Archive for the shownotes Category

Shownotes Episode 46: Cleopatra

Posted 7 April 2014 by
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We continue our series on ancient Egypt by traveling ahead in time over 1400 years from Hatshepsut for a chat about Ancient Egypt’s last great ruler, the Queen of Kings -Cleopatra VII.

cleopatra queen of egypt

Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt (courtesy Museum Syndicate)

Between the two rulers there was not only a great deal of time, but a great deal of change. By the time Cleopatra is born, Egypt is no longer ruled by Egyptians but instead by Macedonian Greeks, who were put in place during Alexander the Great’s land grab about 300 years prior.

Bust of Cleopatra VII, Altes Museum, Berlin

Bust of Cleopatra VII, Altes Museum, Berlin

The family that Cleopatra was born into is, by modern standards, pretty dysfunctional. But not by their standards, and really isn’t that what’s important? We cover the whys and hows during the podcast but it was common for brothers and sisters to marry and for all of them to play a life or death game of Survivor to determine who the would next sit on the throne. (Do not play Musical Chairs with a Ptolemy)

But before Cleopatra would have all her story arcs, challenges, schemes and victories, she was a little princess. Born Cleopatra VII Philopator, the third child to father Ptolemy XII Auletes and mother,  his Great Wife (also most likely his sister or half sister) Cleopatra Tryphaena V. She was raised and educated by tutors in Alexandria and learned to read and write in Greek. She learned art, philosophy, science and drama, and proved herself forward thinking by learning nine languages including one that the rest of her family didn’t know: Egyptian.

Egyptian Itty Bitty Kitty

Egyptian Itty Bitty Kitty- the Great Sphinx was almost 2500 years old when Cleopatra was born.

Of course we go into what we know of her childhood and the scheming by family members to take over rule from her father. He officially named Cleopatra and her husband/brother Ptolemy VIII as co-rulers upon his death. When she took the throne, Cleopatra was 18 and the Egypt that the pair inherited is a bit of a mess. Famine and the pesky Roman Empire breathing down Egypt’s neck didn’t make the future look all that bright.  A clever smear campaign by her brother’s advisers and soon Cleopatra was forced to hit the road, hang out in Syria, and wait for the right moment to strike.

But the same men who who drove her out of Alexandria made a misstep with Julius Caesar who had arrived in town. Cleopatra took a moment of faux pas confusion to come back to Alexandria, sneak into the palace to see Caesar (legend says rolled up in a rug and unfurled at his feet, but it might have been an unromantic burlap sack)…and the rest really is history. Cleo and Jules errr… combine assets, shall we say? As always, we go into greater detail in the podcast, but her co-ruler/brother/husband P13-died fleeing Alexandria, she is reinstated to the throne, has to marry another younger brother…and within a year she gave birth to Ptolemy Caesar known as Caesarion- Julius Caesar’s son.

Granite head believed to be Caesarian

Granite head believed to be Caesarion

Caesar headed back to Rome and was handed a sweet dictatorship for all his victories. Cleopatra decided to visit him and bring their son along to try and get him named Caesar’s heir. The trip wasn’t entirely successful (Understatement City): There is a bit of embarrassment involving Cleopatra’s remaining sister, Arsinoe, as well as quite a bit of of gossip and rumors about Cleopatra and Caesar. And then this happened.

Death of Julius Caesar by Jean-Leon Gerome

Et tu, Brute?   Death of Julius Caesar by Jean-Leon Gerome

Caesar had named his nephew, Octavian  his successor.


Cleopatra is about 28 and her husband/brother is still co-ruling but she would prefer that her son sit next to her, so…in family tradition-boom. Done. Cleopatra wants what Cleopatra wants, right? Right.  The woman made things happen, got to give that to her. But she also needs an ally in Rome. Enter womanizing, party boy with an ambitious streak and some serious battle cred- Marc Antony. This is the relationship for the ages! How did Cleopatra catch the eye of this man? Was it her famous looks? Probably not. Eh? While scholars don’t know exactly what Cleopatra looked like, we all know, right?

Faces of Cleopatra?

Faces of Cleopatra? Claudette Colbert, Vivian Leigh, Liz Taylor and Angelina Jolie (movie in production)

Um, no. Here she is on one of her coins.

Cleopatra coin

Cleopatra coin

But she was smart, confident, politically savvy, cunning and charming – those qualities add up to one beautiful, powerful and compelling woman. While her ability to finance them certainly didn’t hurt her chances she most likely won both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony over with her brains, confidence and personality… as all women should .

Yes, we say that.

She also had a flair for the flashy that might have helped to catch her men's eyes. Cleopatra's Barge, by Andre Bauchant

She had a flair for the flashy that might have helped to catch her men’s eyes. Cleopatra’s Barge, by Andre Bauchant

She did also play to Antony’s weaknesses- women, money and bawdy behavior. For quite awhile the pair played house (and by house, we mean palace) in Alexandria. But he had to head back to Rome at some point, his (soon to be deceased) wife had made a bit of a war mess on his behalf and -long story short- he was politically forced into marriage with Octavian’s, sister…right about the time that Cleopatra is giving birth to his twins, Cleopatra Selena II and Alexander Helios.

Statue of Cleopatra's twins

Statue of Cleopatra’s twins

There would be one more child, several power struggles and some raised eybrows when Marc Antony left his wife for Cleopatra and handed territory to his children and Cleopatra more power which leads to a very happy Egypt. But things turned for our super couple and the end game was launched by frienemy, Octavian: the Battle of Actium where Antony and Cleopatra are overcome by Octavian’s forces.

Octavian is reported to tell Cleopatra that maybe they can do business if she takes care of  Antony and gets him out of the picture. She can’t do it. Instead she sends word to him that she has died (or maybe she did no such thing…ahh, the joys of looking back through time) – and he does it himself. However it happened, the result is the same-the man threw himself on his sword!

Cleopatra, knowing that she will die at the hand of Octavian, become his prisoner or have to watch her children die- kills herself. The snake, right? Maybe not. Some evidence suggests hemlock and opium but that result was the same as Marc Antony’s: at the age of 39 Cleopatra died and ended the reign of the Pharaohs.

Rome took over rule of Egypt after her death and a lot of her statues were destroyed. Antony’s former wife, Octavia, raised the twins and Ptolemy Philadelphus; Caesarion is murdered by Octavian. Octavian becomes Rome’s first Emperor and changes his name to Caesar Augustus I. Cleopatra’s tomb and mummy has not been found.

The remains of Cleopatra's kingdom have been discovered off the coast of Alexandria.

The remains of Cleopatra’s kingdom have been discovered off the coast of Alexandria. 



Because...Legos rule.

Because…Legos rule.

Time Travel With The History Chicks

We’ve combined the media for both Hatshepsut and Cleopatra into one list: You know we love a good online museum trip and you can get your click on looking at the Hatshepsut collection at the  Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Hatshepsut’s temple, Djeser-Djeseru, is still standing and open for visits. Click the link for descriptions, photos and maps of the layout of this surprisingly contemporary looking architecture.

This National Geographic site is about a traveling exhibit and full of intel (including one of the books that we recommended), Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt

As far as movies go, the biggies you certainly know about- Claudette Colbert, Vivian Leigh and of course, Liz Taylor. But how about this version on YouTube with Billy Zane and Timothy Dalton?


Hatshepsut: The Female Pharaoh by Joyce Tyldesley

Hatshepsut: The Female Pharaoh by Joyce Tyldesley

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff  (This is the one that the upcoming movie with Angelina Jolie is based on)

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff (This is the one that the upcoming movie with Angelina Jolie is based on)

The Crook and Flail by LM Ironside

The Crook and Flail by LM Ironside

The Artifact Hunters Series

The Artifact Hunters Series


For the young set:

His Majesty Herself, by Catherine Adronik

His Majesty Herself, by Catherine Adronik 


You Wouldn't Want to be Cleopatra by Jim Pike

You Wouldn’t Want to be Cleopatra by Jim Pipe

Excellent series- The Thinking Girls Treasury of Real Princesses by Shirin Yim Bridges and Albert Nguyen

Excellent series- The Thinking Girls Treasury of Real Princesses by Shirin Yim Bridges and Albert Nguyen



And our favorite book about looking way back from the now (and kids like it, too):

Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay

Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay

Our friend Emily, the one who asked us to cover Cleopatra, recommended this book although neither of us got around to reading it but if there is one thing that Emily knows it’s good books. We trust her. Historical Fiction for Cleopatra:

Hand of Isis by Jo Graham

Hand of Isis by Jo Graham

Podcasts! There are a few that you might enjoy if you would like to know more about the eras, countries and lives surrounding these women- The Egyptian History Podcast History of Rome Podcast History of Our World

As always, music provided by Music Alley. Visit them at

(Closing song: Human After All by Stars and Skylines)

Shownotes Episode 45: Hatshepsut

Posted 21 March 2014 by
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Hatshepsut statue


Go back in time. No, farther. Farther! We are talking about a woman who only missed sharing the planet with the last of the woolly mammoths by a couple hundred years. A woman who was born an Egyptian princess, and grew to become a king: Hatshepsut. 

We begin this episode with not only a disclaimer that scholars can’t agree on a lot of things that happened back in the days of Pharaohs but of Ancient Egyptian life itself. While people may, essentially, want similar things from life now as then- the culture of the times was a weeee bit different. We don’t go into too deep of an explanation- just the basics to better understand Hatshepsut’s life.

Looking at the waaay past from the present is often confusing. The Great pyramid of Giza, built about a thousand years before Hatshepsut was born.

Looking at the waaay past from the present is often confusing. The Great pyramid of Giza, built about a thousand years before Hatshepsut was born, as viewed recently. (Courtesy Tripadvisor)


Born about 1508 BC, Hatshepsut was a daughter of King Thutmose I and Queen Ahmose, he a military man given a royal wife (and likely his half-sister) and the crown of a Pharaoh. Children followed from Ahmose (his Great Wife) and various lesser wives. The boys were raised as potential heirs to the throne, and the girls were raised for their future as queens. As always, we go into a lot more detail on the podcast, but the nickel tour says this: Hatshepsut and her father were close. By all accounts he closely supervised her education and took her places that a typical Queen-in-Training wouldn’t need to know or see, only a future ruler would.

At a young age Hatshepsut was married to her brother (common at the time, don’t freak out- it ensured a royal bloodline and kept out pesky in-laws) Thutmose II. When her father died, she became queen. King Thutmose II was a perfect partner for her because he let her do as much as she wanted. And she wanted. She had a daughter by him, and he had children (with concubines) including Thutmose III (creative with the names, right?). When her husband/brother died this son became king and Hatshepsut his regent.

Thutmose III and Hatshepsut- she is the taller figure decked out in Pharaoh garb.

Thutmose III and Hatshepsut- she is the taller figure decked out in Pharaoh garb.

But, ahh, Hatshepsut claimed that her father had said SHE was to be Pharaoh and the god Amun had visited her mother while she was pregnant with Hatshepsut and insisted the same. Hatshepsut, who had been doing the work, took on the uniform. There was precedent for a female Pharaoh, although the couple of times that it had happened before weren’t reigns of great success.

Hatshepsut dressed in Pharaoh-wear.  (Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Hatshepsut dressed in Pharaoh-wear.
(Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

But none had the successes of this one. During her approximately 22 year long reign, Hatshepsut led a very prosperous Egypt to even greater power. Not necessarily by military action, but by diplomacy. She filled the fiscal coffers, engaged in trade with neighboring countries, and set out on expeditions to faraway lands. Her most successful expedition was to the Land of Punt. No one is sure exactly where this fabulous place is now, but the ships had to travel and someone knew the route.

Voyage to Punt

Voyage to Punt

Images depicting those from Punt. Puntians? Puntalicious? Punts?

Images depicting those from Punt. Puntians? Puntalicious? Punts?


With her longtime, er, compadre Senemut at her side (he had various roles in her life from servant to advisor to companion) she went on a building bender, including  her temple, Djeser-Djseru which is fabulously sleek and contemporary looking even by today’s standards.


Senenmut and Princess Neferune (on display at the British Museum)

Senenmut and Princess Neferune (on display at the British Museum)

Hatshepsut's temple

Hatshepsut’s temple


When she died (and oh, do we speculate how that happened) something strange happened to the long list of accomplishments and life led by this remarkable woman: she began to be chiseled out of history. Pharoah Thutmose III (you remember him, the guy who was passed over for the role 22 years ago?) may have been a little miffed at his step-mom. By the time the rest of the world uncovers (literally, it was buried in sand) her life when hieroglyphics on her temple wall can be read, her image has been chipped off of artifacts, her sarcophagus had been moved, and the obelisks that she had erected to commemorate her life are hidden.

Was it an evil plot by men to wipe her out of history because of her gender? Was it mere revenge by Thutmose III who believed that by erasing her memory in this life, she was doomed in the afterlife? Or was he trying to make HIS OWN bloodline appear deeper royal than it was to insure the succession of his son, Amenhotep II to the throne?

Her body wasn’t discovered until the early 2000′s, in Tomb KV60 . Modern technology aided in identifying her.

An x-ray of the mystery mummy who was being identified as Hatshepsut because of missing tooth.

An x-ray of the mystery mummy who was identified as Hatshepsut because of missing tooth.

Everything that is known about Hatshepsut has been put together like the most difficult of puzzles because a great deal of the information about her reign was destroyed. Even now, Hatshepsut’s legacy is confused with others….

A story of some obelisks- found in Egypt and now residing in New York, London and Paris. Entitled Cleopatra's Needles, they all pre-date Cleo and the one in New York was erected by Hatshepsut

A story of some obelisks: found in Egypt and now residing in New York, London and Paris. Entitled Cleopatra’s Needles, they all pre-date Cleopatra. The pair in NYC and London are the ones Thutmose III erected as copies of Hatshepsut’s great triumphs.

Come back for our next episode where we travel forward in time over 1400 years…and find ourselves still in ancient Egypt.


Time Travel With The History Chicks

We will list any media with the next episode in our series, Cleopatra. But we wanted to leave you with two contemporary media images of Hatshepsut.


Horrible Histories as a whole Awful Egytians series!



From 2014′s Mr Peabody and Sherman movie, Penny is dressed as Hatshepsut ready to marry King Tut…who wouldn’t be around for another 100 years or so after her death. Don’t get your history from Hollywood, kids.

As always, music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at

Elizabethan Life (minicast) – shownotes

Posted 25 February 2014 by
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“The Four Conditions of Society” – Jean Bourdichon. (Nobility, Work, Poverty, and The Wild State.)

In this flying solo episode Beckett talks about life in Elizabethan England for all the different classes. Give a listen for the details but here are some things that she referenced.

Elizabethan Theaters, flying flags to signal that a Play is in progress– The Rose (1587), Swan (1595), Globe (1599) and Hope (1614) were all built on London’s Southbank.

“Take your hearbes and picke them very fine onto faire water, and picke your flowers by themselves, and wash them al cleane, and swing them in a strainer, and when you put them into a dish, mingle them with Cowcumbers or Lemmons payred and sliced, and scrape suger, and put in vineger and Oyle, and throwe the flowers on the toppe of the sallet, and of every sorte of the aforesaide things and garnish the dish about with the foresaid things, and harde Egges boyled and laid about the dish and upon the sallet.”

Sallet – not exactly like salad.

Plas Mawr(Great Hall, in Welsh) is an Elizabethan townhouse in Conwy, north Wales, built by wealthy merchant Robert Wynn, between 1575 and 1586.

Follow this handy chart if you do not want to get into trouble. Good luck with that!

The two books Beckett recommended for this subject:

At Home by Bill Bryson

Daily Life in Elizabethan England by Jeffrey Singman

If you haven’t seen this show yet, you haven’t been paying attention to our recommendations! Go! Now! Supersizers Go….Elizabethan.

There is a link to Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England with Dr. Ian Mortimer.

As always music provided by Music Alley, visit them at

Shownotes Episode 44: Queen Elizabeth 1, Part Two

Posted 10 February 2014 by
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Welcome to part two of our chat about Elizabeth I. When we left, our fair princess had overcome 25 years of uncertainty. During her youth, Elizabeth’s future had been uncertain, her place in court uncertain, even her ability to keep her head was, at times *coughmarycough* uncertain. She had outlived the rules of her father, her half brother and her half sister. She had even been used to assist in getting a cousin who really had no reason to wear a crown, off the throne.

And now that she had outwitted, outlasted and outplayed these people-Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England.

*cue trumpets*

Elizabeth, Armada Portrait

The country that she stepped up to lead is kind of a mess, and the big elephant in the room making the biggest piles of mess: the aftermath of the religious turmoil created by her father and perpetuated by her half-sister.

We spent a nice chunk of the first episode talking about the early stages and some long lasting issues of her reign including many years of playing Tudor Suitor, a game where she juggled contenders for her hand brilliantly…but none would win it.

One major contender: Francis, Duke of Anjou (by Nicholas Hilliard)

Elizabeth and Robert DudleyRelationship Status: It's Complicated

We spend a bit of time talking about three things that defined the Elizabethan age: Gunpowder, Printing and Compass, and we give you a nice thumbnail sketch of the relationship between Mary, Queen of Scots and cousin Elizabeth (talk about complicated!) We also rant on about the CW show Reign and how any historical fiction should be taken with a grain of salt yet can be an excellent gateway to learning what really happened. It’s a good lesson, bring the kids.

We tend to stay away from talk of war, battles and such aren’t something that usually affects the women we discuss- but oh! Elizabeth was the head of navy and LO! There is a mighty famous battle that she was a part of, the Spanish Armada. We give you our spin on this historic event (spoiler: The English are triumphant but it may not have been because anything they did.)

Battle of the Spanish Armada- England and Spain (Henrick Cornelisz Vroom)

Most of Elizabeth’s reign was very successful. She created an environment where her people were able to relax a bit, she encouraged the arts and those who created it. She was a powerful and masterful ruler who was extremely devoted to her subjects. The end of her rule wasn’t quite as successful. Events within as well as beyond her power worked together and there was that pesky issue of her never marrying, therefore never bearing an heir to take over when she died. Towards the end of her life this was great concern to many. We do talk about why and what she said in her famous Golden Speech, as well as what we thought she was like. Yes, speculating. It’s fun, you should try it.

On March 24, 1603 at the age of 69 and after 44 years as queen Elizabeth, surrounded by those who had been loyal to her, took her last breath.

The Death of Queen Elizabeth (Paul Delaroche maaaaany years after her death- we talked about this painting in the episode)

But we don’t want to remember that Elizabeth. We would like this image to linger instead. A woman who remembered and learned from her past,  lived wise in her present, whose legacy lives on in her future (and took some secrets with her to the grave).

This ring was on her finger for many years, inside a portrait of herself and of her mother

Elizabeth's tomb (courtesy Westminster Abbey)


For all media recommendations and links, please see Shownotes Episode 44, as well as any other Tudor episodes that we have done in the past. There is a feast of information in there worthy of an inquiring mind as great as Elizabeth’s.

As always, music provided by Music Alley. Visit them at

End song for this episode: Introit” by Hazlitt

Shownotes Episode 43: Elizabeth I, Part One

Posted 20 December 2013 by
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She was called many things: Princess, Bastard, Gloriana, Good Queen Bess, and the Virgin Queen. We add to our Tudor series this chat about the extraordinary life and reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Queen Elizabeth I in her coronation robes

So long was our talk, that we have broken Elizabeth’s story up into two episodes. This first one will cover her life until she is crowned, and the next until her death and beyond.

Some of you are thinking, “Wait, Chicks, didn’t you talk about Elizabeth before?”

Yes, we did, but only her life as it related to others: her parents, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, her stepmothers including Catherine of Aragon, cousin Lady Jane Gray and her half sister- Queen Mary I. If you have not listened to those episodes, you might like to and gain a fuller view of how her life intertwined into those stories.

Henry VIII was married for 24 years to one wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon. This marriage produced only one child- Elizabeth’s half sister, Mary. Henry, desperate for a son to carry on his bloodline, pulled some serious political and religious chess moves to divorce Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn who was- at the time of their secret wedding- pregnant with Elizabeth. She was born on September 7, 1533.

So, okay, Hank wanted a boy. But Anne could get pregnant, let’s try again.

And again.

And again.

When Elizabeth was two years old, her father figured out a way to get a male heir: be rid of Anne on trumped up charges and marry someone else.

Hey, it was a plan. And it worked…maybe not so well for Anne or Elizabeth but they were never Henry’s primary priority.  Wife #3, Stepmother #1- Jane Seymour had the good fortune to give birth to a male heir, Prince Edward- and then she died of complications from childbirth. Okay, maybe that wasn’t entirely good fortune- but Henry is on to his next wife…and his next until  Stepmom #4-Katherine Parr, who is the only one of the six to add “widow” to her title. Henry VIII died.

A young Elizabeth by William Scrots

We do go into all the details of Elizabeth’s upbringing in the episode. She was raised to live at court, and she did have moments of happiness in her childhood. She was bright, inquisitive, educated and well liked from a very early age. She also was pretty much ignored by her father except for a modest to small allowance during his life.

In his death, she became third in line for the throne and was a very valuable commodity. This was realized by her then stepfather-ish, Thomas Seymour. Oh, we had a great deal of fun at ol’ Tom’s benefit. He doesn’t make it very long into the story- he is executed for charges that were not trumped up. As Elizabeth herself said, “Today died a man of much wit and very little judgement.”

First to rule after her father: King Edward, her half brother. Elizabeth and Edward were fairly close in age and raised togetherish (as much as the royal dysfunction allowed). Edward died about 6 years after becoming King- he was only 16.

For a very brief time, Lady Jane Gray was put up as his replacement (oh, that was a doozie of a story- we cover it in the Lady Jane Gray minicast) and Elizabeth’s older half-sister Mary needed Elizabeth to help her get her to her rightful place. After Queen Mary succeeded in getting crowned, she had very little use and a big dose of mistrust for Elizabeth. After a term in the Tower, Elizabeth is sent off to life at Hatfield House for the majority of Mary’s reign (of terror, we are talking Bloody Mary here. Okay, if you want the real details, go listen to the Queen Mary I podcast).

The Tower of London from the River Thames...not Elizabeth's favorite residence.

Hatfield House. She spent a great deal of time here as a child and during Mary's reign.

Finally, at the age of 25 after her mother died at the hands of her father, her father handed her over to others to raise her, many men attempted to win her hand in marriage Elizabeth is handed the crown and becomes Queen Elizabeth.

Did you catch the part where we said that Elizabeth was smart and cunning and well liked? These are all traits that help her as soon as she gets that crown on her gingerhead. She reinstates her father’s Act of Supremacy which puts her at the head of the church- but she makes some significant changes. She gives nods to Roman Catholicism, gives a generous hand to Protestantism and creates a religious environment that allows people to breath and only ticks off the extremists.

She appoints advisers who not only can be trusted by her but will tell it to her like it is. They are are smart and respect her although she is (think like it’s 1560) a woman. These advisers agree on one key item: Elizabeth must marry.

We banter about playing Tudor Suitors for awhile, outlining the relationships with the men most likely to walk off with the final Tudor Rose.

There were some who she simply played for political reasons (Prince Phillip of Spain? Mary’s Sloppy Seconds? We don’t think so), and some who really had a shot including her “Frog” and “Bonny Sweet Robin”. As always there is far more information in the podcast than in these notes, but the result is the same: none would ever win her hand.

That’s where this episode ends- but oh, it is not the end of Elizabeth’s story, not by a long shot.


In Part Two we referenced two sources for more detailed information on the Irish Rebellion as well as the relationship between Ireland and the Tudors in general.  If you are looking for more information on this aspect of Elizabeth’s life we recommend you start with this BBC post, Turning Ireland English but Steven Ellis as well as his book, Ireland in the Age of the Tudors.

Ah, the great Who’s the best Elizabeth Debate- we pick our favorites during the episode and here are the top contenders (but not the only ones- this is a story that has been made and remade- and many versions are excellent, just remember that they are mostly historical fiction not necessarily a documentary, and all will be well.)

Glenda Jackson, 1971 540 minute long BBC version

Cate Blanchett, 1998/ 2005 theatrical release versions

Helen Mirren 2005 HBO miniseries

We had the opportunity to be a part of several min-biographies for the Biography Channel. Here is one on Elizabeth that you might enjoy.

If you happen to be in the UK, missing Elizabeth I places would be the trick, not finding them- there are quite a few. Like, Hatfield House and the Tower of London, and The Globe Theater.

Books: Okay here is the deal. Elizabeth I is QUITE a popular literary subject, there are a lot of books about her out there and most of them are really informative. We’ve read so many that listing them all would bore you. You really can’t go wrong with anything written by David Starkey or Alison Weir.

In Public and in Private; Elizabeth and Her World by Susan Watkins (Book Beckett highly recommended)

For kids- while not Tudor centered, Anne Boleyn is profiled in this first of a series by Author/Illustrator Lisa Graves (Our friend, the History Witch who we can't talk about enough because she is pretty fabulous)

The Tudor Tutor has a list of source material she uses (as well as A LOT of information that you might enjoy spending time with).

Since we are sharing websites, here are the ones that  we talked about: (excellent for kids) , (sistersite to Anne Boleyn files) Elizabeth Files , and Being Bess, another really terrific site, On the Tudor Trail (this link will take you to a post on Hatfield house)

So, you’re visual. Here is a link to a particularly terrific documentary- The Virgin Queen David Starkey (We told you you really can’t go wrong with Starkey)

And after that highbrow educatin’ you earned yourself a nice Horrible Histories bender.

Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England – follow this video (and book) along as historian Ian Mortimer shows what life is like for the non-regal set during this era.

This American Life Fiasco Episode!

Pottage recipe from the Elizabethan era, just like Beckett promised. (And a really interesting site for people who like to eat their way through history!)

Keen eared listeners might remember a very clever letter that we read a few seasons ago from long-time friend, Tom.  He is currently living in Scotland, and offers this interesting addition to the legacy portion of Elizabeth’s story. (We didn’t talk about this during the episode, but link it nonetheless because Tom is a very loyal listener and History Nerd of the highest caliber.) Operation Highlander

And because we like to make Doctor Who references as much as we like to make Harry Potter references…the 1st Doctor visited her, the 10th visited TWICE: once with companion Martha in the Shakespeare Code…and then there was much jubilation when this happened on the 5oth Anniversary special:

I do...what?

End song: “Leaf in the Tree”, by Frozen Ocean Wave

As always, music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at

Shownotes Episode 42: Frida Kahlo

Posted 9 September 2013 by
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Put some flowers in your hair, drape yourself in bold fabrics and listen to a chat about the colorful and dramatic life and art of Frida Kahlo.

Frida Kahlo, circa 1937

If you thought selfies were an invention of the Twentytens, step back in a time a bit farther. The majority of Frida’s art was of herself- it’s how she told her story. Frida experienced a great deal of pain and joy (and every emotion in between) in her lifetime, and painting was how she expressed herself.

Born (deep breath) Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderon on July 6, 1907 to Guillermo and Matilda Kahlo in Coyoacan, Mexico. She was the third of four daughters, although Papa had two girls with his first wife.

Frida’s childhood was off to a tumultuous start when the Mexican Revolution broke out when she was 3. A few years later, she contracted polio and was bedridden for most of a year. Both of these events foreshadowed some very significant challenges that would come her way.

Young Frida

But first she had to grow-up! We talk about her schooling, her neighborhood shenanigans and her entre into a prestigious school to study to become a doctor. While there she gets her first taste of radical political life and she meets a man- muralist Diego Rivera.  At this point, Frida’s role in his life was to taunt him while he tried to work…or play (Diego excelled at “play”).

When Frida was 18, she boarded a bus with her boyfriend, just like she did every day. But that day the bus and a trolley collided. Frida was left with severe injuries that affect her physically for the rest of her life. We do go into details during the podcast, and give a warning because the accident and recovery was horrific.

A teenager, laying at home immobilized by a full-body cast, would get bored very quickly. Her parents set Frida up with paints, a mirror over her bed and an easel- the result? Frida’s first painting- a self portrait. More paintings came and we talk about some of them. When she is finally vertical she brings a sample of her work to her former tormentee: Diego.

And he liked them!

And he liked her!

Of course we go into greater detail in the podcast, but in short order Frida and Diego marry. He was 22 years her senior and was almost a foot and 200 pounds larger but the match between, “an elephant and a dove” (as her mama claimed) was passionate and electric.

Frida and Diego, circa 1930

Diego’s job as muralist took him many places, and Frida followed. She continued to paint although her very small, mostly self-portraits juxtaposed with his large and quite full murals mirrored the physical dissimilarities that they had. The couple traveled to the United States, where she was “Mrs. Rivera” ( and not much else) but is celebrated because of her relationship to the famous painter. For a variety of reasons (that we cover, you know the podcast is much fuller than these shownotes, right?) she is not happy in the United States and eventually, they work their way back to Mexico.

But with great passion often comes great drama. Diego has never managed (or even attempted) to keep himself away from other women, and- quite frankly- Frida didn’t do such a great job keeping herself away from other women (and men), either. Their love was…er- unique. And so was their house!

Diego got the big half, Frida the shorter- and they were connected by a bridge.

And then this happened.

My Sister Cristina...yeah, *that* sister Cristina. She's lucky this was painted before (the incident)

And things get pretty dramatic for a few years (like they weren’t before?) It’s like a telenovela…except it’s real! We do our best to keep this talk PG-13, we really do, but their lives weren’t all that PG-13. For instance, after a separation, then a reconciliation of sorts, they take in exiled Russian Revolutionary, Leon Trotsky and his wife. A short affair ensues (Frida with Leon). Later, Trotsky is killed while in Mexico: Diego and Frida are suspects for a short time, but Diego had conveniently left the country. See? Drama.

Later she painted this, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky (image courtesy NMWA)(you should go read about it here)

All of the drama really fires up her art. Frida painted to work through her feelings and she clearly had a lot of feelings that needed to be addressed. Because of that, her art was beginning to get noticed. She was given several exhibits in both New York and Paris.

Paris loves her!

Josephine loves her! Maybe. Probably.

The Parisians adore her style and slap her on the cover of Paris Vogue.

Because everyone who goes to Paris gets a Vogue cover. Vogue. Vogue.(two points if you just got a Madonna earworm)

But she and Diego need eachother. Somehow. They work out an amiable arrangement and get married again. For several years she takes care of him, he takes care of her…they move back into the Casa Azul and have a colorful and workable relationship.

Frida painting her father, Guillermo's portrait circa 1951

But Frida’s health has never been good. Several pregnancies that never came to term took a toll on her body, as well as lifelong complications from her bus accident. She spends the better part of her last years in bed or hospitalized.

Frida painting in a hospital bed later in her life

Frida's last painting, completed just before her death

On July 13th, 1954, at the age of 47, Frida Kahlo dies at her home. Official cause: Pulmonary Embolism. Unofficial Speculation: suicide or assisted suicide.

Her remains were cremated and are still on display at Casa Azul.


You want to look at lots of pictures of Frida- you must! She told her biography through her paintings, and there are a lot of images of her to be seen.  Click on over to the  Frida Kahlo Museum, or The Frida Kahlo Foundation to get started. The first you can visit and is located in her family home, Casa Azul in Coyoacon, Mexico.

Frida Kahlo Museum

Here is the link (about a documentary) that we spoke about where you can roll your mouse over some of her art for explanations, Life and Times of Frida Kahlo, PBS.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Beckett talked about this. Click on RELATED MULTIMDIA to start your adventure.

Movie version!

2002 brought us the Selma Hayak led movie

BOOKS!   Start with the books Susan recommended.  First up, historical fiction:

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo by F.G. Haghenbeck (recipe for Nonnie and anyone else in Special Features)

For the most part, we both really appreciated the books the showed her life along side her paintings- it’s the perfect way to understand both. If you find one, even ones we don’t recommend here, grab it. There are many exceptional art books about her out there.

by Gerry Soufer

Loved this one...Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress: Frida's Wardrobe

Fun children's book by Amy Novesky, illustrated by David Diaz

We forgot to mention this one, but it was really great for kids:

Viva la Vida by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand

Beckett’s recommendations:

by Hayden Herrera

Frida Kahlo

Another art book...Edited by Elizabeth Carpenter

As always, music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at Music.

Episode 41: Bessie Coleman

Posted 9 August 2013 by
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Amelia Earhart wasn’t the only American woman who soared into aviation history as she took her dreams to the sky. Bessie Coleman not only set aviation records of her own, but the story of her ascent above racial and gender barriers makes her a woman worthy of a long chat.

Bessie Coleman was born January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, the 10th child of George and Susan Coleman, both sharecroppers. George was part American Indian and proud of his ancestry but pride doesn’t put food on the table, does it?  George and Susan scraped together enough money for a small plot and settled the family in Waxahachie, Texas.  As the more elder of the  Coleman children to survive childhood grew and moved out of the home, life never got  easy for Bessie. We talk about Bessie’s childhood in the podcast, the slow path to an education that she had due to time away from school because of cotton harvest,  the chores and responsibilities that she had and the impact of her father leaving the family for a life he thought would be more accepting of him in Oklahoma.

A book wagon, circa 1920 (courtesy

A bookwagon, circa 1920 (courtesy

Susan wanted her children educated and helped encouraged them to make that happen as best she could. Once Bessie completed the eight grades available to her, she helped save and eventually registered at college.

Colored Agricultural and Normal University in Langston, Oklahoma (now simply Langston University...go Lions)

Unfortunately her money ran out after only one semester and headed back to Waxahachie to work as a laundress for several years. But Bessie wanted more out of life and moved to Chicago to live with two of her older brothers. The bright lights and big promises of the city didn’t prove all that more life advancing than they did in Waxahachie- laundress? Again? Bessie saw her opening and enrolled in Burnham School of beauty and Culture where she quickly trained to be a manicurist. Badda bing, Bessie is working in a barber shop on the see and be seen area known as The Stroll.

State Street early 1900's (courtesy nps)

When her brother John came back from World War I, he bragged about the amazing French women and teased Bessie that no African American woman could fly like a French woman.

With Wipe That Grin Off Your Face determination, Bessie set out to prove her brother wrong. (Such a strong motivator, isn’t it?) She had been bitten by the aviation bug while in Chicago, but she could not find any flight schools that would enroll her. Being both a woman and black was a double whammy.

So, she wants to fly.

She wants to show her brother that French women aren’t the only ones who can fly.

She does the most logical thing: she goes to France to learn to fly.

So it wasn’t quite that easy, and we cover so much more in the podcast but essentially that’s exactly what she does! (And does it a lot faster than Amelia even though they began taking lessons at about the same time.)

Bessie Coleman- the first black woman in the world to earn one of these! Pilot's license

When Bessie returned to the US with her shiny new license and aviatrix skills ( and no plane of her own) she set off on the air show circuit. While she was skilled, mechanical error led to a crash. Barely alive with bones broken and injuries that kept her sidelined,she insisted that she would fly again.

Early 1900's airshow over Grant Park in Chicago (courtesy

Of course she did! But she still didn’t have a plane of her own. What she did have was a dream. Bessie Coleman wanted to help desegregate aviation. Wherever she toured she refused to fly if blacks were not allowed into the show, and she held tight to a dream of opening her own flight school. Traveling the country on borrowed planes she fundraised- speaking and creating ever more elaborate and patriotic shows she was a big draw for air shows.

On April 30, 1926 Bessie and a mechanic were test flying a plane. As part of her performance Bessie parachuted off the plane, and the two were scouting a location. Bessie, so that she could see over the edge for a perfect landing spot, was not wearing her seatbelt. At 3,000 feet up, the plane went into a nose dive and Bessie fell to her death. She was 33 years old.

In 1929 the Bessie Coleman Aero Club , a flight school named in her honor opened in Los Angeles.

Bessie Coleman on a US postage stamp, 1995


How did we miss this website? Get all your historical women gear (designed for kids but adult sizes available, too) A Mighty Girl. Maybe not exactly this doll though, unless that’s your thing, then here it is! You were looking for this!

Bessie Coleman Madam Alexander doll

Do not go here hungry! You were warned. The history of chili (and more…oh, so much more) What’s Cooking America

We know you are looking for this, all you runners, Marathon Du Medoc (Bordeaux Marathon). And here is a fun article about running it , good even if there is no chance of you ever attempting such an event! Food and Wine

Books! We only had a couple that we would recommend:

Fly High! by Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger, Illustrated by Teresa Flavin

Queen Bess: Daredevil Aviator by Doris L. Rich

While surfing…er, following a lead we stumbled across this blog that has very little to do with Bessie Coleman (other than this post about an entry from her beauty school primer) but thought it too interesting to not add here: Bobby Pin Blog Vintage make-up and beauty instructions, anyone?

Our music is courtesy of Musicalley. Visit them at
Show outro music : “Dreamers” by The Hipstones

Tudor Grandmothers Revisited

Posted 29 July 2013 by
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A year and a half ago we sat down to talk about Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville. Since then a lot of you have joined us…and a lot of you are really excited about the television show The White Queen, which is  based on the novel series THE COUSINS’ WAR, by Philippa Gregory.  So are we!  (So excited) (So very excited)  Here in the good ol’ US of A the show begins on the Starz network on August 10th, 8 PM ET/PT, so we thought that this was a good time to brush up on the stories of the women who would become grandmothers to our favorite bad guy, Henry VIII.

Because we posted portraits on our original shownotes, we thought that  getting the faces of the actresses playing the parts into our heads would be a good idea.

Elizabeth Woodville, played by Rebecca Ferguson ( Courtesy Starz)

Margaret Beaufort, played by Amanda Hale (Courtesy Starz)

Starz has a very slick website (facebook page and twitter) for this show which makes talking about it with other fans really easy.
The shownotes from the original episode, including book recommendations, from our original posting are here: SHOWNOTES.

And if you are in the UK, you can watch entire episodes online here: BBC ONE

Episode 39: Amelia Earhart

Posted 10 July 2013 by
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Born in Kansas, a little girl grew to become an aviatrix whose name is still known around the world over 75 years after her mysterious death. While so many focus on her disappearance, we spent our time  spotlighting the life of Amelia Earhart, a life that has inspired generations of  little girls to let their dreams soar.

Amelia, rocking the flight gear

Amelia Earhart was born July 24, 1897 to Edwin and Amy Earhart in Atchison, Kansas, the eldest of their two daughters.

She spent a great deal of her childhood in Atchison at the home of her wealthy grandparents. Her parents lived down the Missouri River in Kansas City with Amelia’s sister Muriel. Of course we talk about their courtship, marriage and life as a family like we do with a lot of our subjects. And, like a lot of our subjects, young Amelia was a bit of a tomboy and another leader of her baby gang.  Oh sure, we tell stories. Lots of stories.

Young Amelia ready for bikes, and roller-coasters and sneaking around on her Grandma

Amelia’s childhood took a turn when Papa was relocated with the railroad to Des Moines, Iowa, and it was in Iowa that Amelia saw her first airplane- but a desire to fly would come much later. First the family had to bounce around a bit. Edwin wasn’t the wisest of financial men, and took to drinking. The combination of the two resulted in job losses and steps down the ladder of success. Amy, who never had to scrimp or save in her life was at a loss and followed him from city to city- until she couldn’t do it any more. She took Amelia and Muriel to Chicago to stay with friends and Amelia who was struggling socially didn’t fare so well.

The family did, eventually (and we tell you the whole story) reunite, they had a slight financial windfall and Edwin did get his act together. Amelia got sent off to finishing school in Pennsylvania and Muriel to Toronto. Amelia perked up a bit- she played sports, got good grades, spoke up against injustice…and over Christmas break she visited her sister.

While in Toronto she was exposed to soldiers coming back from WWI. She felt led to help out in some manner and wanted to stay, but her mother convinced her to go back to school. Which she did. For a few months but the pull was too strong and she was soon working as a nurse in a military hospital. It was here where some Royal Canadian Air Force pilots took her to an airfield and she was finally bitten by the flying bug.

Amelia as a nurse in Toronto circa 1917

Unfortunately, not too long afterward she was also bitten by the Spanish flu and sent  back to the US, this time to Massachusetts where Muriel was preparing for college entrance exams. We cover this period of Amelia’s life in the podcast, her many starts and stops not only as a pilot but in other pursuits and in her education finally landing in California with her parents at the age of 22. Here she took the first paying job of her life, saved her money and paid for as many flying lessons, and time in planes as she could. Within a year she was flying her own plane and beginning to set aviation records. She assimilated herself into the aviation subculture in a big way- girl looked gooood! Long pants, high boots, leather coat (customized by sleeping in it) and sloooowly she began to cut her long tresses to the shorter style that we know- flyer hair.

But just because she was finally flying, her life wasn’t all perfect. Amy and Edwin eventually divorced,  sinus problems plagued her and and a move back East seemed the perfect solution for the Earhart women. (Listen to the podcast, it will all make sense). Life back on the East coast was rougher than on the West. More starts and stops were in Amelia’s life- college, no college; teaching, no teaching…Amelia burned through life plans faster than a commercial for mail order degrees: nurse companion, social worker and finally a full time position working with children in Denison House- a settlement that aided new immigrants in becoming citizens. Finally with money in her pocket again, Amelia was able to take to the skies in her free time.

In 1927 Charles Lindbergh made the first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic, five years later- Amelia was given the same opportunity as the commander of a plane. Oh sure, she saw herself as a passenger, but she did it and as soon as her feet hit European soil- her life was changed- she was the face of female aviation. Hello, Aviatrix!

Amelia becomes the spokesperson for female aviation

Not only was Amelia launched into the public spotlight, she was launched there by the man who would become her husband- George Putnam. Ok, so he was married but that was a detail that could be overcome to the satisfaction of all parties involved. They were wed and began a business/personal partnership that would last ’til the end of her life (oh, you know we love a good wedding story, and Amelia and George had one- listen to the podcast!).

Mr. and Mrs. George Putnam

Putnam was a master at publicity. His skill and experience and Amelia’s interest in bringing aviation to women (as well as logging as much flight time as she could) combined to be a powerful package. She writes a couple books, sets record after record, lectures, organizes a cross-country air derby and a female aviators organization, writes for Cosmopolitan magazine, worked at Purdue university encouraging female students, designs women’s clothing and luggage. Yes, luggage. Her name was highly marketable and George was brilliant at marketing it.

A set of Amelia Earhart luggage sits in the Earhart museum in Atchison, KS

In 1937 Amelia set off for what she thought was her final adventure- flying around the world along the lines of the equator. She said, “I am undertaking this one solely because I want  to and because I feel that women now and then have to do things to show what women can do.”

Amelia beneath a chart of her final flight

Preach it, Amelia!

Amelia and the last plane that she flew, the Lockhead Electra circa 1937

We cover the final flight, as well as a number of theories as to what happened in the podcast, but anyone reading this surely knows the story: On what was to be her last leg of her flight something that may never be known happened. And, on July 3, 1937  at 8:43 AM the last known message of Amelia Earhart was heard. Amelia and her plane were never recovered.


The Amelia Earhart Museum in Atchison, Kansas is pretty nifty. It looked like this the day we visited. Oh, yes we did! More to come on that field trip, we promise.

Amelia Earhart museum- this is her birthplace, where she lived with her grandparents! We took our kids and geeked out.

The Ninety-Nines are still active! Check out the work and community of these women pilots. The Ninety-Nines, Inc.

The Official Amelia Earhart website- it’s okay. Not a lot of bells and whistles, but some interesting info and links.

News personality Amelia Earhart’s blog might interest you.

Amy Adams as Amelia

MOVIES! 2009 Amelia with Hilary Swank and Richard Gere, and the Biography documentary are available from Netflix. There was an Emmy winning 1994 miniseries with Diane Keaton, and The Last Flight with Rosalind Russel but we can’t find them online- might be your own adventure in research to dig up a copy. And, it’s a stretch, but Amy Adams plays Amelia in Night at the Museum II.


It might be fun to start out reading the two books that Amelia penned:  20 Hours, 40 Minutes, and The Fun of It.

Non-fiction that we also liked about her life:

by Doris L. Rich

East to Dawn by Susan Butler

Amelia Earhart's Daughters by Leslie Haynesworth and David Toomey

Amelia Earhart:m The turbulent life on and American icon by Kathleen C. Winters

By Tanya Lee Stone- really good for kids, or people who like a lot of pictures (hey, we like pictures, no shame in that!)

When you want to really nerd out about her disappearance here are some books for you:

Amelia Earhart's Shoes by Thomas King and Randall Jacobson

Finding Amelia by Ric Gillespie

If you want to see and read about her yellow Kissel Speedster, check out the ForneyMuseum!

Finally, Amelia’s boots and Molly’s boots…no picture of Beckett in hers, sad to report.

Two iconic images from far flung generations show the importance of dressing with classic boots.

As always, music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at

Bookcast: Jane Austen Book Club

Posted 9 May 2013 by
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As a companion to Episode 38: Jane Austen, we got together and had ourselves a proper book club meeting.

Well, mostly proper. (though nothing as exciting as a loss of continence…)

And it was more like a gathering around a microphone than a meeting, but talk of books we did!  Titles for discussion: All six of Jane Austen’s published novels.

We followed the same chat format for each of the books: trivia on the road to publishing, plot, characters, our reactions, movies and/or books by other authors that are related to the novel and finally a favorite quote.

We split these novels into three minicasts in the interest of time.

Episode 1: Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice

Sense and Sensibility was Jane's first published book in 1811

Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813. She was credited only as the author of...until after her death. This later edition is from 1907

Episode 2:  Mansfield Park and Emma

Mansfield Park first published in 1814

Emma was first published in 1815. This three volume, rebound first edition set was owned by a friend of Jane's- the governess to brother Edward's children, and sold at auction in 2008 for more than $350,000.

Episode 3: Persuasion and Northanger Abbey

Published posthumously and as a four-volume set, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion ended the list of completed novels of Jane Austen. Both of these novels create unanswered questions about how complete they were as Jane was not able to see them through to publication