homes, I would give them charms or perform healings.

To those who wanted to learn the truth of sorcery, I taught its secrets. I taught them to bless and to curse, to cure diseases, to make a good vintage and fine wine, to cool a fever, to stop blood, to make those who are ugly beautiful, to know the secrets of herbs, to know the secrets of hands, to divine the wind, to divine with cards, to tame wild beasts, to converse with spirits, to conjure the spirits of priests who died leaving hidden treasures, to call tempests with lightning, thunder, hail and wind.

I had been taught to work all witchcraft, how to destroy those men of evil, those oppressors. At a well, two young children were drawing water. The older, a young girl, gave me a drink and invited me to their home. Their mother, the mistress of the house, was abed, because her feet and legs pained her greatly. I applied goose grease to the woman's aching limbs, rubbing the flesh vigorously. Such was the power of my healing that the woman rose, walked, and prepared a supper in gratitude.
At another household where I stayed, horrendous nightmares plagued a little girl, Lucia, daughter of the cook. Lucia had grown ill from lack of sleep. The cook said, "It has been such since her father died. She says the things in the dark frighten her."

I gathered a fresh branch of rue before dawn. In private, I prepared a wreath of rue, bound with ribbons of yellow and red. In the evening, I brought it to Lucia, who lay in bed. I said, "Look through this garland and see with clear sight. When you dream, you will see with clear sight that which frightens you and you will see it cannot harm you." I sang the child a song of power, a song of night, which soothes sleep. I hung the garland over the bed and the child slept peacefully.

A maiden complained to me that her betrothed had abandoned her to court a wealthy widow. Tearfully, she asked me if there was any way she might cause him to return to her. I said, "Perhaps, he never loved thee."

"No," replied the maiden, "look, he gave me a lock of his hair as a love token."
I sat at the maiden's spinning wheel. I took soft, white, carded wool and began to spin, fashioning a thread beautiful as moonlight. I handed the maiden the spool of thread I had spun. "Bind his lock of hair with yours using this thread and bring to him cakes of honey. He will forget this widow and return to thee."

There was a man who owned a small vineyard. Strangers knew him for his kindness, even if his harvest had been poor. His household received me as a wandering pilgrim. As payment, I went out to the vineyard taking a horn of wine. I drank from the horn, murmuring softly in the light of the slender, crescent, waxing moon. Later, this old man had an abundant harvest of grapes, which yielded a good vintage.
I became known as La Bella Pellegrina, the beautiful pilgrim, so renowned for my beauty, and wisdom, and healing arts. Some said I was an angel or a saint. To have La Bella Pellegrina abide in your home was a blessing, for it was known folk had sometimes entertained angels unaware.

Those I taught in secret called me La Maestra, the teacher. Eventually it seems tales of La Bella Pellegrina reached the ears of my mother, who was now a widow. She sought out authorities and had them arrest me as a wayward daughter.

She greeted me joyfully in prison, claiming God had sent a blessing by restoring her beautiful child alive and returning her as a holy pilgrim. She then asked if I was at last ready to embrace her true vocation as a nun.

I responded stiffly, "It is not possible for me to be a nun. I have left the Catholic Church, and become a worshipper of the Moon. I have no mother, except Diana."

"In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Church, what are you saying?" exclaimed my mother.

"Your God, his son, and the Church are three devils!" I answered.
Thus, my pious mother gave me up as lost and abandoned me to be put to the torture and death as a heretic.

I prayed at the window by the light of the full moon to Diana that I might be delivered. In the morning, I was not found in my cell. No one will ever know how I escaped. It is as though I evaporated with the moon's dew.
Later, south of Rome, I was captured again and a lover aided me so I might pray again in the light of the moon.

While she imprisoned in the dungeon of the palace, a great storm came up. A terrible tempest, which overthrew and swept away everyone in it, all the evil overlords. There was not one stone left upon another.

After that, no one knows what happened to me. Some believe I died there. Others say I escaped alive and traveled North, where I was worshipped as a goddess and lived to a great age. The legend of my existence lives on to this day.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Emily Murphy (1868 - 1933)


It’s hard to believe that prior to 1929, women in Canada weren’t considered “persons” under the law. Even worse, women in Canada were also prohibited from owning property. If a woman’s husband died, any property he owned was inherited by the nearest male relative or other male of his choice who would then look after and support the widow. Canadian women were excluded from public office as senators, certain professions and universities. I set out to change all that.

I was born in 1868 in Cookstown, a small town in the province of Ontario. My father was a wealthy businessman and landowner involved in law and politics. My grandfather, uncles, and brothers were politicians, judges, or lawyers. My father raised me as an equal to my brothers and encouraged me to join in their adventures. As prominent members of society, my parents encouraged me to receive formal academic education.

In 1887, I married an Anglican minister. Together we had four daughters, but two died when they were very young. Our family moved west and finally settled in Edmonton, Alberta in 1907. While my husband was occupied in his work, I set out to become acquainted with my surroundings. When I was 40 and all my children had flown the coop, I used my new found freedom to organize women’s groups where isolated housewives met and organized group projects. I began to speak openly about the plight of women - the disadvantages and poor living conditions.

One day, I learned of an Alberta woman whose husband sold the family farm and abandoned his wife and numerous children, leaving them without any money and without a home. Alberta law at that time did not leave the wife any legal recourse. This provoked me to create a campaign to assure the property rights of married women. Supported by a number of rural women, I pressured the government to allow women to retain the rights of their land. As a result, Alberta passed the Dower Act in 1916 which allowed women to retain a third of their husband’s property. But the Act was weak and insufficient. Unfortunately, it took many years before authorities enforced it. Undaunted, I pressed on.

In 1916, I learned about two women who were rejected from an Edmonton court because “the evidence was not fit to be heard in mixed company.” I argued that the government must then set up a special court to be presided over by women to try other women. The Minister agreed. He offered me the position of police magistrate to preside over this special new court. Hence, I became the first woman in the entire British Empire to ever hold such a position.

But on my very first day on the job, a lawyer challenged my appointment as judge because, he argued, women were not “persons” under the law. The law at that time stated women were eligible for pains and penalties, not rights and privileges. The lawyer's objection was over-ruled, but the issue raged on.

I decided to bring the issue to the forefront by allowing my name to go to the Prime Minister as a candidate for the Senate. Even though he was willing to appoint a woman, he was not able to and rejected me because under the law, women were not considered persons.

I decided the law had better be changed. With the help of my lawyer brother, we devised a plan to work through the Supreme Court to ask for constitutional clarification regarding women becoming Senators. Such a question had to be submitted by a group of at least five citizens, but that posed no problem for me. I invited five of my best girlfriends to my house for tea on August 27, 1927 and together we petitioned the Supreme Court of Canada to clarify: Does the word "persons" in Section 24, of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?

The arguments were presented on March 14, 1928 (my 60th birthday), and after a daylong debate, the Supreme Court of Canada decided against us on April 24, 1928.

Despite this setback, we five women refused to give up. With the approval of the Prime Minister, we appealed the decision. After several more months of waiting, me and my friends finally received the answer we had been campaigning for. On October 18, 1929, the ruling came down: Women are "persons" and can serve in the Senate.

My friends and may have fought the battle, but it was another woman who was appointed to the Senate. I was never appointed due to geographic restrictions and political allegiances.

I died of diabetes in Edmonton on October 17, 1933 at the age of 65. My mausoleum drawer lists my many achievements, including the 'Persons' Case.

Me and my four friends, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, and Nellie McClung became known as The Famous Five. Our work is honoured today through the work of The Famous Five Foundation at

Emily Murphy

March 14, 1868 - October 17, 1933

I feel equal to high and splendid braveries!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The History of Eggs Benedict

The true origins of that most popular breakfast, Eggs Benedict are in dispute. There are four versions.

The first is about a retired Wall Street stock broker named Lemuel Benedict. In 1942, the year before he died, he did an interview for "Talk of the Town" column of The New Yorker. He claimed that in 1984, suffering from a terrible hangover, he wandered into the Waldorf Hotel desperate to find a cure for his suffering. He ordered buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon and a hooker of hollandaise. When Oscar Tschirky, the famous maître d'hôtel heard about the order, added it to the breakfast and luncheon menus but with a small change. He added a toasted English muffin instead of the egg and ham instead of the bacon.

The second gives credit to Commodore E.C. Benedict, a banker and yachtsman, who died in 1920 at the age of 86. Apparently, the commodore gave the recipe to his brother, who gave it to the mother of man named Montgomery and who later gave it to her son. This son actually reproduced the original recipe and gave it to a reporter of a New York newspaper.

And lastly, Mabel C. Butler of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts in a November 1967 letter printed in The New York Times Magazine responded to Montgomery's claim by correcting that the "true story, well known to the relations of Mrs. Le Grand Benedict", of whom she was one, was:

“ Mr. and Mrs. Benedict, when they lived in New York around the turn of the century, dined every Saturday at Delmonico's. One day Mrs. Benedict said to the maitre d' hotel, "Haven't you anything new or different to suggest?" On his reply that he would like to hear something from her, she suggested poached eggs on toasted English muffins with a thin slice of ham, hollandaise sauce and a truffle on top.[4] ”

A fourth origin of the dish is suggested in Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking, where she describes a traditional French dish named œufs bénédictine, consisting of brandade (a puree of refreshed salt cod and potatoes), spread on triangles of fried bread. A poached egg is then set on top and napped with hollandaise. This story would also explain the distinctly French syntax, where the adjective follows, rather than precedes, the noun (although Oysters Rockefeller has the same syntax without needing a Romance-language origin). Still, it is not clear how this dish would have migrated to America, where it became popular. The combination of cod and eggs suggests it was a Lenten or meatless dish, and the use of salt cod suggests it could be as old as the Renaissance, when salt cod became more plentiful.

Mrs. Isabella Beeton's Household Management had recipes in the first edition (1861) for "Dutch sauce, for benedict" (p. 405) and its variant on the following page, "Green sauce, or Hollandaise verte", so it undoubtedly precedes the 20th century claimants above.

Popular recipes have always been shared among friends and family with the best ones becoming extremely prolific in a relatively short period of time.

Regardless, Eggs Benedict can be found almost everywhere throughout Canada and the U.S. today.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Queen Suriyothai

I am the Queen of Thailand, married to the king who reigned from 1549 to 1569. All consider me to be a heroine of Thailand, because I sacrificed my life while trying to save my husband during a battle.

My husband was famous for his white elephants. He had a number of them and according to Brahminic beliefs, a monarch who had one or more white elephant was a symbol of glory and success. My husband's reign was extremely successful.

He ascended to the throne in 1549. After just six months, he was challenged by the King of Burma to a war. The King of Burma had a personal grudge towards my husband and he wanted to capture the main city, Ayutthaya, which was the capital of Siam. During those days Thailand was called Siam.

The Siamese king could not let the challenge go and my husband led his army in defense of the capital. During those times women were not allowed to take part in wars. But I was concerned about my husband’s well being and I wanted to be at his side during the battle. However, the King would not hear of it so I disguised myself as a man and I joined my husband on the battlefield.

During the battle, my husband's elephant was killed and taking advantage of this mishap, the Burmese king tried to kill him.

I intercepted the attack, but I died in the bargain. When the Burmese King found out that he had killed me, a mere woman, he was extremely ashamed and immediately withdrew from the battle; leaving Ayutthaya to Siam.

All looked upon me as a heroine for sacrificing my life to save my husband’. To this day, I am venerated and revered in Thailand for my bravery.

Queen Suriyothai
16th Century

Fredegunde (550 - 597)

(Image courtesy of:  Kristin Forbes-Mullane.  Visit her art gallery at:

Originally a servant, I became mistress to the king of Neustria after persuading him to murder his first wife. But I was not satisfied to be a mere mistress. Because he was a king, he remarried, but remained his mistress. I waited patiently and when the time was right, I induced him to murder his second wife, too. Thus I became his third and last wife.

The murdered queen's sister, in revenge against my husband, began a feud
which lasted more than 40 years. Her brother, too, constantly feuded with my husband who had inherited the western portion of the Frankish lands, which came to be known as Neustria. The hatred between the two intensified.

When my husband's forces attacked Austrasia in 573, a desire for vengeance made the dear ex-brother-in-law vindictive, and in the fighting he overran Neustria. He was about to be proclaimed king of Neustria when I had him assassinated.

Murder came easy to me. I procured the deaths of my own stepchildren and made attempts on the lives of my husband's brother, the king of Burgundy, and my predecessor's sister.

After the mysterious assassination of my husband in 584, I seized his riches and took refuge in the cathedral at Paris. None could say for certain that his death came about by my own hand, and I shall never reveal the truth. My son was proclaimed heir, and I ruled as his regent. My reign was marked by war with rival parties for the throne and numerous murders I engineered.

I am remembered primarily as a figure of cruelty and intrigue.

Gregory of Tours depicts me as ruthlessly murderous and sadistically cruel; in his account, few can rival my monstrousness. Although I did not live to see it, my son's execution of my nemesis (the murdered queen's sister), bore the mark of my hatred for he had the sixty year old woman stretched in agony upon the rack for three entire days, then watched her meet her death chained between four horses that were goaded to the four points of the compass, tearing her body asunder.

I died on the 8th day of December 597 in Paris, France. My tomb is a mosaic figure of marble and copper, situated in Saint Denis Basilica, having come from St. Germain-des-Prés.

Legend says that I was proposed as one of many sources for the folk tale alternatively known as Cinderella, Aschenputtel, Cenerentola or Cendrillion.

It has also been said that I was jealous of my own daughter, who continually declared that she should be mistress instead of me because I began life as a palace maid, while she was of royal blood, being a king's daughter. I waited for my opportunity and under the pretense of magnanimity took her to the treasure-room and showed her the King's jewels in a large chest. Feigning fatigue, I exclaimed "I am weary; put thou in thy hand, and take out what thou mayest find." I thereupon forced down the lid on her neck and would have killed her had not the servants finally rushed to her aid.

(550 A.D. - 597 A.D)
Frankish Queen
Wife of King Chilperic I of Soissons - Neustria
Regent for her son Chlotar or Lothair II

Anna Pavlova (1881 - 1931)

To this very day, I am considered the most famous dancer in the world.

I was born on January 31, 1881 in St. Petersburg. My mother was a washerwoman and my father was a reserve soldier whom I never knew. From the time I was a very small child, after I attended a perforamnce of Sleeping Beauty, all I wanted was to become a dancer. Two years later, I entered an elite school for classical dancers. The school and its students were under the protection of the highest leader of the land, who was its benefactor. In return, the school expected the highest degree of physical and mental dedication.

But I was considered frail and thin, and even worse, unattractive. Regardless of these physical barriers, I was exceptionally supple and possessed beautiful arched insteps, critical to ballerinas. My love of the dance was exemplified in each step I danced. My talent soon came to the attention of a ballet master who became my most dedicated mentor.

My debut occurred on September 19, 1899. From the very first, I impressed everyone with my expressive abilities. My first tour began in 1907. After that, I was on tour for most of my career. It is said that I travelled over 400,000 miles and was seen by millions all over the world.

In February 1910, I made her first appearance in America at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Although the benefactor of my ballet company approved these early tours, I was forced to return home in the summer of 1914. I was in Germany enroute to London when war was declared on August 2, 1914. I found myself alone and without the protection of my benefactor.

Afterwards, from this time in my life until my death, I continued to make exhaustive, world-wide tours with my own international company. During the early war years, I was in America. In 1917 I travelled to South America. By 1919 I was in Bahia and Salvador. I returned to America in 1920 and in 1923 I took my company to Japan, China, India, Burma, and Egypt. South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand received me in 1926. I entertained British citizens during 1927-1928.

My signature dances were the Bacchanale and my eerily beautiful The Swan.

My popularity grew from my passion for ballet, my good humor, and self-discipline. When I wasn't dancing, which was a rare occasion, I spent my time at Ivy House in Hampstead, London, where I kept a menagerie of exotic birds and animals - including a pair of pet swans.

Victor Dandré, a fellow exile from my home country, was rumoured to be my husband, and if not my husband, definitely my lover.

After a lifetime of incessant performances, the illness of pleurisy claimed my life in The Hague on January 22, 1931. My last request was to have my Swan costume prepared and to, "Play that last measure softly."

Australia and New Zealand both claim they created the famous desert named in my honor. The Australians claim it originated from Chef Bert Sachse, the chef of Perth's Esplanade Hotel where I had once stayed. It is a sweet dessert made with a base of meringue crust topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits.

Who Am I?

Anna Pavlova
12 February 1881 - 23 January 1931

Agnodice (300 B.C.)

I was born in 300 BC in ancient Greece, and in today's world, you know me only as a legend. Did I exist? Or did I not? I shall leave it to you to decide. Here is my story:

I was a noblewoman who dreamed of becoming a healer. More than anything, I wanted to practice medicine in an era when women were legally prohibited from the healing arts. The only way I could achieve my dream was to cut my hair and wear men's clothing. Encouraged by my father, I dressed thusly and soon become an avid student of the famous Alexandrian physician, Herophilus where I earned the highest marks.

After I finished my studies, as I walked the streets of Athens, I heard the screams of a woman in the throes of labor. I rushed to assist her. The woman, believing me to be a man, refused to allow me to touch her. Desperate to convince her otherwise, I lifted up my clothes and revealed that I was a woman. She allowed me to deliver her baby. Women everywhere soon flocked to me. To evade the authorities, I dressed as a man, not only during my studies but also whenever I practiced.

When my male colleagues discovered that requests for their services were dwindling, while mine were increasing, they accused me of seducing and raping the women patients.

I was subsequently arrested and charged. At my trial, the leading men of Athens condemned me. To save myself from the death penalty, I revealed I was really a woman. A crowd of my patients declared in front of the temple that if I were executed, they would die with me. The wives of the judges argued, "You are not spouses, but enemies since you are condemning her who discovered health for us."

Under pressure by the crowd, the judges acquitted me and allowed me to continue practicing medicine.

I continued to work mostly with women and have been credited with being one of the first women gynecologists in history.

Whether or not the legend of my life is true, it is a story which the world of medicine has long cherished.

B.C. 300

Mary Barrett Dyer (1611 - 1660)

I was married at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, on 27 October 1633. In 1637 I supported Anne Hutchinson, who preached that God "spoke directly to individuals" rather than only through the clergy. I joined with her and became involved in what was called the "Antinomian heresy," where we organized groups of women and men to study the Bible in contravention of the theocratic law of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

On October 17, 1637, after nearly four years of marriage, I gave birth to a deformed stillborn baby, who I buried privately.

Because I had sided with Anne Hutchinson in the Antinomian heresy, my husband and I were banished. We settled in Providence, Rhode Island.

Shortly thereafter, the authorities learned of the “monstrous birth,” and Governor Winthrop had it exhumed in March 1638, before a large crowd. He described it thus:

“It was of ordinary bigness; it had a face, but no head, and the ears stood upon the shoulders and were like an ape’s; it had no forehead, but over the eyes four horns, hard and sharp; two of them were above one inch long, the other two shorter; the eyes standing out, and the mouth also; the nose hooked upward; all over the breast and back full of sharp pricks and scales, like a thornback [i.e., a skate or ray], the navel and all the belly, with the distinction of the sex, were where the back should be, and the back and hips before, where the belly should have been; behind, between the shoulders, it had two mouths, and in each of them a piece of red flesh sticking out; it had arms and legs as other children; but, instead of toes, it had on each foot three claws, like a young fowl, with sharp talons.”

Winthrop sent descriptions to numerous correspondents, and accounts were published in England in 1642 and 1644. The deformed birth was considered evidence of the heresies and errors of Antinomianism.

In 1652, we travelled to England, where I joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) after hearing the preaching of its founder and feeling that it was in agreement with the ideas that Anne Hutchinson and I held years earlier. I eventually became a Quaker preacher in my own right.

My husband returned to Rhode Island in 1652. I remained in England until 1657. The next year I travelled to Boston to protest the new law banning Quakers, and I was arrested and expelled from the colony. My husband, who had not become a Quaker, was not arrested.

I continued to travel in New England to preach Quakerism, and was arrested in 1658 in New Haven, Connecticut. After my release, I returned to Massachusetts to visit two English Quakers who had been arrested. I was also arrested and then permanently banished from the colony.

From there, I traveled to Massachusetts a third time with a group of Quakers to publicly defy the law, and was again arrested, but this time, I was sentenced to death.

After a short trial, two other Quakers were hanged, but because my husband was a friend of the Governor, he secured a last-minute reprieve, against my wishes, for I had refused to repent and disavow my Quaker faith.

I was forced to return to Rhode Island, then traveled to Long Island, New York to preach, but my conscience led me to return to Massachusetts in 1660 to defy the anti-Quaker law. Despite the pleas of my husband and family, I again refused to repent, and was again convicted and sentenced to death on May 31. The next day, I was hanged on Boston Common for the crime of being a Quaker in Massachusetts. I died a martyr.

My execution is described by Edward Burrough in A Declaration of the Sad and Great Persecution and Martyrdom of the People of God, called Quakers, in New-England, for the Worshipping of God (1661).

My last words before I died were: “Nay, I came to keep bloodguiltiness from you, desireing you to repeal the unrighteous and unjust law made against the innocent servants of the Lord. Nay, man, I am not now to repent. ”

After my death a member of the General Court uttered one of those bitter scoffs which prove the truest of all epitaphs, "She did hang as a flag for others to take example by."

A bronze statue of me created by a Quaker sculptor now stands in front of the Massachusetts state capitol in Boston; a copy stands in front of the Friends Center in downtown Philadelphia, and another in front of Stout Meetinghouse at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana.

Mary Barrett Dyer
1611 – June 1, 1660

Love Letters - Voltaire to Olympe Dunover

Voltaire (1694-1778), a famous French author, wrote this love letter to his beloved Olympe Dunover while in prison. Why was he in prison? Because Olympe's mother and the French ambassador disapproved of their relationship, so poor Voltaire was thrown into prison to keep him away from the beautiful and beloved girlfriend. Shortly after he wrote this letter, Voltaire managed to escape by climbing out of the window.

The Hague 1713

I am a prisoner here in the name of the King; they can take my life, but not the love that I feel for you. Yes, my adorable mistress, to-night I shall see you, and if I had to put my head on the block to do it.

For heaven's sake, do not speak to me in such disastrous terms as you write; you must live and be cautious; beware of madame your mother as of your worst enemy. What do I say? Beware of everybody; trust no one; keep yourself in readiness, as soon as the moon is visible; I shall leave the hotel incognito, take a carriage or a chaise, we shall drive like the wind to Sheveningen; I shall take paper and ink with me; we shall write our letters.

If you love me, reassure yourself; and call all your strength and presence of mind to your aid; do not let your mother notice anything, try to have your pictures, and be assured that the menace of the greatest tortures will not prevent me to serve you. No, nothing has the power to part me from you; our love is based upon virtue, and will last as long as our lives. Adieu, there is nothing that I will not brave for your sake; you deserve much more than that. Adieu, my dear heart!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Elizabeth Bathory - The Blood Countess

Notorious Hungarian noblewoman Elizabeth Bathory was called the "Bloody Countess." To stay young, she tortured and bathed in the blood of hundreds of young women.

Eastern European history is rife with nobility whose propensity for carnage, cruelty, and bloodshed are unequalled. Even some, like Countess Elizabeth Bathory, were rumored to be vampires. Her heinous crimes, when finally revealed, included torture, murder, and alleged blood drinking.

Born in 1560, “Erzebet” (Elizabeth) Bathory was a child of wealth and privilege whose closest relatives became cardinals, prime ministers, and kings. Unfortunately, other members of her large family tree also dabbled in the black arts, diabolism, lesbianism, and habitual promiscuity. Supposedly, none of these “pastimes” were kept secret from the impressionable Elizabeth while growing up. Her renowned beauty and stature made her a valuable commodity for political alliances. By age 11, she was betrothed, and at age 15 she married Count Ferencz Nadasdy, a nobleman of equal stature. Nadasdy had earned a reputation as a fierce warrior and was more commonly known as “The Black Hero of Hungary.” As soon as they were married, the Count whisked away his bride to northern Hungary and to Elizabeth’s new home, the isolated fortress of Castle Csejthe located deep in the Carpathian Mountains. The valleys around the castle were rich farmlands worked by superstitious peasants. What little entertainment or diversion there was could be found below in the tiny village of Csejthe.

Elizabeth was by no means impressed with her married life and her utter isolation, nor did her new husband help ease her boredom. Nadasdy stayed with her only long enough to ensure his line would continue and then once again rode off to war. Over the years, between her husband’s sporadic visits and giving birth to 4 children, Elizabeth established herself as a cruel mistress. She seemed to enjoy the fact that the peasants were afraid of her and her hair-trigger temper. She relieved her boredom by taking countless lovers, one of whom the villagers believed was a vampire because of his slimness, pale complexion, and very sharp-looking teeth. His sudden and complete disappearance only confirmed the locals’ dark suspicions, and they became even more careful not to anger the Countess. Elizabeth’s other extracurricular activities included beating and torturing her young female servants, first using cruel methods learned from her lesbian aunt and then with various torture devices her husband had discarded in the dungeons of Castle Csejthe. She also gathered around her loyal retainers, servants, her own trusted nurse, and various practitioners of the black arts. She and her enclave became avid students of witchcraft.

Elizabeth had always been a vain and self-centered child, and she treasured and protected her natural beauty. By her mid-twenties it was becoming evident that her looks were beginning to fade. Her temper turned even more unpredictable, and her acts of cruelty toward her female servants escalated. Young girls were dragged into the dungeons and mercilessly and sometimes ritualistically tortured. No one dared speak to protect any of the servant girls for fear of also being brutalized by the Countess.

By 1600 Elizabeth’s husband was dead, and she became the true mistress of her isolated domain. Once she’d divested herself of her children, who were sent to relatives, and her mother-in-law, the Countess was even freer to do as she pleased. It was around this time that she supposedly acquired her taste for blood. Elizabeth was now in her early 40s and desperate to find a way to stay young. So far, none of her dark rituals had been successful in restoring her fading beauty. One day Elizabeth’s latest maid somehow angered her and in a fit of fury, the Countless struck the unfortunate girl across the face. Blood poured from the maid’s nose and spattered Elizabeth’s hand. After wiping it away, she was sure her flesh looked smoother. Not wasting a single moment, she ordered her manservant to kill the maid and drain her blood into a tub so Elizabeth could wash with it.

Elizabeth soon ordered more unmarried maidens to be brought to the dungeons. For the next 10 years, her loyal accomplices did just that under the pretext of securing the peasant girls’ good jobs. They also assisted their mistress in the gruesome methods she used to extract their blood and then in the dead of night took the dead girls’ bodies away for burial. But the supply of young virgins didn’t last forever. Desperate, Elizabeth and her henchmen devised a new way to bring fresh blood to her mountain hideaway. Aristocratic families were always looking for tutors to train their daughters in etiquette and good manners. The Countess Bathory, whose lineage was long and impeccable, was the perfect choice. It didn’t take long for Elizabeth to acquire her next batch of victims.

When peasant girls disappeared without a trace, no one asked too many questions and excuses were manufactured. But when aristocratic young women went missing, it didn’t take long for the families’ suspicions to soar. Elizabeth’s growing carelessness only made it easier for authorities to wonder what was really going on at Castle Csejthe. Instead of burial, she and her henchman simply began tossing the drained bodies of the young girls out for the wolves. It didn’t take long for someone to stumble over the gruesome remains. News of Elizabeth’s atrocities soon reached King Matthias II. Count Gyorgy Thurzo, a close relative of the Countess, was immediately ordered to investigate.

On the night of December 30, 1610, Thurzo and his soldiers came upon a scene that made their own blood run cold: half a dozen dead or dying young women, all of them gruesomely tortured. Dozens more bodies were found in and around the castle. Elizabeth and her band of accomplices were immediately put under arrest. All except one were tried and executed, a few of them in ways that befitted the horrific magnitude of what they had done.

Elizabeth herself could not go to trial, let alone be executed. Under Hungarian law it was illegal to try or condemn a citizen of noble birth. Determined to keep the Countess from walking away from the murder of over 600 young women, Parliament passed an interim law and sentenced her to be sealed alive in a tiny tower room in Castle Csejthe. Her only human contact was from the guards who passed her food through a narrow slot in the padlocked door. Four years later, one of her jailers caught a glimpse of her body lying prostrate on the floor. Bloody Countess Elizabeth Bathory was dead at the age of 54. Not once during her confinement did she ever speak a word of remorse for the horrible crimes she’d committed.

Written by Martina Bexte - © 2002 Pagewise