Category Archives: women in history

Review: Lilli de Jong is Story of a Courageous Mother

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Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Nan A. Talese
Hardcover & eBook; 352 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Literary

READ AN EXCERPT.

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. “So little is permissible for a woman,” writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

Review

I’ll just tell you upfront to please read this book if you love historical fiction books that make you feel as if you are living yourself in that time and place. It’s so wonderfully well-written and drew me in page by page in a very insistent manner. I could almost feel as if I were living with and among the characters. I was shocked, horrified, tear-stricken, yet I felt proud of the protagonist as well and became full of admiration by the time I reached the end.

Lilli de Jong, is the story of a fictional woman, though it could be the story of so many women. The limits put on women during this time period by society, and men, was so tragic. This book not only brings it to light, but it reminds us it was actually worse than any of us could have ever thought. It also is petrifying as we watch the state of society inching along today and the growth of some of the feelings that men (and women) have towards women, especially in accordance with their reproductive or motherhood rights and the amount of shaming that still occurs of those who get pregnant out of wedlock. Lilli de Jong is almost like a more modern telling of the Scarlet Letter, as the character of Lilli certainly was scorned  with a similar, though intangible, mark for no other reason than having a baby when not married to the father.

What I loved about this book was obviously Janet’s character development, first and foremost. For a debut novel, this was a tremendous feat. Her pacing and dialogue was spot on and moved the story along quickly. Yet, the research hours poured into this book was also clear, and as a reader, I learned so very much of the time period, the societal and government rules, as well as through her descriptions, learned of the surroundings, which allowed me to be immersed further into the story.

The story of Lilli is such an important one. Janet truly has set the bar high for herself should she endeavor to write further novels, but I also hope she does, as I can’t wait to read more of her writing. She tells a story in a very meaningful way, creating even sad subjects into delightful reading. I shed a tear to two reading this, as well as balled my fists in anger a time or two, and feel compelled to hope that this book could also be used a learning tool for many who wish to change culture and continue to go forward with progress for women’s rights, but also of course, it’s important for others to read as well so that they can understand through the emotion and trials of Lilli just how important forgiveness can be as well as helping hands. Further, I suppose, redemption as well, and that things such as this are not only the fault of the woman, but the men too. I was so tired of judgement, even more than I already am, after reading this book.

This is the story of a woman’s courage, strength, and fortitude. It’s the story of a mother, all mothers, and their undying and unwavering love for their children. Love knows know boundaries between mother and a child and a true mother will go lengths to defend and support her children. I will carry this story around inside myself for a long while, just as all women carry the stories of those who came before us. This book should go on required reading lists.

I must applaud the author for her willingness to write this book and show the errors of our ways during this time period. Her observations from research, her ability to put herself in the shoes of another (her character – but more so, any real people who dealt with this), not having experienced this herself, are absolutely commendable. I can tell she is a very empathetic, in-tune, connective type of person. Those people make the best writers and preserve for prosperity the stories of others unlike most writers can do.

I should note after reading that I felt a kinship to the character of Lilli as well, due to her heritage and Quaker origin. Though my ancestors weren’t Quaker as far as I know, great-grandparents of mine (maybe 8 or 9 x) on my mother’s side did hail from the same area the character lived in at the start of the book, Germantown, which was a quarter in Pennsylvania. Having done my own cultural and historical research on the family for personal knowledge and my own historical writing, I could feel a sense of place when reading about her. It was very interesting and I loved this added personal touch for me.

Lilli de Jong is an outstanding debut flush with detail and movement that I would highly recommend to all readers of historical fiction or those interested in women’s rights. It’s an enjoyable read with a courageous character that I hope, for humanity’s sake, all of us can see some tiny part of ourselves in.

*I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest critique.

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Purchase Links

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Praise for Lilli de Jong

“Lilli de Jong, discharged from her teaching job and banished from Quaker meetings because of her father’s selfish choice, finds comfort in the affections of her father’s apprentice, Johan. The night before he leaves to embark on a new life, she succumbs to his embrace with his promise that he will send for her. Soon thereafter, a pregnant Lilli finds herself shunned and alone, her only option a Philadelphia charity for wronged women. Knowing that she must relinquish her newborn, she is unprepared for the love that she feels for her daughter. Lilli quickly decides to fight to keep her, but in 1883 that means a life of hardship and deprivation. Telling Lilli’s story in diary form, debut author Benton has written a captivating, page-turning, and well-researched novel about the power of a mother’s love and the stark reality of the choices she must make. VERDICT A great choice for book clubs and readers of Geraldine Brooks.” – Library Journal, Starred Review

“A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

“A stunning ode to motherhood. Lilli de Jong reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sarah McCoy, author of The Mapmaker’s Children

“Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

“[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby is both devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love triumphing over a rigid society.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow

“The trials Lilli undertakes to keep her baby are heart-rending, and it’s a testament to Benton’s skill as a writer that the reader cannot help but bear witness. In a style reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks, she seamlessly weaves accurate historical detail as well as disturbing societal norms into the protagonist’s struggles . . . An absorbing debut from a writer to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A heartrending debut . . . Benton’s exacting research fuels Lilli’s passionate, authentic voice that is ‘as strong as a hand on a drum . . . that pounds its urgent messages across a distance’ . . . Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.” —Publishers Weekly

“A harrowing look at the strictures of nineteenth-century American society. . . . [Lilli] is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.” —Booklist

“I loved this novel. Lilli de Jong is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. Janet Benton has an exceptional ability to bring history to life . . . It’s not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it’s also important . . . Lilli’s life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today.” —Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

“Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr, debut novelist Janet Benton magically weaves a gripping narrative of hardship, redemption, and hope while illuminating a portrait of little-known history. The result is an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and, ultimately, the human bond. Stunning!” —Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl

“A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.” —The Millions

03_Janet Benton.jpgAuthor Janet Benton, Biography

Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton’s website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away TWO Notebooks featuring quotes from Lilli de Jong! Notebooks are spiral-bound (4×6 inches) with 50 blank pages. To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/REPTM/lilli-de-jong

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Women in History: Victoria Woodhull for Social Welfare and Women’s Equality

The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #9 today. If this is the first article you’ve read so far, March was Women in History month and so I’ve been featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it’s now extending way past March we’ve had so much interest to feature strong, impactful women. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the articles as I schedule or post them. And if you still want to participate, send an article in!

Introducing Neal H. Katz and Victoria Woodhull

Today, I am hosting author Neal H. Katz, a man and early member of HeForShe, whose first novel, OUTRAGEOUS: The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume One: Rise To Riches has won eight literary awards both in the U.S. and internationally. Mr. Katz writes in first person as Victoria Woodhull.

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Victoria Woodhull by Bradley & Rulofson

Victoria Woodhull’s Exploits for Social Welfare and Women 

by Neal Katz, Author of OUTRAGEOUS: The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume One: Rise To Riches

Victoria and her sister, Tennessee Celeste Claflin were the first women to own a Wall Street brokerage firm and first to own, publish and edit a newspaper. Victoria became the first woman to address the U.S. House of Representatives and in 1872 the first woman to be the candidate of a national party for President. Victoria was demonized and put in jail for daring to seek women equality. These exploits and more are portrayed in the soon to be released SCANDALOUS: Volume Two: Fame, Infamy, and Paradise Lost.

IN HER OWN WORDS: COULD IT BE ANYMORE RELEVANT TODAY?

This excerpt from Volume 2 of The Victoria Woodhull Saga recounts a speech delivered on October 17, 1873, when the corruption of politics had ravaged the U.S. economy during the first Great Depression. Yes, renamed The Panic of 1873 during the 1930s.

Excerpt from SCANDALOUS:

Shunned and not even invited to attend the Women’s Congress convened in New York City, I spoke at Cooper’s Union that same evening. I did not feel well and wore a simple outfit, a pleated black skirt and a black braided jacket gathered at my waist with a starched white shirt underneath. My hair was loose and random, cropped short. The only adornment was a single, half-opened white tea rose in my lapel.

The title of my speech was Reformation or Revolution, Which? Or, Behind the Political Scenes. The crowd, once again exceeded the legal limit as 4,000 packed the hall to overflowing. The boisterous assembly shouted off the stage the scheduled preliminary speakers. I realized I no longer felt the panic I used to feel. I was confident and although suffering a sore throat and a slight fever, I spoke my truth. After introductory remarks I pressed my purpose:

… The action of about fifty men in destroying a cargo of tea, brought on the revolutionary war. If fifty men, out of three millions of inhabitants at that time, with the limited dissatisfaction that existed against the crown, could bring about a revolution, how many men and women out of forty millions inhabitants are required, with the wide spread dissatisfaction now existing, to bring about revolution?

… Two years ago, when I was importuning Congress to do political justice to women, which was denied, I found the wiser portion of Congressmen feared the country was drifting into revolution. … Do not deceive yourselves. Negro slavery was not so great a cause of dissatisfaction then, as are the more subtle slaveries of today, now. Nor were the slave oligarchs any more alarmed about their slaves, then, than are the political, financial and industrial oligarchs for their possessions now.

The bondholders, money-lenders and railroad kings say to the politicians: If you will legislate for our interests, we will retain you in power, and, together (you and the public offices and patronage and we with our immense dependencies and money), we can control the destinies of the country, and change the government to suit ourselves. Now finally, comes in the threatened church power and it says: If you will make your government a Christian government, we will bring all the ‘Faithful’ to your support. Thus united, let me warn you, they constitute the strongest power in the world. It is the government, all the wealth of the country, backed up by the church against the unorganized groups of reformers, every one of whom is pulling his or her little string in opposing directions.

… The developments over the past two years – the corruptions, frauds and failures __ are sweeping condemnation of the system under which they have flourished. From Tammany down to the latest Brooklyn expose, first and last, one and all, they speak unmistakable tones of the approaching culmination of the system. They prove beyond cavil that the government has degenerated into a mere machine, used by the unscrupulous to systematically plunder the people.

… What does the City of New York, this Christian city, with its numerous churches, laden with gold, dedicated to God and Christ, care for the thousands of children who live from its slop barrels, or the thousands more who die from partial starvation and neglect! … I arraign this thing that goes by the name of Christianity, as a fraud; and its so-called teachers as imposters. They profess to be the followers of Jesus of Nazareth,while they neither teach, preach, nor practice the fundamental principles He taught and practiced.

… Then, when we will have accomplished the good work to the future, will begin the long-time sung and prophesized millennium, in which Love instead of hate, equality in place of aristocracy, and justice where is now cruelty, shall reign with undisturbed and perpetual sway, and peace on earth and good will among us abound.

Because I see this for humanity, in the near future, I have been willing and able to endure what its advocacy has cost me of personal discomfort and of public censure. Finally, in conclusion: May the God, Justice; the Christ, Love and the Holy Ghost, Unity — the Trinity of Humanity—ascend the Universal Throne, while all nations, in acknowledging their supremacy, shall receive their blessings – their benedictions.

 The next day the newspapers reported that a standing ovation and unison clapping shook the rafters and floors of Cooper’s Union for past a full hour.

Find out more at www.thevictoriawoodhullsaga.com

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Outrageous, The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume 1: Rise to Riches, Synopsis

Women empowerment, overcoming adversity, social change, and hope were the cornerstones upon which Victoria Woodhull (1838–1927) and her younger sister Tennessee Celeste Claflin built their incredible lives in Victorian America. OUTRAGEOUS, Rise to Riches sets the psychological verity and traces Victoria from childhood poverty and horrific abuse to becoming one of the wealthiest women in America, founding the first women-owned brokerage firm on Wall Street, and the first women-owned newspaper. Victoria will stop at nothing to achieve her destiny.

 Written in the first person from Victoria’s viewpoint, Neal Katz weaves a compelling page-turning story that cleverly unfolds history while providing a wonderfully entertaining ride. Katz has pledged one half of book sale proceeds to charities dedicating to the empowerment and sustainable economic improvement of women, especially single mothers.

Purchase

Amazon

Neal Katz, Biography

NHKatz-SQsmNeal Katz is a serial entrepreneur. He harbors a passion for women’s rights and his lifestyle is centered on self-awareness and love. His award winning historical novel, Outrageous: The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume One: Rise to Riches (thevictoriawoodhullsaga.com) is about two sisters who dynamically advanced human rights and women suffrage in Victorian America and delivers a searing exposé of manipulation in the financial markets. Volume Two, scheduled for release in early 2017, follows the sisters through their daring entrance into politics—Victoria becoming the first woman to be nominated for President of the United States.

Thanks for following the series!

Women in History

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Women in History: The Great Russian Ballerina Bronia Nijinska

The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #8 today. If this is the first article you’ve read so far, March was Women in History month and so I’ve been featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it’s now extending way past March we’ve had so much interest to feature strong, impactful women. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the articles as I schedule or post them. And if you still want to participate, send an article in!

Introducing Eva Stachniak and Her Russian Ballerina

I’m very excited to start this week off with my sweet friend (a truly wonderful person!) and fabulous historical fiction writer Eva Stachniak. Eva lives in Canada and is the award-winning and internationally bestselling author of four novels, several of which are my favorites, and her newest, is soon to add to this list!

This newest novel, The Chosen Maiden, is her fifth novel and features the life of Bronia Nijinska, a Russian ballerina – in fact one of the greatest to ever live…but not without fighting for that title. Read on and find out why.

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Caption: Bronia Nijinska as a student at the Imperial Ballet School

Living in the shadow of giants: the story of Bronia Nijinska

By Eva Stachniak, author of The Chosen Maiden

The history of Russian ballet is full of extraordinary women, but for me Bronislava Nijinska or Bronia as she was known among friends, is particularly appealing. What drew me to her? First, the tantalizing connection to her beloved elder brother, Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950). Known as the God of the Dance, he was one of the best dancers of all times, especially known for his leap and his groundbreaking choreography of Rite of Spring—the one that caused now famous riots in Paris when it premiered on May 29 of 1913. I was also drawn by the powerful strength of her dancing roles in Ballets Russes of Sergey Diaghilev, the legendary impresario who transformed the face of modern ballet: Ballerina Doll in Petrouchkaor the Chosen Maiden in Rite of Spring, a dance Vaslav created especially for her. And last, but not least, I admire her fortitude in the face of obstacles and misfortunes which could’ve crushed anyone less strong and resilient than she was.

Growing up alongside her famous older brother meant that Bronia Nijinska had to stand her ground. Like Vaslav she was educated at the world-renowned Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg. Like Vaslav, she danced at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and then, in 1909, joined the Ballets Russes which revolutionized modern dance and dazzled Paris with their Russian seasons. But whereas he was almost instantly declared a genius, she had to fight for recognition all her life.

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Caption: Bronia NIjinska in Petrouchka

How did she manage to free herself from Vaslav’s shadow? It helped that Vaslav recognized her talent. He was not only her mentor and teacher, but also readily acknowledged that Bronia was the best interpreter of his choreography. Then the vicissitudes of European history intervened, for the siblings were separated by war and revolution. Vaslav never returned to Russia, and by the time they met again in 1921 her brilliant brother’s career (and life) was destroyed by mental illness. In the meantime, during the Russian Revolution and ensuing Civil War, in Kiev, Bronia created avant-garde experimental ballets which inscribed her name in the history of modern dance. And after her escape from the Soviet Union she became one of the very first female choreographers employed by a ballet company—for Sergey Diaghilev hired her as a choreographer in 1921. This is where she created her masterpieces: The Wedding, Les Biches or Le Train Bleu (for which Coco Chanel designed costumes). All of them achievements that are truly extraordinary.

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Caption: A painting by Vadim Meller inspired by Bronia NIjinska’s modern ballet, Mephisto, that she created during her time in Kiev.

However, it was not only Vaslav’s shadow Bronia Nijinskahad to free herself from. She had to stand up to the misogyny of the ballet world, all her life. When she was a young ballerina at the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg she was faulted for her too strong and muscular body, her “un-ballerinalike” looks, her “too high” jumps. Then, in the Ballets Russes, she saw how male dancers and choreographers ruled supreme while women were mostly given supportive or transient roles. When, after her escape from Soviet Russia, she re-joined Ballets Russes, the same Sergey Diaghilev who hired her could not stop himself from telling her: “Oh, Bronia, what a great choreographer you would’ve been if only you were a man.” Yet, despite these obstacles, she had a long career as a dancer, choreographer and teacher, both in Western Europe and the US where she emigrated in 1939.

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Caption: An arrangement from Les Noces (The Wedding) Nijinska choreographed in 1923. Music by Igor Stravinsky.

Where does it come from, such strength, such resilience? From early childhood Bronia Nijinska knew dancing was her vocation. She placed the art of ballet in the center of her life and never veered from it. But love of art would not have been enough to sustain her, not without the fierce support first of her mother, Eleanora, and then her daughter, Irina. The evidence of their loving, nurturing relationship is beautifully documented in the archival materials of the Bronislava Nijinska Collection, at the Library of Congress. Dairies, letters, and snapshots of family life show how the three generations of the Nijinsky women, grandmother, mother and daughter, stood by each other through thick and thin all their lives. This female solidarity gave Bronia the inner strength to be an artist, rooted her, and, in the end, shaped her who she was.

Links of Interest

Recreated ballets in which Bronia and Vaslav danced or choreographed 1913—35

http://www.evastachniak.com/2016/11/05/the-chosen-maiden-ballets-1909-1913/

http://www.evastachniak.com/2016/11/05/the-chosen-maiden-ballets-1914-1935/

Eva Stachniak, Biography

evastachniakEva Stachniak is a writer of historical fiction. Her latest novel, The Chosen Maiden, was inspired by the art and voice of Bronia Nijinska.  She lives in Toronto.

Find more out about her and her fabulous books on her website.

 

The Chosen Maiden, Synopsis –

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Publisher: Doubleday Canada and US
Date: Jan 17, 2017

The passionate, sweeping story of Bronia, an extraordinary ballerina forever in the shadow of the legendary Nijinsky–Russia’s greatest dancer and her older brother.

Born on the road to dancer parents, the Nijinsky children seem destined for the stage. Vaslav is an early prodigy, and through single-minded pursuit will grow into arguably the greatest–and most infamous–Russian ballet dancer of the 20th century. His talented younger sister Bronia, however, also longs to dance. Overshadowed by Vaslav, plagued by a body deemed less than ideal and struggling against the constraints of her gender, Bronia will have to work triply hard to prove herself worthy.

Bronia’s stunning discipline and mesmerizing talent will eventually elevate her to the highest stage in Russia: the prestigious, old-world Mariinsky Ballet. But as the First World War rages, revolution sparks in Russia. In her politics, love life and career, Bronia will be forced to confront the choice between old and new; traditional and groundbreaking; safe and passionate.

Through gorgeous and graceful prose, readers will be swept from St. Petersburg and Kiev to London and Paris and plunged into the tumultuous world of modern art. Against the fascinating and tragic backdrop of early 20th century Europe, and surrounded by legends like Anna Pavlova, Coco Chanel, Serge Diaghilev and Pablo Picasso, Bronia must come into her own–as a dancer, mother and revolutionary–in a world that only wishes to see her fall.

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Purchase on Amazon and other major online retailers and stores nationwide in Canada and the United States.

National Bestseller

“A tale of intrigue, love, betrayal and redemption set in the realm of art and artists, exploring the line between dedication and obsession, creation and madness. . . . Stachniak weaves together beautifully the myriad moments that bring this fascinating family and period to life.” —Toronto Star 

“Carefully researched and capaciously imagined. . . . More than just an absorbing historical account of an avant-garde artist, The Chosen Maiden is a fully-realized tale of family, love, loss and enduring resilience.” —Cathy Marie Buchanan, New York Times bestselling author of The Painted Girls

“Many works of fiction take as their inspiration true events and persons of historical significance, but few do so as lovingly and imaginatively. . . . The Chosen Maiden delves into the workings of an artist’s mind and reveals the resiliency of art in a time of worldwide political upheaval and war. . . . A remarkable work of historical fiction.” —Quill & Quire

“Exquisite. . . . Dance fans will welcome this graceful and entrancing foray into the recent past.” —Library Journal

“Reading The Chosen Maiden is like entering Aladdin’s Cave, where a vivid, strange and enchanting world awaits. It is the thrilling world of the Great Nijinsky and his passionate and unforgettable sister Bronia, whose discipline and talent rival her famous brother’s, but whose greatest genius may be her will to survive. Spanning two world wars and the Russian Revolution, Eva Stachniak’s sumptuous and evocative dance of the Chosen Maiden is the dance of 20th century history.” —Shaena Lambert, author of Oh, My Darling and Radiance

Thank you for following the series!

Women in History

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Women in History: Arsinoe – Cleopatra’s Treacherous Sister

The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #7 today. If this is the first article you’ve read so far, March was Women in History month and so I’ve been featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it’s now extending way past March we’ve had so much interest to feature strong, impactful women. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the articles as I schedule or post them.

Introducing Catherine Cavendish and Arsinoe

Today’s guest is Catherine Cavendish, one of the best authors in this modern age of gothic horror. At least she’s one of my favorites and I’ve enjoyed reading her books. She always has the most informative posts too. As well, she’s a good friend and a dear supportive soul to many other writers and authors, even from her haunted abode in the UK! As you read on you’ll see she’s featuring Arsinoe, Cleopatra’s sister. The Ptolemy family is one of my favorites to study and read about, as scandalous as they are, so I’ve been super excited about this one!

Arsinoe – Cleopatra’s Treacherous Sister
by Catherine Cavendish, Author of Wrath of the Ancients

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Virtual Recreation of Arsinoe

We’ve all learned about Cleopatra – even if only by seeing the 1963 epic film of the same name. Elizabeth Taylor triumphantly entering Rome and sweeping Richard Burton (Mark Antony) off his sandaled feet. But what of the rest of her family – in particular her younger sister (or possibly half-sister), Arsinoe?

Cleopatra and Arsinoe’s family – the notorious Ptolemies- were by any standard an evil lot. Intrigue, murder, incest, torture- and that was among themselves. In short, the Ptolemaic dynasty made Vlad the Impaler look like a pussycat (albeit one with extremely long claws and fangs). They would stop at nothing to gain power and dispose of anyone who attempted to wrest it from them.

In order to keep the bloodline pure, the Ptolemies opted for incestuous marriages; brothers wedding sisters, sons marrying their mothers, and all were expected to produce heirs to secure the dynastic continuance.

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Ptolemy XII Auletes

Arsinoe and Cleopatra’s father – Ptolemy XII Auletes – fathered a number of children including a son, also called Ptolemy. In keeping with family tradition none of the siblings cared for the others, and treated them with a great deal of suspicion. Wisely, as it turned out. By now, the great Egyptian empire had become a shadow of its former glory and waned at the time the Roman Empire was expanding and growing. As a result, Ptolemy XII relied increasingly heavily on Rome’s support in order to remain in power. He bribed, tortured and murdered members of his own family but was driven out of Egypt in 58 BC when, following the death of his wife (who was also his sister), his eldest daughter, Berenice IV, became sole ruler of Egypt. Ptolemy was determined to return to power and grew increasingly in debt to Rome. He gained the support of Aulus Gabinius, pro consul of Syria and returned to Egypt with a Roman army supporting him. He then proceeded to murder his daughter, Berenice and recapture his throne.

He proclaimed his daughter, Cleopatra, his queen but broke with Ptolemaic tradition by not marrying her.

On his death in 51 BC, his eldest surviving son and daughter – Ptolemy and Cleopatra – were proclaimed co-regents. This was never going to work. The two hated each other. Before long, Ptolemy dethroned Cleopatra and she fled from Alexandria to Palestine.

pic 3 - Cleopatra

Cleopatra

In 48BC, Julius Caesar arrived in Alexandria and Cleopatra secretly returned. All the lessons she had learned at her father’s side came into play and she seduced the Roman leader. The mighty Caesar had never met anyone like her before. Clever, independent, strong-willed and determined, she was her father’s daughter.

Ptolemy XIII meanwhile, had also learned from his father – just not as well. He had Caesar’s rival, Pompey executed, and presented the Roman leader with his head. Caesar was disgusted. Such behaviour was barbaric. He had to choose between the brother and sister as to who would rule Egypt. Ptolemy XIII took one look at Cleopatra sitting next to Caesar and knew he had no chance. Petulantly, he threw his crown to the ground and stormed off into the street, calling his sister a traitor.

pic 4 Ptolemy XIII

Ptolemy XIII

Now it was Arsinoe’s turn to emerge from the shadows. Aged possibly around 15 or 16, although her birth date is uncertain, she sided with her brother to topple Cleopatra. Along with her mentor, the eunuch Ganymedes, she led the Egyptian army in revolt against the Romans and proclaimed herself Pharaoh. Months of struggle ensued and, at one time, Caesar and Cleopatra were besieged in the palace when one of Arsinoe’s advisers poured seawater in the cisterns, rendering the water undrinkable.

Arsinoe: 3D render

Arsinoe

Arsinoe was now co ruler of Egypt with her brother. But her triumph was short-lived. Roman forces arrived and Ptolemy XIII drowned in a mighty sea battle.

Arsinoe was captured and sent to Rome where she faced the real possibility of a public strangling for her treachery. Cleopatra, in 47BC was once again proclaimed queen.

Caesar spared Arsinoe from strangling and granted her sanctuary at the great temple of Artemis in Ephesus. From there, the younger sister monitored the older sister’s movements, aware that Cleopatra was just as wary of her.

For as long as Arsinoe remained alive, she would remain a real threat to Cleopatra’s power. By now, 41 BC, with Caesar dead, Cleopatra and Mark Antony were living an ultimately tragic love story. The queen bore the rather dim-witted Mark Antony a son. Arsinoe was now too much of a threat to leave alone.

On the orders of Mark Antony, Arsinoe was murdered on the steps of the great temple – in itself an act of terrible violation, widely condemned in Rome.

pic 6 - Temple of Artemis Ephesus

Temple of Artemis atE phesus

There she remained until, in 1904, archaeologists discovered a tomb containing bones, housed in an octagonal structure on the site of the ruined temple. What then follows is still hotly disputed. Many of the bones apparently disappeared in Germany during the Second World War but an Austrian scientist, Dr. Hilke Thur, claimed to have found the rest of the bones still in the tomb and performed DNA analysis on them. This proved inconclusive as the fragments were contaminated by so much handling over the years. Nevertheless, Thur maintains the circumstantial and historical evidence strongly supports the theory that the body in the Octagon was that of Arsinoe. The monument itself is said to bear a striking resemblance to the lighthouse (Pharos) at Alexandria – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. From records and photographs taken of the missing bones early in the twentieth century, Thur recreated the head and face of Arsinoe, concluding that her features hint at African descent. Since the Ptolemies were of Greek lineage, this would indicate that her mother was African.

pic 7 - artists impression of the Octagon at Ehesus

Octagon

Given Arsinoe’s upbringing, terrible family example and the culture and beliefs of the time in which she lived, was she more sinned against than sinning? I leave that to you to decide. Cleopatra, meanwhile, still rests in an unknown grave but, if current theories are correct, archaeologists are closing in on her.

In my book – Wrath of the Ancients– Arsinoe appears as a vengeful spirit, determined to make her sister pay for murdering her for all eternity. But then, if you had been murdered at your own sister’s behest, I doubt you’d be too pleased about it either!

Here’s a little more about the story:

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DESTINY IN DEATH

Egypt, 1908

Eminent archeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus has unearthed the burial chamber of Cleopatra. But this tomb raider’s obsession with the Queen of the Nile has nothing to do with preserving history. Stealing sacred and priceless relics, he murders his expedition crew, and flees—escaping the quake that swallows the site beneath the desert sands . . .

Vienna, 1913

Young widow Adeline Ogilvy has accepted employment at the mansion of Dr. Quintillus, transcribing the late professor’s memoirs. Within the pages of his journals, she discovers the ravings of a madman convinced he possessed the ability to reincarnate Cleopatra. Within the walls of his home, she is assailed by unexplained phenomena: strange sounds, shadowy figures, and apparitions of hieroglyphics.

Something pursued Dr. Quintillus from Egypt. Something dark, something hungry. Something tied to the fate and future of Adeline Ogilvy . . .

Wrath of the Ancients is available for pre-order now from:

Amazon * B&N * GooglePlay * Kobo * Apple

Catherine Cavendish, Biography

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Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Cat is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories including: The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse, Saving Grace Devine, Dark Avenging Angel, Linden Manor, The Second Wife, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, The Devil Inside Her, Cold Revenge and In My Lady’s Chamber.

 Wrath of the Ancients is the first book in a trilogy of ancient obsessions and eternal revenge.

Cat lives with her longsuffering husband and black (trainee) cat. They divide their time between Liverpool and a 260 year old haunted apartment in North Wales.

You can connect with her here:

Author Website and Blog: http://www.catherinecavendish.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CatherineCavendish

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Cat_Cavendish

Goodreads; https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4961171.Catherine_Cavendish

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Women in History

 

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Women in History: Victorian London’s Eliza Armstrong Case Against Human Trafficking

The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #6 today. If this is the first article you’ve read so far, March was Women in History month and so I’ve been featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it’s now extending way past March we’ve had so much interest to feature strong, impactful women. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the articles as I schedule or post them.

Introducing JoAnne Shade and the Eliza Armstrong Case

I welcome my dear longtime and local friend of mine JoAnne Streeter Shade to my site and the series today! Retired from the Salvation Army, she’s continued writing a weekly column in our local newspaper and publishing books. She’s such an inspiration to me in her faith and her passionate stances for civil liberties and women.

Her article here surrounds the case of Eliza Armstrong, a child bought for immoral purposes in Victorian England. Eliza’s story has parallels to our own still fervent fight against human trafficking still in our generation. It’s also a story about community leaders, men and women, who fought to raise the age of consent.

Pall-Mall0006-feature

Copy of 1885 newspaper…photo taken from The Salvationist (online site of The Salvation Army) 

The Story of Eliza Armstrong and the Fight for Social Change
by JoAnne Shade, Author of Eliza and the Midwife

Writing in A Tale of Two Cities in 1859, Charles Dickens expressed a truth that applies to many times in history. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Dickens’ words could well have been written in the closing decades of the 1800s, as London faced incredible poverty and unimaginable wealth, moral degradation and crusading do-gooders. One story, that of Eliza Armstrong and the Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon, is a vivid example of the competing forces of good and evil at work in a historical moment in Victorian London.

In 1885, the presenting issue for the reformers was the law of the land that allowed for children to legally be prostituted, as the age of consent was thirteen. At thirteen, a girl could make her own decision about her sexual activity (or others could make the decisions for her), and there was no relief from the law. This led to many girls being sold into prostitution, with a high premium paid for those considered “virgointacto.”

In an attempt to get this law changed, a London newspaper editor (W.T. Stead of the Pall Mall Gazette), The Salvation Army’s Bramwell Booth, and long-time reformer Josephine Butler gathered to plan public pressure with the hopes of drawing attention to the need to raise the age of consent to sixteen. The plan was dependent on investigative reporting, and ultimately produced a sensationalized five-day series descriptive of London’s underworld. One component of the investigation involved a young Salvation Army woman, unnamed, who went undercover into a brothel, where she spent nine days gathering facts about its operation. As a part of their actions, a redeemed brothel owner (Rebecca Jarrett) was coerced into taking part in a covert action designed to draw attention to the ease at which children could be purchased for immoral purposes – by actually purchasing a child. Eliza Armstrong, age thirteen, was purchased for five pounds, taken to a brothel, and then spirited away to France for a number of months.

As a result of the ensuing outrage (as well as effective community organizing), 800,000 signatures were gathered to petition parliament for a change in the law, and within two months, the legislature acted on the bill, providing protection for thousands of at-risk children.

The story doesn’t end with the passage of the law, for while the motivation of the group wasn’t doubted, their methods were questionable. This led to a series of trials, in which Mr. Booth was exonerated, but Mr. Stead and others were sentenced to prison time. Tucked away in this drama was the minor role of midwife Louise Rose Mourez. Her willingness to verify the virginity of Eliza Armstrong resulted in an assault conviction and her subsequent death in prison.

Eliza and the Midwife: A Story in Human Trafficking, published by Frontier Press, presents an overview of the campaign to change social policy and the resulting consequences to Victorian London, W.T. Stead and the Pall Mall Gazette, the Salvation Army, and the individual lives of the plot’s participants. In the exploration of this fascinating snippet of history, Eliza’s story offers lessons from the past to inform the contemporary fight against human trafficking.

17310585_10211151637119716_555464379_oEliza and the Midwife: A Story in Human Trafficking, Synopsis –

In 1885, a London newspaper editor, a religious leader, and a redeemed brothel owner took part in a covert action designed to draw attention to the ease at which children could be purchased for immoral purposes. Tucked away in the sensational account of that transaction, publicized as “The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon,” was the small role of midwife Louise Rose Mourez. Her willingness to verify the virginity of Eliza Armstrong, the thirteen-year old girl who was purchased, resulted in an assault conviction and her death in prison. “Eliza and the Midwife” provides an overview of the planned purchase of the child and the subsequent consequences to Victorian London, the Salvation Army, and the individual participants. It draws upon trial transcripts, historical research, and the imagined voices of the child, the midwife, and an undercover prostitute to capture the essence of the scandalous scheme addressing the societal problems of child prostitution and trafficking plaguing London in 1885.

If you’re local to Ashland, Ohio, this book is available in Ashland at Local Roots. You can buy it used from third party sellers on Amazon HERE or you can let me know you want a copy and tell JoAnne.

JoAnne Streeter Shade, Biography

17342251_10211151650560052_1661613507_oJoAnn Streeter Shade has walked alongside many women in a variety of settings for more than thirty-five years, and enjoys writing about women from a historical perspective, as she did in Eliza Duncan: An Imagined Memoir; The Other Woman: Exploring the Story of Hagar; and WomenVoices: Speaking from the Gospels with Power. She has known of the story of Eliza Armstrong for many years, and is glad to have finally given voice to Eliza, Rebecca, Louise, Jenny and Florence.

She has ministered in Salvation Army congregations and social service programs in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and has served at North Coast Family Foundation, a Christian counseling center in Northeast Ohio. She provides development support to the Massillon Museum, and works with Doctor of Ministry students at Ashland Theological Seminary. She is also a weekly columnist for the Ashland Times-Gazette.

She is married to Larry, is the mother of three adult sons, Greg, Drew and Dan, and Lauren and Becky, beloved daughters-in-law, and is Nana to the lovely Madelyn Simone and the delightful Elizabeth Holiday. With a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and a Doctor of Ministry in the Women in Prophetic Leadership track from Ashland Theological Seminary, she combines her academic training with a writer’s eye, a pastor’s heart, and a grandmother’s joy through Gracednotes Ministries.

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Women in History

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