Archive for 2021

Episode 186: Happy I Love Lucy Day!

Posted 15 October 2021 by
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Lucille, circa 1976


Today, October 15th, 2021 is National I Love Lucy Day- a day devoted to celebrating the iconic life and work of Lucille Ball! We thought a good way to honor her would be to combine our previous two-part coverage of Lucille, remaster the audio, and create a supersized, LP of an episode!

For all the media recommendations for this episode, please visit our original shownotes here, LUCILLE BALL!

Episode 185: Sarah Bernhardt

Posted 1 October 2021 by
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One of the famous Felix Nadar portraits taken shortly after she joined the Conservatoire. Circa 1864

Sarah Bernhardt was an actress, sculptress, writer, mother, celebrity…legendary global phenomenon. She was also a courtesan, a master self-promoter, and an all-around unique individual who lived her life on her terms and in her own way.

Henriette Rosine Bernard… or was it Sarah Marie Henriette Bernard? Oh yes, it’s going to be one of those stories- was born on October 22 or 23 probably in 1844, definitely in Paris, France. Ah yes, one of THOSE stories! She was the first surviving child of Judith (Youle) Van Hard Bernard…and a mystery man.

A young Sarah and her mother

Sarah spent the earliest years of her life being raised by a nurse/governess in coastal France. Why? Mama Youle was very much a working single mother…and her chosen career as a courtesan didn’t leave a lot of time or room to raise a baby. When Sarah reached school age she was sent away to local boarding schools…until she was 15. At that point the decision was made for her to enter the Conservatoire de Musique et Déclamation in Paris…and Sarah found her life’s work on the stage.

Sarah when she debuted at Comédie Française, about 17

She made her debut in 1862 and was only okay per the critics. She did take a little life-side tour adventure that resulted in her having a son, Maurice who she did not send off to be raised away from her. When her acting career really took off at the Odeon Theater it shot her to fame, not just in Paris, but soon in the world.

Sarah Bernhardt was a global superstar. Simple as that, but not simple at all. She was a complicated, unique, talented, dynamic, woman whose career really was shot to unprecedented popularity once she untethered herself from someone else’s theater company, and put herself center stage in her own. She wasn’t all hype and no substance–she could make audiences weep who didn’t even speak a word of French. The life she led was as big and epic as her personality.

Sarah had a version of Hamlet as part of her repertoire, and she was the first woman to play a man on film.

Sarah was also a renowned sculptress, an author, an adventurer, and a film actress. She was playmates with the biggest names of her time and even married for a brief and tumultuous time.

After the Storm, by Sarah

Sarah played male roles, too! Hamlet was part of her repertoire (a perkier Hamlet than the OG) and she was the first woman to play a male role on film in 1900.

Here’s another peek at her acting.


She is about 66 years old in this photo. Circa 1910 by Henri Walter

Time Travel With The History Chicks



By Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale- long and deep


By Robert Gottlieb, short and high points.


By Catherine Reef, middle grade but it’s impossible to make Sarah’s life G rated.

Ditto. By Elizabeth Silverthorne


Her larger-than-you-probably-think film career. By Victoria Duckett


By Sarah herself…it’s worthy of a read but tell your brain that it’s historical fiction.


Sarah can teach you how to be a stage performer! Strongly recommend this audio version if only for the very Sarah diction of the narrator (this is a compliment, we swear!)


Fiction by, Sarah. “Based on” her life…ish.


Compilation book of actors, by Edward Wagenknecht


By Deborah G. Felder and Diana Rosen. Great compilation!

By Sarah, translated by John Joline Ross, illustrations by Sarah’s co-balloonist George Clarin. Not yet published, if you can find it–congratulations!


Jewish Women Archives is excellent and has quite an extensive source of biographies, including Sarah’s.

After the Storm, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

Damala’s head

The story of Sarah’s amputated leg (spoiler, it’s not that) in The Lancet

More women with disabilities from history that you should know, from Laura Elliot.


Sarah Bernhardt Museum on Belle-Île! In the house!

*****Recommendation list under construction, please come back for more!******



Episode 184: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Part Two

Posted 18 September 2021 by
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by Jean-Étienne Liotard 1756

We left Lady mary rolling her eyes as people found reason after reason to not immunize against smallpox. While she cared about people not contracting a deadly disease, what Mary really want to be was a writer. Those letters she wrote from the road? She edited them into a book that was the first to capture a woman’s perspective of the Ottoman Empire. It would not be published in her lifetime, she had other things to do…like garden, socialize, write more biting commentaries on political and court life, raise two kids, ditch her husband and run off with a n’er do well Count to Italy, tour Europe, then entwine her life with another unscrupulous noble. (more…)

Episode 183: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Part One

Posted 6 September 2021 by
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Circa 1716 by Charles Jervas

For a woman who is not well known these days and who lived way back in the 1700s, it’s surprising that there’s enough of a story to fill two episodes…Lady Mary Wortley Montagu is such a woman! (more…)

Episode 182: Typhoid Mary, Revisited

Posted 20 August 2021 by
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There are quite a few parallels between Mary Mallon’s story (a series of typhoid outbreaks) and our present-day pandemic, and so there are things we can learn from it.

But was Mary a villain?

Or simply a victim of circumstances?

This episode also serves as a little hint for the one we’re working on right now for next time!


For photos, things we discuss, and our media recommendations click on over to Mary’s ORIGINAL SHOWNOTES.


Episode 181: Olympias

Posted 22 July 2021 by
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This image, from an ancient coin, is believed to be Olympias and the only known image of her still in existence…but even this has been disputed.

She had several names: Polyxena, Myrtale, Stratonice, and the one she is best known by, Olympias. People often get hung up on the snakes she had around her and the faith by which she lived her life– but we focused on the power she had as not only a wife of a king but the mother of a great one: Alexander the Great. We had to go in the Way…Way Back Machine for the story of this woman who was descended from Achilles (or so family lore claimed) and managed to survive a cut-throat court life at a very turbulent time and place in history. (more…)

Episode 180: Statue of Liberty, Revisited

Posted 2 July 2021 by
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Liberty Enlightening the World! DoD photo by Lt. Matthew Stroup, U.S. Navy/Released)

The annual revisit of our coverage of the Statue of Liberty is, this year, coinciding with her Little Sister’s arrival in the US! The replica version is on loan first to be displayed on Ellis Island next to her big sister, and then heading to the French Ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C. where she will be on display for the next ten years!

Time Travel with The History Chicks

For more information on the Little Sister’s shipping and arrival, the Smithsonian Magazine has an article including a video of her packing for the trip.

For photos and links to the things we talked about in this episode, visit her original SHOWNOTES 

Episode 179: Marjorie Merriweather Post, Part Two

Posted 25 June 2021 by
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Portrait of Marjorie that hangs in the Marjorie Merriweather Post parlor in the Women’s Democratic Club in Washington, DC. (If you donate enough money to refurbish and furnish a mansion, you get a room named after you.) photo credit, us

When we left Marjorie, she was on her second marriage, this one to E.F. Hutton, and they were moving and shaking up New York and Palm Beach society. Marjorie had “strongly suggested” that the Postum Company should buy a new frozen food company, owned by one Clarence Birdseye, despite most homes and grocery stores not having freezers– and she had begun work on a very unique home in Palm Beach she named Mar a Lago. (more…)

Episode 178: Marjorie Merriweather Post, Part One

Posted 11 June 2021 by
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Marjorie, circa 1942

Marjorie Merriweather Post was not just a society hostess (although she was that, magnificently) she was also a woman raised in a business world who was excluded from the front lines of that business because, “that’s just not done, Young Lady.” But, when she gained power over her own life and her own (massive) fortune, she created change in both the world and in the packaged food industry. She did it all with such style and flair, we decided to let her have two episodes.

In Part One, we cover the life of Marjorie through her childhood as the only child of CW and Ella Merriweather Post (of the Battle Creek Posts, darling) up until her second marriage to a man who, when he spoke, people listened. (more…)

Episode 177: Loïe Fuller

Posted 25 May 2021 by
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Loïe Fuller is often remembered as a dancer, but that hardly covers her contributions to the arts. Sure, she was a dancer, but also an actress, a chemist, an artist, and a pioneer in stage lighting and choreography. She was inquisitive and energetic, full of creativity and drive. She was the belle of Paris and the Art Nouveau movement, and she was an art agent of sorts who matched up her artist friends with her art buying ones…but she is best referred to as La Loïe, THE Loïe, one of a kind.

Are you having an “oh! Her?” moment looking at this? by Jules Cheret, wikicommons