Episode 73: Agrippina the Younger

Posted 6 August 2016 by
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Julia Agrippina (the Younger) was born on November 6, 15 AD just one year after Caesar Augustus died…that would be Great Grandpa Augusta to Agrippina. She was the first daughter to Germanicus, a very popular military general, and Agrippina the Elder a very brave and unconventional Roman military wife. Although her father would die when she was very young  coughpoisoncough and the rest of her family didn’t fare so well either, Agrippina would do what was needed to survive a very high profile life in a society where “high profile” meant “giant target.”Rome_Agrippina_Minor

This episode was a little different for both of us– the magnitude of materials we needed to reference so that we could puzzle together Agrippina’s life was surprising. We cover that dramatic life as the daughter of a military leader, the sister to an emperor, the wife AND niece to another emperor and the mother to yet another…but we also talked about life, challenges, customs and survival strategies for women in ancient Rome.

And we talk a lot about poison.

snape

Even with all the deaths (and trust us, there are many) Agrippina put a lot of living into her 44 years. Five siblings, three husbands, one son (Emperor Nero, heard of him?), several exiles, positions in power unusual for a woman, confidants and enemies add many story arcs to her tale. Layer in loyalty, betrayal, strategy, keen knowledge of her strengths and even murder–all common themes for both her time and her times and this is one epic life story. You would think that death would end all the drama..but oh no! The twisting of her life story after she died at the hand of (REDACTED…spoilers) was a battle she couldn’t fight.

"Son, I brought you into this world and I certainly can take you out!." Agrippina.  Maybe.

Son, I brought you into this world and I certainly can take you out!” Agrippina, the Younger.
Maybe. (Aphrodisius Museum)

 

Was she an innocent victim, a scheming malefactress, a survivor…all of them? We give you the history, legends and tales (with a heavy hand of debate) and you decide for yourself.

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TIME TRAVEL WITH THE HISTORY CHICKS

We had a lot…A LOT of recommendations this time so you better settle in because you are about to dive into a rabbit hole of ancient Rome.

Ready?

BOOKS!

Online reading links to: The Annals by Tacitus, and Suetonius: Lives of the Caesars, and the Women of the Caesars/ Agrippina, the mother of Nero by Guglielmo Ferrero.

We can recommend:

barret nero mother and

Anthony Barrett

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Anthony Barret

carcopino

Jerome Carcopino

holland dynasty

Tom Holland

richard holland nero

Richard Holland

ended badly

Jennifer Wright (It’s a fun, light read)

PODCASTS!

The History of Rome with the legendary Mike Duncan. Really? This series ended in 2012 and it’s STILL on the top iTunes lists-it’s that good. Agrippina’s life runs through episodes 57-64, then flip up to History of Roman Weddings, episode 69.

Emperors of Rome with Dr Rhiannon Evans and Matt Smith (not that Matt Smith, but still a nice guy who sorta time travels)

 

INTERNET CLICKERY!

Her life as a comedic opera by Handel! (if there is no opera company presenting it, here is a quick NPR Overview of Agrippina opera. )

Just going to put this up here because we know you are all about the poison culture of ancient Rome. Poisons, Poisoning, and Poisoners in Rome, and the Poison Garden in Northern England.beaker-37600_640

Srsly. It looks beautiful (from outside a prison, of course.) Pontine Islands tourist info.

Ponza

Ponza

A nice tidy list of all the articles that Beckett talked about in the media section of the show:

If you go to only one of these websites, maybe it should be the one that tells you about the lives of women in ancient Rome because…History Chicks. (What is up with those Vestal Virgins?)

Touring Palatine Hill  with Lonely Planet

Agrippina the Elder: Vixen or Victim?

A theory about that low birth rate of Romans

The British Museum Collection of Roman Artifacts (which is really a lot less dry than that title may suggest)

For the kids, What Was Life Like in Ancient Rome?

Eat like a Roman with Colatura di Alici   (super fancy fish sauce) or at least learn about the how and why of garum from this NPR piece, Fish Sauce: An ancient Roman condiment rises again.

Anchovies and salt layered and fermented-- like ketchup only nothing like ketchup.

Anchovies and salt layered and fermented– like ketchup only nothing like ketchup.

 

 

VISUAL LEARNERS (or for when only a video will do)

Silent film, Agrippina (it’s 18 minutes of your life, but well spent.)

If you can’t (or won’t) eat Roman food, you can watch Giles and Sue do it for you on Supersizers, Eat

 

Hairdressing archeologist Janet Stevens. People! This really is a great time to be alive! If you do this ‘do, #historychicksfieldtrip on Instagram, we ALL want to see it!

 

“Caligula is the poster boy for sociopaths everywhere.” First line of this video. Strongest lead EVER.

greek-37517_640

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Episode 72: Elizabeth Keckly

Posted 16 July 2016 by
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When we were researching Mary Lincoln we both admired her friend, Elizabeth Keckly, so much that we knew that had to talk about her. She was born a slave, eventually bought her freedom and built a very successful business (twice) all before she, too, realized her own White House dream. Yes indeed- Lizzie needs her time in the spotlight.Keckley1870framed

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Episode 71: Schuyler Sisters with Amanda Vaill

Posted 25 June 2016 by
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schuyler sisters

Since the musical Hamilton opened on Broadway we’ve been getting a lot of requests to cover the Schuyler sisters, Angelica, Eliza and Peggy. (You sang that, right?) But we couldn’t make it work because there wasn’t enough material available to us to fill a whole show in the way we would want to…so we met someone who could:.

Author Amanda Vaill.

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Episode 70: Mary Lincoln Part Two

Posted 11 June 2016 by
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In our last episode we talked about Mary’s childhood, education and life as the wife of Abraham Lincoln. She was described as, “amiable, accomplished, gracious and a sparkling talker,” by members of the Republican Party before she got to Washington…so what happened afterward that left her without this glowing impression?

Frida Kahlo may have approved of the fluffy dresses and floral head bling.

Frida Kahlo may have approved of the fluffy dresses and floral head bling.

 

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Episode 69: Mary Todd Lincoln, Part One

Posted 4 June 2016 by
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Mary Todd Lincoln’s life can’t be defined by who she married and her husband’s legacy–she was a lot more than simply a southern born wife of a president. Actually, she wasn’t simple at all.

Mary_Todd_Lincoln_framed846-1847_restored

Mary circa 1847 (wikicommons)

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Episode 68: Madam C.J. Walker

Posted 14 May 2016 by
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When Madam C.J. Walker solved one of her own personal problems, she also created an opportunity to leave behind a life as a laundress for one as a successful businesswoman, philanthropist and civil rights activists and she was able to take thousands of women with her. Alaia Williams from the 18 to 49 Podcast graciously fills in as guest co-host with Beckett to talk about the life of this trailblazing role model who began to change her fate by changing the condition of her hair.

Madam C.J. Walker

Madam C.J. Walker

Rags to riches stories don’t happen without a lot of hard work, the ability to fill a need, hard work, perseverance and- yeah- hard work. Madam C.J. Walker’s life was all that and more. When she was born on December 23, 1867 in Delta Louisiana, her given name was Sarah Breedlove – and she was the first person in her family who was not born a slave. This fact makes it sound like the family’s life was improving, but they were extremely poor sharecroppers and laundresses; none of the children went to school and by the time Sarah was seven, both of her parents had died.

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Episode 67: Q&A Number Two

Posted 2 May 2016 by
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What would you serve Dorothy Parker for dinner? When are you covering the Schuyler sisters? What would you tell your high school history teacher? We get a lot of questions and love them all (except maybe the mean ones). Some are asked quite often or were so good that we thought, “hmmm, maybe a lot more people would like to know this but were too busy to ask it, perhaps we should have a colloquy,” (because we’re fancy like that.)

And then Beckett talked Susan out of actually using the word, “colloquy.”

See? Fancy.

See? Fancy.

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Episode 66: Zelda Fitzgerald

Posted 22 April 2016 by
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Southern-born Flapper? Trophy wife of famous writer? Jazz Age fashion icon? Wild and selfish woman-child who went off the deep end?  Zelda Fitzgerald has been remembered in all of these ways – but none are entirely correct, nor do they describe this unique woman who lived a very complex life in an ever-changing world.

Zelda_Fitzgerald_portrait framed

Zelda was a southern born flapper. No argument there. Zelda Sayre began her life on July 24, 1900 in Montgomery, Alabama. She grew up in a socially prominent (although financially upper middle class at best) family as the loved-by-everyone, charming, energetic, brave and highjinky youngest child. She was a skilled ballet dancer, a fearless flirt and an incomparable Orange Blossom sipping beauty. Young gentlemen filled her dance card, frat boys swore their devotion to her and aviators flew over her house just to be noticed by her.

She became a Jazz Age icon and first wave flapper when she and her new husband–freshly published, (gasp!) Yankee writer, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald– arrived in New York City to a life of instant literary fame in 1920. She defined the flapper: bold, brave, reckless and fun loving young women who threw off stuffy formality along with their corsets. Zelda and Scott lived a very public life of opulence as the poster couple for the wild, monied and creative set in both the US and Europe. Wherever they went partying followed; whatever they did somehow was used as material for Scott’s novels, articles and short stories. His second book, The Beautiful and the Damned, was so filled with their likenesses the publisher went ahead and marketed it with a couple that looked an awful lot like them on the cover.Beautifuldamed

The whole Youth on a Wild Bender life sounds kind of dreamy…for a short time, but the pair made “never settling down” a lifestyle. Even the birth of their only child, Frances Scott Fitzgerald (Scottie) didn’t slow them down. New York, Paris, the Riviera, Hollywood…they kept moving, Scott kept writing (and drinking), Zelda kept helping to critique (and write) his work and giving him fodder for the novels, short stories and articles that supported them. But the more Zelda lost herself into their marriage–into Scott’s literature–the more troubled she became.

Circa 1921, Zelda was pregnant with Scottie. (wikicommons)

Circa 1921, Zelda was pregnant with Scottie. (wikicommons)

We give a disclaimer that we TRIED to achieve middle-ground between Team Scott (she was his muse but also his crazy wife who pulled him down) and Team Zelda (she was an emotionally abused wife whose mental condition had more to do with an alcoholic husband, exhaustion and unnecessary and harmful medical treatment than simply an existing mental illness). We probably failed to completely achieve middle-ground.

We’re okay with that.

Zelda tried to find and throw herself into creative outlets for herself ONLY–her OWN writing, ballet dancing, painting all of which she was very good at. These activities worked to help her express herself and to keep it together…until they didn’t. His behavior towards her– multiple affairs (she wasn’t exactly innocent here, either), alcohol induced dramas, panic from massive debts mounting, dismissing her art, her writing, her value, and blaming her for any family failures– only pushed her spiral downward.

The wife, the girl friend. hmmm...

The wife, the Hollywood girl friend. hmmm…

When Zelda was hospitalized in 1930 she was immediately diagnosed as schizophrenic (most likely incorrectly diagnosed) and moved (was forced?) into the next phase of her life: 18 years spent in and out of mental institutions. As part of her therapy she painted and wrote an autobiographical novel, Save Me the Waltz, that allowed her to tell her story through her lens, not Scott’s. She sent it to Scott’s publisher behind his back, but in the end he still managed to put his imprint on the book.

Zelda-The-first-edition-cover-of-Save-Me-the-Waltz-1932

 

We tell a lot more of Zelda’s story in the podcast, give anecdotes and opinions to fill in the black and white impression that many have of her very colorful life.

Scott Fitzgerald died of a heart attack in 1940. Eight years later, on March 10, 1948 Zelda was locked into her room for the night at Highland hospital in Ashville, North Carolina, the psychiatric facility where she had been living, when a fire broke out and she died. She was 48 years old. She is buried with Scott and Scottie (who lived a long and pretty normal life) in Maryland.  The words on their tombstone is the final sentence from Scott’s most famous book, The Great Gatsby:

“So we beat on; boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

flikr cc Mr.TinDC

Even in death, Scott got the last word. Maybe spending an hour listening to her story will let Zelda’s voice be heard.

 

TIME TRAVEL WITH THE HISTORY CHICKS

We dug up a hefty collection of links and materials that would make Zelda blush with pride. Probably.

We’ll start off by bucking convention (Zelda would have it no other way) and get you in the mood with the end song that we didn’t play. Tiny Victories, Scott and Zelda

Websites:

You want to see her art (you do, trust us) and instead of breaking copyright laws we’ll simply send you to ART.COM. (Not sponsored, we always tell you if something is.) 

Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery Alabama, housed in the last house the couple rented 1931-’32. Going would be your best bet, but clicking through the collections online is a good second place.

Fitzgerald Museum

Fitzgerald Museum

Scott and Zelda website, by their family– it’s pretty.

You really, really  REALLY ought to go check out our Pinterest board for Zelda.

 

BOOKS

Edited by Matthew Bruccoli

Edited by Matthew Bruccoli

2011 Nancy Milford

2011 Nancy Milford

2012 Sally Cline

2012 Sally Cline

Theresa Anne Fowler

Fiction: Theresa Anne Fowler

MOVIES

We didn’t talk much about it but did touch on the 2011 Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris. Here is a scene, you tell us if you think Alison Pill as Zelda is what you imagined her to be.

Zelda Fitzgerald: The Musical, You can watch the whole thing on this site. Theater! Without leaving the house! In your jammies or MeUndies loungewear! (That is totally sponsored)

Not a movie, but the Amazon Prime original,  Z: The Beginning of Everything has one episode with Christina Ricci as Zelda available to stream for the low, low price of $0.00.

We couldn’t help (when we lined-up with Team Zelda) but think back to Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman, the 1944 movie about a man who makes his wife believe that she is crazy.

THIS AND THAT

Do you find yourself on Team Zelda? We have a shirt for that. Check out our shop for all our Chick Gear.

History Chicks Baby/Pet/Car Name Guide entry: Zelda. Read all about the name at Appellation Mountain.

You guys all know to Snopes something before you share it, right? (It’s okay, we’ve all done it once or twice). Here is the story behind the List of Reasons for Admission to an Insane Asylum, early 1900s. 

If you are drawn to Zelda because of an interest in psychotherapy (as in learning about it, not necessarily undergoing it) (not that there is anything wrong with that) here is the handy dandy guide that Beckett mentioned comparing Jung and Freud. 

They make it look so easy…and no Dippity Do! (Which, apparently, is still a thing! Dippity-Do.com)

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And finally, super special thanks to this week’s sponsors, MeUndies and Green Chef!

 

Episode 65: Miss Potter Moviecast

Posted 2 April 2016 by
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In the middle of recording the media section of the Beatrix Potter episode we started to discuss the 2006 movie, Miss Potter starring Renee Zellweger as Beatrix when we realized that we both had a lot to say about it.

“Let’s do a moviecast!”

So we did.film-158157_1280 poster

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Episode 64: Beatrix Potter

Posted 26 March 2016 by
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Once upon a time there were four little rabbits with very familiar names who knew a quiet girl named Beatrix Potter. Beatrix loved animals, nature and art…and one day she would make them the most famous rabbits in the world.

Beatrix, 1913 (wikicommons)

Beatrix, 1913 (wikicommons)

Helen Beatrix Potter was born July 26, 1866 to Rupert and Helen Potter. Her little brother, Bertram, was born six years later. Rupert was professionally a lawyer, but recreationally an art collector and amateur photographer. Helen was involved in some philanthropic organizations and ran a very tight ship (trying to be nice here).

Beatrix and Helen. She wasn't a mean, horrible, abusive mother she was just hired the right staff so she could be protective by proxy.

Beatrix and Helen. She wasn’t a mean, horrible, abusive mother she simply hired the right staff so she could be protective by proxy.

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