Friday, December 24, 2010

Ave Maria - A Most Beautiful Song

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.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Lady Agnew

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw
John Singer Sargent

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Name is Mary Sutter

 Reviewed by Ginger Simpson

If you’re used to short reads, this 300 plus page book might frighten you, but be assured that you’ll finish much sooner than expected because you can’t put it down.  My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira is touted as a courageous epic, a captivating love story, and stars a fearless heroine.  All claims are true.  The novel is filled with historical facts brought to life in vivid details by a talented author.  If you appreciate reading about the American Civil War, then this is an outstanding selection to make. Even if you aren’t a civil war buff, you’ll enjoy this engrossing story.

Mary Sutter is determined to become a physician during a time when women weren’t allowed such a distinguished status.  The stronger of two twins, Mary follows the tradition of her mother and grandmother and becomes a practicing midwife.  Who better to tend to the ‘laying up’ of women than another female?  However, limiting herself to birthing babies isn’t fulfilling enough.

Mary is determined to learn about the entire human body.  When the man she loves falls for and weds her sister, Mary becomes even more determined to immerse herself in medicine.  If it takes shadowing someone on the battlefield, she’s resolved to do just that.

Reading this book is like watching an epic television movie, and you are front and center during the action.  The horrible loss of life and limb are a very real part of history during this time period, and Ms. Oliveira paints her written picture with a broad and colorful brush.  You’ll appreciate the unwavering determination of the heroine and appreciate every aspect of My Name is Mary Sutter.

This cover is the hardcover.  The one featured above is for the paperback version.

This publication is presented by the Penguin Group.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Puncetto Lace

"Puncetto lace” is traditionally from the Valsesia area, a mountain valley in northern Italy. 

Its exact origins are not known, but it is believed the lace came about as a result of the invasion of Saracens in the 10th century because it closely resembles the delicate filigree decorative patterns of Arab art from that time. 

The first known example of puncetto lace dates from the 16th century when a man named Gaudenzio Ferrari, a very famous and reknowned artist from Valsesia adorned a statue of the Virgin Mary with this lace. 

Years later, artists working in the Varallo Sacred Mountain Chapel painted examples of this lace to embellish the plain costumes the figures appearing in the popular every day life scenes they were creating. 

The popularity of the lace reached its height during the XIXth century, when Queen Margaret of Savoy, an admirer of Valsesia district, introduced it at her court, among her ladies-in-waiting.  The lace soon spread to France and Great Britain. 

Centuries later, puncetto remained well known only in Valsesia Valley.  Women continued to make the lace to decorate their clothing or mothers made it to refine their daughter's trousseaus. 

Most recently, puncetto is enjoying a re-emergence in part due to the interest of local public institutions and of many other people fond of this lace who are keeping this 450 year old art alive. 


Friday, November 5, 2010

Amelia Earhart

Encyclopedia of World Biography on Amelia Mary Earhart

The American aviator Amelia Mary Earhart Putnam (1897-1937) remains the world's best-known woman pilot long after her mysterious disappearance during a round-the-world flight in 1937.

Amelia Mary Earhart was born on July 24, 1897, the daughter of Edwin and Amy Otis Earhart. Until she was 12 she lived with her wealthy maternal grandparents, Alfred and Amelia Harres Otis, in Atcheson, Kansas, where she attended a private day school. 
Her summers were spent in Kansas City, Missouri, where her lawyer-father worked for the Rock Island Railroad.

In 1909 Amelia and her younger sister, Muriel, went to live with their parents in Des Moines, Iowa, where the railroad had transferred her father. Before completing high school she also attended schools in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Springfield, Illinois, while her father fought a losing battle against alcoholism. His failure and its consequent humiliation for her were the root of Amelia's lifelong dislike of alcohol and desire for financial security.

Amy Earhart left Edwin in Springfield in 1914, taking her daughters with her to live with friends in Chicago, where Amelia was graduated from Hyde Park School in 1915. The yearbook described her as "A.E.--the girl in brown (her favorite color) who walks alone."

A year later, after Amy Earhart received an inheritance from the estate of her mother, she sent Amelia to Ogontz School in Philadelphia, an exclusive high school and junior college. During Christmas vacation of her second year there Amelia went to Toronto, Canada, where Muriel was attending a private school. In Toronto Amelia saw her first amputees, returning wounded from World War I. She immediately refused to return to Ogontz and became a volunteer nurse in a hospital for veterans where she worked until after the armistice of 1918. The experience made her an ardent, life-long pacifist.

From Toronto Earhart went to live with her mother and sister in Northampton, Massachusetts, where her sister was attending Smith College. In the fall of 1919 she entered Columbia University, but left after one year to join her parents, who had reconciled and were living in Los Angeles.

In the winter of 1920 Earhart saw her first air show and took her first airplane ride. "As soon as we left the ground," she said, "I knew I had to fly." She took lessons at Bert Kinner's airfield on Long Beach Boulevard in Los Angeles from a woman--Neta Snooks--and on December 15, 1921, received her license from the National Aeronautics Association (NAA). By working part-time as a file clerk, office assistant, photographer, and truck driver, and with some help from her mother, Earhart eventually was able to buy her own plane. However, she was unable to earn enough to continue what was an expensive hobby.

In 1924, when her parents separated again, she sold her plane and bought a car in which she drove her mother to Boston where her sister was teaching school.

Soon after that Earhart re-enrolled at Columbia but lacked the money to continue for more than one year. She returned to Boston where she became a social worker in a settlement house, joined the NAA, and continued to fly in her spare time.

In 1928 Earhart accepted an offer to join the crew of a flight across the Atlantic. The flight was the scheme of George Palmer Putnam, editor of WE, Charles Lindbergh's book about how he became, in 1927, the first person to fly across the Atlantic alone. The enterprising Putnam chose her for his "Lady Lindy" because of her flying experience, her education, and her lady-like appearance. Along with pilot Wilmer Stultz and mechanic Louis Gordon, she crossed the Atlantic (from Newfoundland to Wales) on June 18-19, 1928. Although she never once touched the controls (she described herself afterward as little more than a "sack of potatoes"), Earhart became world-renowned as "the first woman to fly the Atlantic."

From that time Putnam became Earhart's manager and, in 1931, her husband. He arranged all her flying engagements, many followed by often strenuous cross-country lecture tours (at one point, 29 tours in 31 days) for maximum publicity. However Earhart did initiate one flight of her own. Resenting reports that she was largely a puppet figure created by her publicist husband and something less than a competent aviator, she piloted a tiny, single-engine Lockheed Electra from Newfoundland to Ireland to become--on May 20-21, 1932, and five years after Lindbergh--the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

During the scarcely more than five years remaining in her life, Earhart acted as a tireless advocate for commercial aviation and for women's rights. The numerous flying records she amassed included:

1931: Altitude record in an autogiro

First person to fly an autogiro across the United States and back

1932: Fastest non-stop transcontinental flight by a woman

1933: Breaks her own transcontinental speed record

1935: First person to fly solo across the Pacific from Hawaii to California

First person to fly solo from Los Angeles to Mexico

Breaks speed record for non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City to Newark, New Jersey

1937: Sets speed record for east-west crossing from Oakland to Honolulu

Honors and awards she received included the Distinguished Flying Cross; Cross of the Knight of the Legion of Honor, from the French Government; Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society; and the Harmon Trophy as America's outstanding airwoman in 1932, 1933, 1934, and 1935.

On July 2, 1937, 22 days before her 40th birthday and having already completed 22,000 miles of an attempt to circumnavigate the earth, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared over the Pacific somewhere between Lae, New Guinea, and Howland Island. The most extensive search ever conducted by the U.S. Navy for a single missing plane sighted neither plane nor crew. Subsequent searches since that time have been equally unsuccessful. In 1992, an expedition found certain objects (a shoe and a metal plate) on the small atoll of Nikumaroro south of Howland, which could have been left by Earhart and Noonan. In 1997 another female pilot, Linda Finch, recreated Earhart's final flight in an around the world tribute entitled "World Flight 97." The event took place on what would have been Earhart's 100th birthday. Finch successfully completed her voyage, the identical route that Earhart would have flown, around the world.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Triangle Fire

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was one of the worst fires in the history of New York City.  It took up the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors of the Asch Building.  The factory produced women's blouses (also referred to as "shirtwaists").  The factory employed about 500 workers, mostly young immigrant women, who worked nine hours a day on weekdays plus seven hours on Saturdays.

On the afternoon of Saturday, March 25, 1911, just as the workday ended, a fire flared up in a scrap bin under one of the cutters' tables on the eighth floor, likely caused by the disposal of an unextinguished match or cigarette butt.  Although smoking was banned in the factory, cutters were known to sneak cigarettes, exhaling the smoke through their lapels to avoid detection.  No accusation of arson was made in this specific case, however, as both owners of the factory were in attendance and had invited their children to the factory on that afternoon.

A bookkeeper on the eighth floor warned employees on the tenth floor via telephone, but there was no audible alarm and no way to contact staff on the ninth floor.  The first warning of the fire on the ninth floor arrived at the same time as the fire itself.  The floor had a number of exits - two freight elevators, a fire escape, and stairways down to Greene Street and Washington Square - but flames prevented workers from descending the Greene Street stairway and the door to the Washington Square stairway was locked.  Dozens of employees escaped the fire by going up the Greene Street stairway to the roof.  Other survivors were able to jam themselves into the elevators while they still operated.

Within three minutes, the Greene Street stairway became unusable in either direction.  Terrified employees crowded onto the single exterior fire escape, a flimsy and poorly-anchored iron structure which may have been broken before the fire but in any event soon twisted and collapsed from the heat and overload, spilling victims onto the concrete pavement over a hundred feet below.

 The elevator operators, Joseph Zito and Gaspar Mortillalo, saved many lives by travelling three times up to the ninth floor for passengers, but Mortillalo was eventually forced to give up when the rails of his elevator buckled under the heat. Some victims pried the elevator doors open and jumped down the empty shaft in a desperate attempt to avoid the flames; the weight of these bodies made it impossible for Zito to make another attempt.

Much to the horror of the large crowd of bystanders gathered on the street, sixty-two persons died by jumping or falling from the ninth floor.  Socialist Louis Waldman, later a New York state assemblyman, described the grim scene in his memoirs published in 1944:

“One Saturday afternoon in March of that year — March 25, to be precise — I was sitting at one of the reading tables in the old Astor Library... It was a raw, unpleasant day and the comfortable reading room seemed a delightful place to spend the remaining few hours until the library closed. I was deeply engrossed in my book when I became aware of fire engines racing past the building. By this time I was sufficiently Americanized to be fascinated by the sound of fire engines. Along with several others in the library, I ran out to see what was happening, and followed crowds of people to the scene of the fire. 

A few blocks away, the Asch Building at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street was ablaze. When we arrived at the scene, the police had thrown up a cordon around the area and the firemen were helplessly fighting the blaze. The eighth, ninth, and tenth stories of the building were now an enormous roaring cornice of flames.

Word had spread through the East Side, by some magic of terror, that the plant of the Triangle Waist Company was on fire and that several hundred workers were trapped. Horrified and helpless, the crowds — I among them — looked up at the burning building, saw girl after girl appear at the reddened windows, pause for a terrified moment, and then leap to the pavement below, to land as mangled, bloody pulp. This went on for what seemed a ghastly eternity. Occasionally a girl who had hesitated too long was licked by pursuing flames and, screaming with clothing and hair ablaze, plunged like a living torch to the street. Life nets held by the firemen were torn by the impact of the falling bodies.

The emotions of the crowd were indescribable. Women were hysterical, scores fainted; men wept as, in paroxysms of frenzy, they hurled themselves against the police lines."

The remainder waited until smoke and fire overcame them.  The fire department arrived quickly but was unable to stop the flames, as there were no ladders available that could reach beyond the sixth floor.  The fallen bodies and falling victims also made it difficult for the fire department to reach the building.

The death toll was anywhere from 141 to 146 people.  Six victims were never identified.  Most victims died of burns, asphyxiation, blunt impact injuries, or a combination of the three.

It is often stated that most or all of the dead were women, but almost thirty of the victims were men. Eyewitnesses reported seeing men and women jumping out of the windows; the first jumper was a man, and another man was seen kissing a young woman at the window before they both jumped to their deaths.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Love Story of Lancelot and Guinevere

One of the saddest loves tories is that of Lancelot and Guinevere.

One of the greatest knights of the roundtable of King Arthur was Lancelot.  He was loyal, wise, strong, and kind.  But unfortunately, he fell in love with Queen Guinevere.  They tried to keep their love a secret from the king, but eventually, it became known and was a catalyst for the Round Table to fall. 

Like most romances, their love bloomed slowly.  At first, Guinevere ignored Lancelot.  But not for long and she soon succumbed to his charms and they became lovers.  

Another knight, Sir Meliagaunt grew suspicious and e confronted Sir Lancelot in the presence of the King and Queen.  

This led Lancelot to issue a challenge to Meliagaunt to dispute the charge.  But in such a contest, Sir Lancelot became the victor when he cleaved his oponent's head in half.  Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere's honour were restored.

But rumours continued to abound and several other knights became suspicious of Lancelot and Guinevere's romantic trysts.  Sir Agravain and Sir Modred, King Arthur's nephew gathered 12 knights and stormed
Guinevere's chamber, catching her with Lancelot in bed.  

Sir Lancelot tried to escape and fought hius way out of the castle, but guards seized Guinevere who was tried and later condemned to burn to death for her infedility.  

Upon hearing the news of his beloved's imminent execution, Sir Lancelot attempted to rescue her.  He killed several of King Arthur's knights in the process.   

Angered, King Arthur gathered a troop of men and attacked Lancelot's castle, but they failed.  

Lancelot ended his days as a hermit and Guinevere became a nun at Amesbury where she died.

Lord Alfred Tennyson immortalized the doomed lovers in a poem:

Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere
Like souls that balance joy and pain,

With tears and smiles from heaven again

The maiden Spring upon the plain

Came in a sunlit fall of rain.

In crystal vapor everywhere

Blue isles of heaven laugh'd between,

And far, in forest-deeps unseen,

The topmost elm-tree gather'd green

From draughts of balmy air.
Sometimes the linnet piped his song;

Sometimes the throstle whistled strong;

Sometimes the sparhawk, wheel'd along,

Hush'd all the groves from fear of wrong;

By grassy capes with fuller sound

In curves the yellowing river ran,

And drooping chestnut-buds began

To spread into the perfect fan,

Above the teeming ground.

Then, in the boyhood of the year,

Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere

Rode thro' the coverts of the deer,

With blissful treble ringing clear.

She seem'd a part of joyous Spring;

A gown of grass-green silk she wore,

Buckled with golden clasps before;

A light-green tuft of plumes she bore

Closed in a golden ring.

Now on some twisted ivy-net,

Now by some tinkling rivulet,

In mosses mixt with violet

Her cream-white mule his pastern set;

And fleeter now she skimm'd the plains

Than she whose elfin prancer springs

By night to eery warblings,

When all the glimmering moorland rings

With jingling bridle-reins.

As she fled fast thro' sun and shade,

The happy winds upon her play'd,

Blowing the ringlet from the braid.

She look'd so lovely, as she sway'd

The rein with dainty finger-tips,

A man had given all other bliss,

And all his worldly worth for this,

To waste his whole heart in one kiss

Upon her perfect lips.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Turning of the Tide by Liz Shakespeare

Review by Sheila R. Lamb

The Turning of the Tide by Liz Shakespeare is an immensely engaging story that captures the reader from the first page. Selina is a destitute, unwed mother, forced into the Bideford Workhouse. Trapped by her unfortunate circumstances, she – like all the mothers in the workhouse – lives for the few hours a week that she can visit her sons.

Dr. Ackland, a visiting physician to the workhouse, feels compassion for Selina when her eldest son dies. He employs her as a maid in his own home, much to the consternation of his wife, Sophia. Although their home is a better environment than the institutionalized prison-like life of the workhouse, Selina longs for her only son, Will, who is sent to live with her parents in the neighboring village of Clovelly.

Selina, timid and skittish from the abuse she has endured, faces societal condemnation for having two children out of wedlock.  Her sharpest critic is Sophia Ackland, although Sophia’s harsh judgments are internal. While the two women deal with their unspoken fears, Dr. Ackland is determined to bring hygiene, and therefore health, to Bideford. Shakespeare deftly illustrates the medical practices of the time and the diseases people were challenged with daily.

The Acklands agree to keep Selina employed on a temporary basis. Sophia slowly learns to trust her new maid and teaches her to read, yet she still retains a snobbish sense of betterment over her.  As the story unfolds, Sophia is compelled to face the hardships Selina has borne. In the meantime, Selina grows in confidence and health, and begins to recognize dreams and longings of her own.

In a unique and fascinating twist, Shakespeare smoothly inserts primary source documents within the text as the novel is based on historical figures from Bideford and Clovelly Documents include Bideford Workhouse records, newspaper clippings, marriage certificates, letters and photographs. Each document corresponds to an event that occurs in the novel (or perhaps, the novel corresponds to the event.) For example, in the novel, Dr. Ackland attends a tempestuous board meeting over his goal of expanding the local Smallpox Hospital. A newspaper article follows the chapter, dated December 1871, recounting a similarly dramatic board meeting.

Shakespeare provides a fascinating glimpse of life in 1871 Devon, England. She paints thorough portraits of the landscape as well as of the social community. No detail is left out, from examining social health, the class system, and attitudes of the time. Even more importantly, she writes a beautiful story of Selina’s strength and courage that holds the reader until the end.

The Turning of the Tide is available through Ms. Shakespeare's website.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Great Boston Molasses Disaster 1919

On an unusually warm day on January 15, 1919, the Purity Distilling Company faced disaster. Molasses, a favourite sweetener was being stored there. It was popular because it could be fermented into rum and ethyl alcohol.

The rather large tank was awaiting transfer to the Purity plant situated between Willow Street and what is now named Evereteze Way in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  It suddenly collapsed.

The rumble resounded loudly and shook the ground.  Huge waves of molasses between broke the girders of the adjacent Boston Elevated Railway's Atlantic Avenue structure and lifted a train off the tracks. Buildings were swept off their foundations and crushed. Waist deep molasses covered the street, sweeping and covering people and animals in its wake.

The Boston Globe reported that people and vehicles alike "were picked up by a rush of air and hurled many feet."

21 people and several horses were killed, most crushed and drowned by the molasses. Coughing fits became one of the most common ailments after the initial blast.

Rescuers ran several blocks toward the accident. They worked to keep the curious from getting in the way of the rescuers while others entered into the knee-deep sticky mess to pull out the survivors.  Some nurses from the Red Cross dove into the molasses, while others tended to the wounded, keeping them warm as well as keeping the exhausted workers fed.  Many of these people worked through the night.  The injured were so numerous that doctors and surgeons set up a makeshift hospital in a nearby building.  Rescuers found it difficult to make their way through the syrup to help the victims.  It took four days before they stopped searching for victims; many dead were so glazed over in molasses, they were hard to recognize.  Two found on the fourth day were never identified.

Clean up efforts took over 87,000 man hours to remove the molasses from the cobblestone streets, theaters, businesses, automobiles, and homes.

The site is currently a recreational complex, officially named Langone Park, featuring a Little League ballfield, a playground, and bocce courts.

Here are the names of some of the men and women who died that day.

Patrick Breen 44 Laborer (North End Paving Yard)
William Brogan 61 Teamster
Bridget Clougherty 65 Homemaker
Stephen Clougherty 34 Unemployed
John Callahan 43 Paver (North End Paving Yard)
Maria Distasio 10 Child
William Duffy 58 Laborer (North End Paving Yard)
Peter Francis 64 Blacksmith (North End Paving Yard)
Flamino Gallerani 37 Driver
Pasquale Iantosca 10 Child
James H. Kinneally Unknown Laborer (North End Paving Yard)
Eric Laird 17 Teamster
George Layhe 38 Firefighter (Engine 31)
James Lennon 64 Teamster/Motorman
Ralph Martin 21 Driver
James McMullen 46 Foreman, Bay State Express
Cesar Nicolo 32 Expressman
Thomas Noonan 43 Longshoreman
Peter Shaughnessy 18 Teamster
John M. Seiberlich 69 Blacksmith (North End Paving Yard)
Michael Sinnott 76 Messenger

A small plaque at the entrance to Puopolo Park, placed by the Bostonian Society, commemorates the disaster.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Loi Chan

To see her on land, Loi Chai-san looked like a normal, unassuming, young woman. She wore delicate silks and satins and kept her hair tidily knotted at the nape of her neck.

But on water, aboard one of her 12 armed junks she inherited from a pirate named Honcho Lo, off came the silks and satins and on came the garb of man - pants and jackets. Transformed, she became Queen of the Macao Pirates, ruthlessly scouring the waters around Hong Kong during the 1920’s. Pillaging cargo and kidnapping wealthy people and holding them for ransom was how she earned her fame and amassed her wealth.

She adored her fame and encouraged it. A journalist by the name of Aleko E. Lilius paid her $43 dollars per day to follow her and write about her exploits in an article entitled “I Sailed with Chinese Pirates.”

Whenever she attempted a raid, two women accompanied her and acted as a mediary between Loi Chai-san and her crew of male pirrates. Loi never spoke directly to the men of her crew and they were always banned from her cabin.

Whenever she kidnapped someone, she sent a message to his or her relatives. If they refused to pay the ransom, Loi Chai-san sent them the captive’s finger or ear. If this failed to persuade them to pay the ransom, she killed her prisoner.

The history books are silent regarding what happened to Loi Chai-san. Some say she attacked a torpedo squadron during the Chinese-Japanese War and was killed during battle. Another rumour tells that the International Coast Guard caught and arrested her in 1939 and sentenced her to life imprisonment.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Calamity Jane's Grave

Yesterday, (Sept 27) Tara Chevrestt, a regular visitor and reader of History and Women visited Deadwood.  She took some fabulous picture of Calamity Jane's and Wild Bill Hickock's grave sites.  She sent me the pictures and gave me permission to post them here to share with everyone. 

Thanks so much Tara.  The pictures are lovely and I very much appreciate you sending them!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Martha Jane Canary

Martha Jane Canary
(Calamity Jane)
(1848 - 1903)

Her real name was Martha Jane Canary (1848-1903) and she was born in Princeton, Missouri in 1852. No one knows much about her early life, but soon after she was born, her mother died. In 1862, her family moved to Virginia City, Nevada, which was then in the early days of the boom.

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

Most people thought of her as a hard drinking woman with a preference for men's clothing. She spoke and behaved bawdily, chewed tobacco and was handy with a gun. During her life she 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.

Before she turned twenty, General Cook appointed her as an army scout under Buffalo Bill. In June of 1876, she partnered with Wild Bill Hickok as an outrider for Colorado Charlie Utter's wagon train, galloping into Deadwood with a shipment of prostitutes, fresh from Cheyenne.

Wild Bill Hiciock

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

She earned her nickname in 1872 in a peculiar way. Back then, she was at Goose Creek Camp, S.D., where Captain Egan and a small body of men were stationed. The Indians were giving a lot of trouble, and there was much fighting.

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

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

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

In 1876, by a daring feat, she 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, Jack McCall, 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, she 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 her the "White Devil of the Yellowstone" and "Saint" because she helped nurse the sick during a smallpox plague.

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

Friday, September 17, 2010

Charlotte Bronte

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.

Charlotte Bronte
(1816 –1855)
Novelist and Poet.

Charlotte Bronte was the daughter of the Rev. Patrick Bronte. Along with her sisters, Emily and Anne, she was raised in a small parsonage in the Yorkshire village of Haworth. In her childhood, she lost her mother, and as the eldest, she assumed the role of caring for her sisters. Friends and family described her as, "the motherly friend and guardian of her younger sisters."

Their home overlooked the village graveyard. To escape from these surroundings which continually reminded the sisters of the loss of their our mother, the spent their free time creating stories of fantasy lands. These fantasy stories often involved their strict, religious aunt, Elisabeth Branwell. Later in a poem, Charlotte wrote:

"We wove a web in childhood, a web of sunny air."

After various efforts as schoolmistresses and governesses, Charlotte and her sisters began to write and soon published a volume of poems under the names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Sadly, they sold poorly. This did not deter Charlotte and her sisters. Charlotte continued to write and she completed novels such as “The Professor” and “Jane Eyre”. Jane Eyre 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.

Charlotte married her father's curate, the Rev. A. Nicholls, but after a short though happy married life, Charlotte died in childbirth in 1855.

"Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns. "

by: 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, September 10, 2010

Nefertiti, Queen of Ancient Egypt

12th Century B.C.

Nefertiti reigned in Ancient Egypt between 1351 and 1331 B.C. She was the chief wife of the "heretic" Pharaoh Akhenaten. Akhenaten desperately wanted a male heir and Nefertiti tried hard to provide him with one. Instead, she presented him with six daughters. It was Queen Kiya, his lesser wife, Kiya, who provided him with male heirs - Smenkhkare and Tutankhamun, a fact which inflamed Nefertiti’s jealousy and wrath.

Pharaoh Akhenaten loved both his wives, but it was Nefertiti to whom he exalted to a prominnent role in the religious and political life of Egypt. He bestowed upon her with such titles as Mistress of Happiness, Endowed with Favors, Chief Wife of the King, Beloved, Lady of the Two Lands, and May she live for Ever and Always".

(Ahkenaten, Nefertiti, and their children)

She helped her husband initiate a massive religious and cultural revolution and represented the feminine aspect of the god, Aten. Renowned for her beauty, Nefertiti dressed to enhance her best features. She is often depicted wearing a close fitting sheath. As Akhenaten´s chief wife, she wore the crown of Hathor that resembled cow horns with plumes or the crown of Mut, the vulture goddess. But the crown she is most often associated with, is the blue war crown with its flat top.

Nefertiti vanished around year fourteen of Akhenaten´s reign. Rumours abound about her mysterious disappearance. Her name was struck from numerous inscriptions. Some say it was because she and her husband fell into discord and he banished her in disgrace to her palace, Aten’s Castle. Others believe that she disguised herself as a man and assumed a new identity as Smenkhkare so that she could rule as co-regent with her husband. It is even speculated that she simply died from the plague and her death was so painful for Akhenaten that he did not wish to be reminded of her.

Whatever the circumstances, however, Nefertiti simply disappeared and there is no record of her death nor has her mummy or place of burial been confirmed. Her husband, Akhenaten died about several years later under circumstances just as mysterious. His mummy has not been found either.

Famed throughout the ancient world for her outstanding beauty, Akhenaten's queen Nefertiti remains the one of the most well known and mysterious queens of ancient Egypt.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Anna of Saxony

Anna of Saxony
(23 December 1544 - 18 December 1577)

Anna was the first born child of Moritz, Elector of Saxony and his wife, Agnes Hesse. Their son, Alberto, was born a year later, but when he was only five months old, he died.

Anna was an ugly daughter, her hunched back and lameness exaserbated her uncomely fetures. Becaause of her repulsive looks and the death of her baby brother, she received little or no affection from her parents. At the age of eight, her father died. Two years later, her mother remarried, but died six months later.

Anna's uncle August, Elector of Saxony, readily assumed responsibility for her because as the only surviving child, Anna had inherited a vast fortune. Her wealth and luxurious lifestyle extended to those who raised her. She developed a strong sense of self-importance and in her teens became unruly, difficult, rebellious and prone to explosive fits of temper.

On November 18, 1560, Anna was invited to attend the wedding of Countess Katharine of Nassau-Dillenburg and the Count of Schwarzburg. There she met Katharine's widower-brother, the twenty-seven-year-old Prince William of Orange, or William the Silent as they called him in later years.

The handsome and sophisticated prince impressed the unattractive and obstinate Anna. He too, seemed genuinely impressed with her. William followed her to Dresden to woo her and Anna fell madly in love with him. In order to marry Anna, however, William needed to seek the king's permission. So he returned home to Dresden.

Almost immediately, he received three letters from the pining Anna. Matters of state occupied all of William's time, so he asked his younger brother, Ludwig, to pen responses to Anna's letters. Afterwards, William copied them in his own hand and sent them to her.

The Catholic king objected to a marriage between William and Anna because he feared it connected him too closely with the Protestant German princes, his enemies. Nevertheless, the king could not prevent it, and William and Anna were married on August 24, 1561 in Leipzig.

Certain the German princes would use the occasion to plot against him, the king insisted that Anna become a Catholic. Anna's grandfather, the Landgraf of Hessen, objected.

Anna was excessive in everything she did. She burst out in violent fits of temper, often smashing everything within easy reach to bits. At parties, she drank heavily and drunkenly flirted with the male guests.

Frequent hysterics, bouts of extreme happiness, drunken outbursts, and fits of depression did little to endear herself to her new husband. The marriage experienced problems from the start. To be married to a man so completely pre-occupied with matters of state was no easy matter.

Nevertheless, at the age of seventeen, Anna became pregnant. Her uncontrollable moods and emotional outbursts grew more frequent. Everyone credited to the pregnancy.

On October 31, 1562, Anna gave birth to their first child who they named Anna.

While William was busy conducting a costly guerrilla war, his relatives in Germany were forced to live frugally. Anna detested her life in Dillenburg. She publicly cursed and vehemently denunciated her husband. Her haughtiness, pigheadedness and insolence angered William's relatives.

On December 8, 1564, a second child was born. This time, it was a son who they named him Moritz August Philips. After the birth, she began to express thoughts of suicide and despair, secluding herself for days in a darkened room illuminated only by candles, receiving no visitors, and refusing food.

Anna was uncaring to both her own children and her two stepchildren, so in 1564 William took his own two children from her care. By then, it was common knowledge that their marriage was a complete failure.

In 1566 Anna's little son, Moritz, died at the age of 2. Anna's behavior grew even more distressed. She began experiencing sudden and inappropriate attitude changes, recurring fits of temper, and suicidal tendencies. Anna complained she was bored in Breda and traveled to Spa, where she publicly ridiculed William and openly mocked his sexual abilities. Thus, she became subject to gossip and disapproval of the whole society. Her impulsive behavior often discredited both herself and her husband. Soon, she would sink deeper into the darkness of total insanity.

Political turmoil interfered with their lives. When the news reached them that the Duke of Alva was on his way to The Netherlands with a large army, William fled Germany with his family. They went to live with his relatives at Dillenburg. Here, on 14 November 1567, Anna gave birth to another son named after Anna's father.

In August of 1568, William departed for The Netherlands and left Anna, who was again pregnant, with his mother and sister-in-law. Anna drank heavily and the women admonished her.

Because of the discord, Anna left Dillenburg on 20 October 1568, taking her children and sixty attendants with her to Cologne. Away from the prying eyes of family, she lived a life of extreme lavishness. Before long, she squandered all her money and lived in an almost constant inebriated state. She mistreated her staff terribly during this time.

Without financial resources, she wrote to her uncle and asked him to send someone who could help her with her problems. Erich Volckmar von Berlepsch arrived on January 1, 1569 and spent four days with her. Firstly, she told him that the reason for her departure from Dillenburg had been the plague from which several people had died. Secondly, she wanted to be in Cologne where she could be closer to her husband. Thirdly, she confessed her husband's relatives cared little for her. Last, she told him about her financial difficulties. She owed money as well as her staff's salaries. Von Berlepsch advised her she had too much staff so she reduced them to twenty-four and he authorized the money.

On 10 April 1569 her daughter Emilia was born.

William repeatedly asked her to return to him, but she publicly destroyed any correspondence he sent her. Finally, she agreed to meet with him in Mannheim, but they remained separated from each other.

In 1570, her uncle assigned Jan Rubens, a Flemish refugee, to her household to maintain the financial purse strings. This enraged Anna, so in May 1570, with Jan Rubens in tow, she left to speak to her uncle in person. She left her children in the care of Rubens's wife. During their journey, Anna seduced Jan, sleeping with him frequently.

Jan Rubens
To avoid the scandal of having her affair and pregnancy by Jan known, she moved her household to the country castle in Siegen.

Gossip of Anna's indiscretion soon reached William and his brother, Count Johann VI. Johann arrested and imprisoned Rubens in Dillenburg Castle. Despite her obvious pregnancy, Anna denied any wrongdoing. She rejected the accusations vehemently. William presented her with Jan Rubens' signed confession. Anna broke down, begging William to execute them both, which was the common penalty for infidelity in such circumstances.

On 22 August 1571, while at Castle Siegen, she gave birth to the daughter fathered by Jan Rubens and named her Christina von Dietz. Weary of her unpredictable personality, her infidelity, and her unpopularity with his family and the public, William refused to acknowledge Christina as his own. He declared his marriage to Anna annulled and forthwith removed his and Anna's children to Dillenberg. They never saw their mother again.

In October 1572, Anna and her illegitimate child moved to the German Castle Beilstein. It was here that the first serious signs of madness became apparent.
When infuriated, she attacked her staff. After her meals, the staff removed and secreted away all the knives. Preachers delivered sermons to her twice a week in her room. However, her violent outbursts, hallucinations, and filthy talk grew worse. She even claimed to have killed her own children.

She was held in custody until 1575, when her uncle the elector of Saxony brought her home to Dresden on December 22, 1576. Her madness worsened. In Dresden, her uncle confined her in two rooms and sealed the windows with bricks. She spoke deliriously, nonsensical, shaking and foaming at the mouth.

Her uncle assigned two men to her protect her female staff from Anna's violent outbursts. One of the men reported that Anna had attacked him with knives and was "raging and foolish as if she were possessed". Her hallucinations and violent outbursts worsened. Her uncle removed Christina from her care and sent her to William to raise her with her half-siblings.

In 1577, William exiled Jan Rubens and he returned to his wife and had another child who became the famous painter Peter Paul Rubens.

Anna lived out the remaining year of her life Dresden. She died on 18 December 1577 at the age of thirty-three.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Diana Spencer Princess of Wales

“Everyone needs to be valued. Everyone has the potential to give something back if only they had the chance.”

Diana, Princess of Wales

Somebody's "little girl"

"Mummy" to William and Harry

"The People's Princess"

Princess Diana was an iconic figure of the late 20th Century. During her life she was often said to be the most photographed person, appearing on the cover of People magazine more than anyone else. She epitomised feminine beauty and glamour. At the same time she was admired for her groundbreaking charity work, in particular her work with AIDS patients and supporting the campaign for banning landmines. Married to Prince Charles in 1981 she received the title of “Her Royal Highness Princess Diana of Wales” She is the Mother of Prince William and Prince Harry 2nd and 3rd in line to the throne respectively.

Diana did not shine as a student at school. When she met her future husband Diana was working as a part time assistant in a nursery school in London. In 1981 Diana married Prince Charles. Diana was 13 years the junior at age of just 20, Charles by contrast was 33 at the time of the wedding. The general public soon warmed to the innocence and beauty of Princess Diana and the wedding was watched by over 1 billion people world wide. During their marriage they had two sons Prince William and Prince Harry. However in the mid 1980s strains started to appear in the marriage and, under much publicity broke, up leading to a divorce in 1992.

As Princess of Wales, Diana was expected to take part in various official engagements such as opening of hospitals. This provided a natural outlet for her to become involved in various types of charitable work. Her natural sympathy and oneness with patients was much admired. In 1987 Princess Diana was one of the first well known celebrities to be photographed with a victim of AIDS. This was important in changing attitudes to the disease. At the time many thought the disease could be contacted by touch alone. Another of her high profile charities was her willingness to be a leading figure in the campaign to ban landmines. In January 1997 she visited mine fields in Angola to inspect the clearing of landmines. After her death the Ottawa treaty was signed banning the use of anti-personnel landmines. Many agree that her support and role in the campaign played an important role in influencing this decision.

Shortly before her death, June 18th Princess Diana met with Mother Teresa. Both admired each other. Mother Teresa always said “Diana is my daughter.” With utmost humility Diana said “I am a very, very small Mother Teresa. Sri Chinmoy said of Princess Diana

“Princess Diana, your heart of sympathy covers the length and breadth of the world. There shall come a time when the entire world will value you most sincerely, most lovingly and most wholeheartedly." (2)

Despite the pervasive press intrusions into her private life, Diana remained very popular because people could identify with her. Her hands on approach to charity work gave the impression of a new type of Royal who was no longer so remote.

Article Source:

Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley
August 30, 1797 - February 1, 1851

Mary Shelley was born on August 30, 1797 to unorthodox parents and Wollstonecraft Godwin. It was apparent that the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was going to be out of step with the ordinary from the moment of her birth on August 30, 1797. She had both unorthodox parents and an orthodox family structure: her father, William Godwin, was a celebrated philosopher and historian who had briefly been a Calvinist minister. A cold, remote man who overate grossly and borrowed money from anyone who would give him a loan, he had little time for anything but his philosophical endeavors. This intellectual single-mindedness was somewhat modulated by his passion for Mary Wollstonecraft. With the possible exception of William Blake, Wollstonecraft was the most influential of the Enlightenment radicals. Having declared herself independent at the age of twenty-one, she ran a school with her sisters and was the respected friend of the philosopher Samuel Johnson. While in France, she had an affair with an army captain which ended in the birth of her first daughter, Fanny. After the soldier abandoned her and the child, she returned to England and attempted suicide. Happily or unhappily, she failed, and began writing in a variety of genres. It was her revolutionary feminist writings, however, that won her lasting fame.

The first meeting between Godwin and Wollstonecraft took place at a dinner party at Godwin's home. Drawn to each other by virtue of their shared philosophical beliefs, the two began an affair begun in the autumn of 1796. When Mary discovered that she was pregnant, the couple decided to marry in order to legitimate both of Mary's children. The couple, however, in adherence to their enlightened views, continued to live and work independently. The pair remained devoted to each other, and Godwin was devastated when Wollstonecraft died shortly after the birth of their daughter, Mary. Although he was fond of his daughters, the task of raising them alone proved too much for Godwin, and he immediately set about finding a second wife. His proposal to Maria Reveley, who would later become Mary's best friend, was rejected.

He later married Mary Jane Clairmont, the first woman to respond to his overtures. This second wife proved to be a cruel, shallow woman who neglected Fanny and Mary in favor of her own children. Mary (who was so lively that her father had nicknamed her Mercury) was frequently whipped for impertinence; rebellion came naturally to the headstrong Mary, and she refused to be subdued. Though the girls were given lessons in domesticity (cooking, cleaning, and other wifely duties) Mary could not feign interest in such pursuits: she would simply take up a book and let the dinner burn. Her father was the most important person in her life, and his favor meant everything to her. She excelled in her lessons and could hold her own in adult conversation ? often with the great minds of her time from a remarkably early age. Around the age of eight, she began reading the writings of her mother. By the time she was ten, she had memorized every word.

Mary spent hours at her mother's grave, reading or eating meals when the atmosphere at home was particularly bad. This habit continued well into her teens, when she was sent to live at Ramsgate with a Miss Petman. This move was prompted by Mary's frailty and inability to concentrate at home. From Ramsgate, she journeyed to Scotland to stay with Baxter, a close friend of her father's. Living with the Baxters was the happiest time that Mary had thereto known. When she returned to London a year later, she had grown into a woman. She became closer to her father than ever before, and the two engaged in constant philosophical debate. This served, predictably, to augment her stepmother's hatred.

Draft of Frankenstein

The poet Percy Shelley, a devoted follower and friend of William Godwin's, began spending a great deal of time in the Godwin home. Although he was married, his presence made an immediate impression on Mary, who began to read poetry at his inducement. Shelley's genuine admiration for the works of Mary's mother earned him her trust ? she invited him to accompany her on her visits to her mother's grave, and the two became inseparable. Their intellectual kinship was passionately felt by both of them, and they rapidly fell in love. Godwin was furious at this development, and immediately barred the poet from his home. The couple, however, refused to be separated and began a clandestine correspondence. With the help of Mary's stepsister, they were able to elope.

Setting up housekeeping in London was expensive, and money was very tight for the newly married pair. Relations between them were somewhat strained: Shelley's first wife Harriet belatedly bore him a son, and his good friend Thomas Hogg became enamored of Mary. To make matters worse, Mary became pregnant; the child, a daughter, died shortly after birth. Mary fell into an acute depression.

Having conceived a dislike for London (perhaps as a result of their misfortunes), the couple began traveling: in the English countryside, in France, and elsewhere. Mary was writing profusely, and published Frankenstein in 1818. No one could have predicted the extent of the book's popularity: it would remain the most widely-read English novel for three decades. Although it was maliciously rumored that Percy Shelley was the book's true author, Mary was catapulted to the forefront of the struggle for recognition then being waged by woman writers.

Tragically, Percy Shelley drowned in a shipwreck in 1822. Though Mary was desolate, she remained dedicated to her son, Percy Florence.

She spent the remainder of her life championing her husband's neglected poetry, and was eventually successful in forcing its publication. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley died in her sleep at age fifty-four.