Author Archive - The History Chicks

Episode 135: Louise Brooks

Posted 17 September 2019 by
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Louise Brooks was a dancer, an actress, a film historian, critic and writer. In this episode, we also remember her for her perfect bob, her iconic flapper image, and the many ups, downs and farther downs in her life.

Mary Louise was born the second of four children to Leonard and Myra Brooks, on November 14, 1906, in Cherryvale, Kansas. When the family eventually settled in Wichita, Louise wasn’t even in high school but she had grown-up fast thanks to a proto-free-range childhood, a strong personality, one case of sexual assault (with, sadly, another to follow) and a growing skill as a dancer and performer. She got her ticket out of Wichita at 15 when a modern dance troupe came to town and offered her a spot in their prestigious school in New York City.

 

The Belmont Arches in Wichita, Kansas, the entrance to the upper-class neighborhood. Photo credit: Beckett’s Dad

What we imagine the Brooks house was like for Louise’s childhood, from Nanny McPhee:

 

What New York City gave her was a career as a dancer, a DIY finishing school, and an entre into the new world of movies.

Beggars of Life was one of the last movies Louse made in Hollywood before heading to Germany to star in the role of Lulu in Pandora’s Box– arguably her most famous movie.

Louise had some things going for her including the X-Factor that sets one person off from all the others, and a string of situations where she knew the right person at the right time. What she didn’t have was a very good attitude about her life as a performer. She didn’t like being an actress, she didn’t think she was a very good one, and she saw herself as an intellectual while the world saw her as just another dumb starlet.

 

Still, she lived her life the way she wanted and burned a lot of bridges along the way.

Storefront of Louise’s short-lived ballroom dance school in Wichita, today. Photo credit: Beckett’s Dad.

Two very fast marriages, so many boy and girl friends we couldn’t count, gallons of gin, and a film career that began in Hollywood, peaked in Germany and ended when she moved back home to Wichita only 13 years after it began. Her natural acting style was adored by the camera, but far ahead of its time. Her acting wouldn’t be appreciated until later in her life when a cult following rediscovered her talent.

For the record, she did not leave Hollywood because her voice couldn’t make the switch to talkies, she had flounced out and couldn’t be lured back. This is from one of her last films, God’s Gift to Women.

 

 

The next few chapters of Louise’s life was an uphill struggle with few good breaks. She did manage to reinvent herself into a film critic, historian and essayist before she passed away at 78 on August 8, 1985.

TIME TRAVEL WITH THE HISTORY CHICKS

 

BOOKS!

Barry Paris

 

Louise Brooks

 

Roland Jaccard

 

Tom Graves

 

Jan Wahl

 

Fiction, Laura Moriarty

 

And the PBS movie, well worth a four-buck rental.

 

Susan’s sweet used-book bonus

 

WEB!

For the mother lode of Louise Brooks intel, including the day-by-day accounting of her life, visit the Louise Brooks Society (at pandorasbox.com)

Also good for information and photos, especially if you’re in the mood for some Brooks merch, is Vintage Brooks.

We were both talking about the same documentary on YouTube without realizing it. Louise is interviewed in this towards the end of her life. She may have been frail with emphysema and arthritis, but her mind was sharp!

We know, we know…you need to know How to Eat Breakfast Like a Hollywood Bombshell (spoiler alert: Louise traded in the big breakfasts for a raw egg and toast.)

Planning a trip? Beckett discovered there isn’t much of Louise to discover IRL, but you can visit the George Eastman Museum is in Rochester, New York who took her in and nurtured her writing career.

 

 

Amy Walker, 25 from all over the place.

 

 

 

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Episode 134: Gilded Age Servants and Heiresses

Posted 2 September 2019 by
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Consuelo Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Marlboro, one of the women we cover in this episode.

As we got excited about the upcoming Downton Abbey movie, we thought back to the Gilded Age heiresses who inspired both the original TV show AND our podcast. Julian Fellowes and Beckett Graham both read the same book which prompted each to pursue projects based on it. Mr. Fellowes* created Downton Abbey and Mrs. Graham thought, “I should make a women’s history podcast!”

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Episode 133: Isabella of Castile, Part Two

Posted 20 August 2019 by
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Artist unknown, via wikicommons

Isabella and Ferdinand; she before he. The couple ruled together, but she was the one who created a centralized government in what is now modern-day Spain, and together they ended an 800-year holy war. It was she who funded slick sailsman (little nautical pun there), Cristoforo Columbo, to set sail to the Indies and it was she who hauled him back after he robbed, pillaged, enslaved and brought European illnesses to the indigenous people of Not-the-Indies. It was she who gave birth to five children, and she who supported the arts and education in her country.

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Episode 132: Isabella of Castile, Part One

Posted 6 August 2019 by
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For a woman who was never supposed to rule, she did a mighty job of it. Isabella not only took the crown, but she also fought to keep it and when it was placed permanently on her head–she rewrote the rules of how her country was run and became the most powerful ruler of her day.

Whoa. That story is going to take two episodes to cover!

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Episode 131: Seven Women Revisited

Posted 22 July 2019 by
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We’re revisiting seven colorful women and two of them are the most requested women…that we’ve already covered. We get asked a lot, “Can you cover Hedy Lamarr or Judy Garland?” Our answer? “We did back in 2015 and 2013 respectively.” We’ll also tell you the stories of five other women who are connected to each other in different ways: Josephine Cochrane, Melitta Bentz, Mary Phelps Jacob, Billie Burke, and Margaret Hamilton. Now that’s a dinner party guest list!

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Episode 130: Revisiting Joan of Arc

Posted 9 July 2019 by
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By Albert Lynch, 1903 for Figaro magazine.

We thought that it was high time to take a trip back and revisit the life of brave teenager turned saint, Joan of Arc! We’ve both been thinking about her recently (which may be a bonus hint to our next episode)(it’s totally a bonus hint for our next episode) and realized how strong, brave and resilient she was in her very short life.

Here is a link to the original shownotes from this episode: JOAN OF ARC

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Episode 129: Elizebeth Smith Friedman

Posted 1 July 2019 by
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Elizebeth Smith Friedman was America’s first female cryptanalyst but her contributions to both the US government during Prohibition and to the world during WWI and WWII as well as her pioneering techniques in counterintelligence and profiling were often hidden from history. We want to help change that.

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Episode 128: Charlotte Brontë

Posted 18 June 2019 by
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A familiar portrait of  Charlotte, a chalk drawing by George Richmond in 1850. wikicommons

After a life of starts and stalls trying to find a way to support themselves, Charlotte Brontë and her sisters Emily and Anne finally hit on the career that paired their lives of heartbreak, horrors, love, and challenges with their vivid imaginations (and a heavy dose of Lord Byron.)

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Episode 127: Not-Quite-Live from PodX Show

Posted 3 June 2019 by
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In May of 2019 (if you’re in the future, if you’re in the present- this weekend) we appeared live at PodX. PodX was a beautiful collection of both podcasters and podcast listeners who gathered in Nashville to celebrate podcasting. (more…)

Episode 126: Lydia Pinkham 2019

Posted 18 May 2019 by
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Women’s health is in the news these days but this is hardly a 20teens issue, we talk about it all the time when we hop in our WayBack machine. Lydia Pinkham did her part to get women access to safe medical care during her lifetime (and revolutionized marketing in the process!) We’ve refreshed the 2015 audio and thought it was a good time for us all to realize that everything old is new again.

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