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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.

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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!

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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!

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Women in History: The Bookcase of the Bronte Sisters

I’m so happy everyone is enjoying this series featuring wonderful women! Thanks so much for all the support so far. The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #5 today. If this is the first article you’ve read so far, March is Women in History month and so I’m featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it will extend 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 Sarah Parke and the Bronte Sisters

Today we have Sarah Parke, who is a “new to me” person and author but someone I can’t wait to get to know better! She is the author of a book about the Bronte siblings, which you’ll learn about at the end, and a writer of YA historical and fantasy fiction. She seems pretty cool!

I love the Brontes and their books. It adheres to all my love of the classics and their gothic elements and they were some of the leading lady forebearers for future novelists. Plus, it fits right in with PBS Masterpiece Theatre recently showing the movie “To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters.”

I really enjoyed reading Sarah’s post and I hope you do too. And check out all the Victorian covers she provided for the books she talks about!! Enjoy.

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The Bronte Sisters

The Brontës’ Bookcase

By Sarah Parke, Author of The Mourning Ring

There seems to be some unwritten law of the universe that ensures the brightest, most creative minds are snuffed out at a young age. The Brontë sisters, authors of the literary classics Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (among others) died young. Emily and Anne both died of pulmonary tuberculosis at ages 30 and 29, respectively. Seven years later, Charlotte died at 39 from suspected pregnancy complications. These women were at the very beginning of their writing careers and still publishing under male pseudonyms. They would never hear the praise or know the acclaim their novels found among their contemporaries.

We’ll never know if other literary classics might have come from this family had they lived to old age. But let’s imagine (because it’s fun to speculate) that their subsequent novels would have drawn on some of the stories they loved as children.

“Patrick Bronte’s unusually liberal views meant that his children had an unconventional Victorian childhood. Strongly influenced by Wordsworth’s attitudes to education, he encouraged them to roam freely on the moors…and allowed them to read whatever they liked from his bookshelves.” (Christine Alexander’s Tales of Glass Town, Angria, and Gondal, pg. xv)

So what did the young Brontë siblings choose to read? Come along with me. Read the shelves and run your finger across the spines of the volumes that fill the Brontë children’s bookcase.

Blackwood’s Edinburgh MagazineBlackwood’s was a Tory (Conservative) men’s magazine featuring poetry, literary reviews, as well as articles on British Army campaigns, Arctic explorations, and British imperialism in Africa. The first issue of Blackwood’s was published in April 1817, and it continued to be published until 1980. Charlotte often read the magazine aloud to her younger siblings. Charlotte and her younger brother Branwell “published” their own version of the magazine called Young Men’s Magazine where they reported (and criticized) the actions of their characters in a fictional land named Glass Town.

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The Arabian Nights – This would have been an English language edition (published in 1706) of the Middle Eastern and South Asian story collection known as One Thousand and One Nights. The Arabian Nights uses a “frame story” of a woman named Scheherazade who tells her new husband, the king, part of a story every night in order to put off her execution. This frame narrative is woven throughout the other tales and ties the stories together. Fans of Wuthering Heights might recall that Emily Brontë used a frame story structure when Nelly Dean tells Mr. Lockhart the history between the Heights and the Grange.

Arabian Nights cover

The Pilgrim’s Progress – Believed to be the first novel written in English, The Pilgrim’s Progress is a Christian allegory written by John Bunyan in 1678. The entire book is presented as a dream sequence, and it follows the main character’s journey from sin to salvation. Perhaps it’s not that surprising that the Brontë siblings would be well-versed in such a book since their father was a clergyman. Jane, the titular character in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, makes reference to The Pilgrim’s Progress and makes her own journey to salvation over the course of the novel.

The Pilgrims Progress cover

Gulliver’s Travels– Another travel story (popular in the Victorian age when your average reader never travelled far from the place they were born), Gulliver’s Travels was written by Jonathan Swift in 1726. It’s not hard to understand why the Brontës would have been fascinated and entertained by the comedic and fantasy elements of the story that brings them around the world with the narrator. Gulliver’s Travels was very influential to the young Brontës; their first stories were inspired by wooden toy soldiers the size of Swift’s Lilliputians.

Gullivers Travels cover

Paradise LostAnother story drawn from Christian allegory, this time from the Book of Genesis. Paradise Lost is an epic poem (like Homer’s Iliad and The Odyssey) written by seventeenth-century English poet John Milton. The poem tries to account for Lucifer’s transgressions and subsequent Fall (from Heaven), in a way that makes the reader empathize with the devil. Perhaps Milton was the earliest known “Devil’s advocate.” The poem also depicts the events leading up to Adam and Eve’s ejection from Eden. I suspect that Charlotte and Emily also had a soft spot and a blind eye for Lucifer; their male protagonists (Rochester and Heathcliff) were notorious bad boys seeking redemption.

Paradise Lost cover

There you have it–the novels that provided the Brontë children with their earliest glimpse at life, love, and the world outside their small village. They were also fans of Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, and the Romantic poets (Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey).

Next time you pick up a copy of Wuthering Heights or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, read a little closer and try to spot the references to the novels above.

Wuthering Heights

Erin Note – Not a Victorian Era Cover but I thought it was pretty! From Penguin Puffin Classic UK 

Happy Reading!

Sarah ParkeSarah Parke, Author Biography –

Sarah Parke is an author and editor. When she’s not writing about monsters in Victorian London or supporting the publication efforts at Globe Pequot Press, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their menagerie of animals.

Follow Sarah on Twitter, @SParkeAuthor or visit her website at www.SarahParke.com.

 

Her first novel, The Mourning Ring, is a Historical Fantasy about the teenaged Brontë siblings.

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Women in History: She-Wolf of the 13th Century? Isabella of France

The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #4 today. March is Women in History month and so I’m featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it will extend 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 article as I schedule or post them.

Today, one of my favorite historical fiction and time slip authors, Anna Belfrage, takes the stage, or probably more likely her character, Isabella, does. Anna is such a great writer and consistenly makes me laugh so hard I’ll spit out my drink. Oh to travel to Sweden and laugh with her. But enough of that…today she is talking about Isabella of France, a she-wolf who put up with a lot from the men in her life, so we head off to the 14th century!

Isabella w Prince Edward doing homage to Charles IV

Isabella with Edward paying homage to Charles IV

Isabella of France – a milksop or a she-wolf?

By Anna Belfrage, historical fiction author

In my series The King’s Greatest Enemy, Isabella of France plays a major role. As per her highness, she is the protagonist, but as the author I can assure you she isn’t, albeit that she is one of the central characters, together with her son, Prince Edward, and her lover, Roger Mortimer. Isabella, however, is not defined by the men in her life. This is a medieval woman who grabbed hold of her destiny and forged a new future for herself – not something she necessarily wanted to do, but life can be a bummer even if you’re a highborn lady. Ask Isabella: she’d agree.

Just to give you some background, Isabella was born in 1295, the only surviving daughter of Philippe IV of France, a.k.a. Le Bel, the handsome. Philippe may have been pretty on the outside, but the rest of him was not quite as pleasing. This was a ruthless king who, among other things, crushed the Templar order and had many, many Templar knights burned for heresy. Why? Because Philippe resented the Templars’ influence over the pope – and desired their wealth.

Where daddy was tough as nails, Isabella’s mother seems to have been of a softer disposition. Jeanne of Navarre and Philippe had a happy marriage and I assume he was devastated when she died in 1305. Little Isabella now only had one parent. She also, since some years back, had a betrothed. Once she was considered old enough, Isabella was destined to wed English King Edward I’s heir, yet another Edward. By the time the marriage took place, in early 1308, Isabella’s husband was the king – and about twice her age, which probably explains why initially Edward treated Isabella kindly but with little interest.

Isabella w her daddy her hubby & her brothers

Isabella with her dad and other family

Things happened that caused Edward to turn to his wife for comfort. Besides, Isabella was now old enough to bed, and as all medieval kings, Edward was fully aware of his duty to sire an heir, no matter if his preferences lay elsewhere. As an aside, there is plenty of evidence Edward preferred the company of his male friends to that of women, but that in itself does not mean he was indulging in homosexual relationships. And if he was, he was still more than capable of impregnating Isabella. Whether he did so while closing his eyes and thinking of England we don’t know. We’ll never know.

Anyway, if we fast-forward some twelve years or so, we find Isabella and Edward living in an England torn apart by the king’s obvious infatuation with Hugh Despenser, the latest royal favourite. Despenser was greedy and the king was more than happy to give him what he wanted. (Them, actually: there was a Hugh senior and a Hugh junior. It was junior who was Edward’s preferred companion and potential lover, but senior was no slouch when it came to the coveting department, and Edward was as happy to shower Hugh senior with gifts as he was to indulge Hugh junior). Problem was, sometimes the Despensers wanted stuff that belonged to others. Sometimes, they rapaciously cheated widows and orphans out of what rightfully belonged to them. Sometimes, they even wanted land that belonged to the king’s younger brothers. And what they wanted they got, causing the rest of the English barons to grumble. Loudly.

In 1321, Isabella was no longer a child but a poised and well-educated young woman. She was Queen Consort and probably expected to – or wanted to – exert some influence over her husband. I imagine she disliked being pushed aside by Hugh. I guess she resented that it was Hugh, not Isabella, who shared the king’s confidences. Also, Isabella had others to think of, primarily her eldest son, the future Edward III, and she did not like what was happening in an England where Despenser ruled the roost. Things went from bad to worse in 1322 when a triumphant Edward II defeated his rebel barons. Roger Mortimer was thrown into the Tower, the king’s rebellious cousin Thomas of Lancaster was summarily executed, and all, as per Edward II, was well in the world.

Except it wasn’t. Despenser and Edward unleashed what is called The Tyranny, a period of four years when the king and his favourite rode roughshod over England and its barons, determined to stamp out any opposition. Thing is, if you crowd too many hungry dogs into corners, chances are they’ll start fighting back, and when Mortimer engineered his escape from the Tower in August of 1323, the downtrodden barons gained a leader who had every intention of bringing Despenser down.

Now, for the king and Despenser to have Mortimer as an implacable enemy was bad enough. They made things substantially worse for themselves when they went after Isabella, first by depriving her of her dower income – the king needed the income to fight the French, he claimed, but Isabella’s dower rights were part of the extensive marriage contracts and he had no right to confiscate them – secondly by exiling several of her household officers on the pretext that they were French and therefore potential traitors. Ahem. Isabella was French – was she also considered a potential traitor?

Whatever her feelings, Isabella was smart enough to conceal her simmering anger, which is how she ended up sent to France to negotiate a peace treaty. She did so (I guess it wasn’t too hard work: after all, she was treating with her brother, Charles IV) but the finalised treaty called for Edward to come to France and do homage to Charles IV. Edward refused – mainly because things at home were getting sticky, and Despenser was worried that the moment Edward left the country, the disgruntled barons would come after him.

In view of her husband’s refusal, Isabella convinced her brother to suggest Edward send his eldest son and heir to perform the homage in his stead. I suspect this was all part of a carefully thought out plan: once Isabella had her son with her, she could act with impunity, declaring that whatever she was doing she was doing on behalf of the poor oppressed English people and her young, handsome son.

After some consideration, Edward agreed to send his son. This is not to say he didn’t have concerns, but up to this point in her life, Isabella had always been a dutiful wife. She’d given her husband four children, she’d even accepted the confiscation of her income, so Edward had no reason to suspect she was about to turn the tables on him. After all, Isabella was a woman, and women were the weaker vessel – everyone knew that. Well, except for Isabella and a rather large handful of other colourful medieval women.

Prince Edward came to France. He did not return home. Roger Mortimer suddenly popped by to visit with the French king. Or was it to meet Isabella? Whatever the case, he did meet her, and as of that moment, those two spent all their time together, planning just how to invade England, with Prince Edward as their figurehead.

Those of you who know your history know the invasion in 1326 was a major success, and come early 1327, Hugh Despenser was dead, Edward II had been forced to abdicate, and Isabella (and Mortimer) were the effective rulers of England, her son being too young to do much ruling on his own.

Isabella besieging Bristol

Isabella besieging Bristol

All of the above indicates Isabella was a forceful person, and yet there are various depictions of the events that paint her as some sort of victim, dominated by the dark and brooding Roger Mortimer. As per these versions, poor little Isabella was manipulated by Mortimer, so enthralled to him she went along with whatever he proposed, be it executing Hugh Despenser gruesomely or (as some say) ordering the murder of her husband. (And no, I don’t think Edward II was murdered. I remain in two minds as to if he died at all in 1327 – not for this post to discuss). What the proponents of this depiction of Isabella conveniently forget is that she was born a princess of France. She’d been raised to become a strong consort, she was used to deference, and while she might have found Mortimer hot, she was also fully aware of the fact that she was born a royal, he was a mere baron.  No way was she going to let him lead her by the nose! As I believe Mortimer was a pretty smart guy, I don’t think he even tried…

The other depiction of Isabella is that of a “she-wolf.” Her behaviour was not normal for a good woman of the times, so some sort of derogatory epithet had to be attached to her, and what better than to label her as a potentially half-crazed beast. A woman to rebel against her own husband, what sort of monster was she, hey? A woman to ride at the head of her own army (Mortimer wisely rode some paces behind the queen and the prince, even if he probably did all the actual commanding), who had ever heard of that before? Unnatural behaviour, that’s what it was!

Obviously, Isabella was no half-crazed beast. She was an ambitious and intelligent woman who deeply resented being shunted aside by an avaricious favourite. She was a mother who worried her husband’s and his favourite’s behaviour jeopardised her son’s patrimony. She was a wife who’d had it with her husband’s high-handedness. In the very capable Roger Mortimer, she found the perfect instrument to help her achieve her goals. I guess it didn’t hurt that she liked the baron for other reasons as well.

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03_Annna_Belfrage 2015Anna Belfrage, Biography –

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. Instead, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time-slip series The Graham Saga, winner of multiple awards, including the HNS Indie Award 2015.

Her new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, is set in the 1320s and features Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures during Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The third book, Under the Approaching Dark, will be published in April of 2017 – and yes, Isabella plays a major role!

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Anna can be found on her website, on Facebook and on her blog. Or on twitter and Amazon.

FB: https://www.facebook.com/annabelfrageauthor

AMAZON: http://t.co/dto2WzdTJQ

Link The Graham Saga: http://myBook.to/TGS

Link The King’s Greatest Enemy: http://myBook.to/TKGE

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Thanks for following along with the series!

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Women in History: Lauren Bacall…She Dared!

The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #3 today. March is Women in History month and so I’m featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it will extend way past March. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the article as I schedule or post them.

Today, we have a post by a young women named Somer Canon, who’s published so far as a horror author, but has plans to spread out into various other genres. She’s got a great sense of humor and an obsession with old Hollywood and biographies! Without further ado, she gives us a wonderful look at the fiesty spirit of actress Lauren Bacall.

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A Youthful Lauren Bacall – Photo from NYTimes

Lauren Bacall: A Woman Who Dared

By Somer Canon, author of Vicki Beautiful

“I wanted it all— all the time.”

Lauren Bacall was a woman who dared. She dared to be a wife and mother and she dared to have a career.  As the quote above states, she wanted it all.  While that concept is not so alien to us all now, in the 1940s and 1950s, that was a hell of a tall order for a woman to dare to fill.

Born Betty Perske in 1924 in the Bronx, New York, the future Lauren Bacall attended private schools paid for by wealthy relatives.  In her late teens, she began modeling and one of her cover pictures for Harper’s Bazaar was spotted by Nancy “Slim” Hawks, wife of famed director Howard Hawks.  At his wife’s urging, Hawks arranged for a screen test and the striking 5’8” beauty inspired Hawks to hire young Betty upon meeting her.  The movie she was testing for was “To Have and Have Not,” the very film where she met Humphrey Bogart.

I’d like to gloss over the love life of Lauren Bacall.  Many works have been written about Bogie and Bacall, even the song Key Largo by Bertie Higgins makes mention of their famous love.  I’d like to also gloss over the relationship with Frank Sinatra, the unfortunate second marriage to Jason Robards, and the short lived relationships after.  Lauren Bacall, as a woman and career driven individual, deserves more from me than the constant goo-goo type of attention paid to her marriage to Bogart.  “Having it all” meant that there was more than just the woman who avoided working on movies that shot on location because Bogart didn’t want her working away from him.  It meant more than the woman who threw fabulous parties and always looked resplendent when on her man’s arm.  Even by Hollywood standards, she was more than a party decoration.

Jack Warner used the word “insolent” to describe Lauren Bacall.  When Hollywood was still operating under the studio system (actors were hired by studios and received weekly salaries for working, working on several movies a year), Bacall was a Warner Bros. actress, but she was frequently suspended from the studio for refusing the accept parts that she considered mediocre.  Her first role in the Hawks film had catapulted her to instant stardom, and she knew her worth.  Insolent was the word used, but what she was really doing was looking out for her career.

Lauren enjoyed varying degrees of success with a movie career during the 1940s and 1950s.  There was a period of waning in the 1960s, her personal life taking a nosedive with the death of Bogart.  At the urging of her mentor and Hollywood maker, Slim Hawks (now Hayward thanks to marriage to Leland Hayward), Lauren took a part in the Broadway play “Goodbye Charlie.”  Although it wasn’t a hit, Lauren relocated herself and her children to a large apartment at the famed Dakota in Manhattan.  Eventually, a role of a lifetime landed at her feet.  A play based on the Bette Davis movie, “All About Eve” came along.  It was called Applause.  At age 45, Bacall got to showcase what happened to aging actresses.  It was a big deal for Bacall to be playing Davis’ part on stage as Bette was Bacall’s idol.

The play was a huge triumph and Bacall not only won a Tony in 1970 for her part, but Bette Davis also once visited her backstage after one of the performances and told her, “You’re the only one who could have played the part.”  I’m just guessing, but I bet that felt amazing to hear from her idol.

Bacall won another Tony in 1981 for her role in Woman of the Year.  She enjoyed a great amount of success on Broadway before Hollywood remembered her and she experienced a resurgence of movie interest.  She got an Oscar nomination for her part in the Barbra Streisand movie “The Mirror Has Two Faces” and she eventually won an honorary Academy Award in 2009.

In a business where aging diamonds of the silver screen struggle to find a place for themselves when ageism was and still is a huge obstacle for actresses, Lauren Bacall found her niche and it fit her perfectly.  She didn’t suffer last days of isolation and poverty like so many who went before her.

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Lauren Bacall, Later Years – Photo from CNN

In one of her memoirs, she noted that she had been alone for decades and that it suited her.  Perhaps it was for the best.  When Lauren came to Hollywood, she was 19 years-old.  She lived to see all of the people who were there to give her guidance and advice die, the biggest names of Hollywood become specters on celluloid in place of warm, living people.  That she could live a life alone “imaginatively” as she put it, makes her all the more interesting.

She did the wife thing, the motherhood thing, and the career thing, sometimes all at once and she remained an outspoken, brassy heroine.  A wealth of life experience made her the woman that she was. It made her the tower of personality who the world lost in 2014, and although she will be missed, her mark is deep and brightly colored.  That deep voice and carelessly elegant hair will always be part of a picture of a woman who dared to have it all, went for it, and got it.  Well done, Lauren.  Well done.

Somer Canon, Biography

Somer CanonSomer Canon is a minivan revving suburban mother who avoids her neighbors for fear of
being found out as a weirdo.  When she’s not peering out of her windows, she’s consuming books, movies, and video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother.

Her debut novella was Vicki Beautiful, published by Samhain in 2016. n October of 2016, she published a Halloween short story, Mischief, and she currently has other works in the submission process. As well, she continues to use her imagination and has several exciting stories she’s actively working on.

Find out more about Somer and her upcoming works at her website http://www.somercanon.com. You can also connect with Somer on Twitter.

Praise for Vicki Beautiful

“ I read this at one gripping session and I shall read more by this author. Excellent, original and worth every one of my five stars.” –Catherine Cavendish, Author of The Devil’s Serenade

“At times it reminded me of the cult classic “Eating Raoul” and others “The Big Chill”. Suffice to say, Canon has created an intriguing tale that will not only have you caring about characters put into an awkward, unsettling situation but also wondering how they’ll react to it every step of the way. I highly recommend this unique and entertaining story.”
–Matthew Franks, Author The Monster Underneath

“This is not the normal type of book that I would read, but the cover sold it to me, and I like reading new authors and genres. This book is beautifully written, the writing flows and you feel you really understand what the character’s are feeling…” Rebecca, GoodReads Reviewer

“A simple story, but all the more powerful for its simplicity. Four stars. The author has guts and skill.” –Outlaw Poet

VBVicki Beautiful, Synopsis

One last taste of perfection…

Sasha and Brynn descend upon the showplace home of their girlhood friend, Vicki, planning to celebrate her surviving cancer to reach her fortieth birthday. As they gather around Vicki’s perfectly set dinner table, though, her husband shares devastating news. The cancer is back, and she doesn’t have long to live.

Her life is cut even shorter than Sasha and Brynn expect—the next morning, their friend is found dead, her flawless skin slit at the wrists. But a tub full of blood is only the beginning. Before the weekend is through, they are forced to question how far they’re willing to go to fulfill Vicki’s last wish.

A very specific, very detailed recipe that only the truest of friends could stomach…

Thanks for following along this series with us!

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