Author Archive - The History Chicks

Episode 55: Dorothy Parker, Part One

Posted 8 August 2015 by
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She gave us fabulous quotes like, “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses” and “Brevity is the soul of lingerie,” but Dorothy Parker’s life wasn’t all wit and snark. Behind those flip one liners there was a very complex woman who lead a full life far beyond the banter of the Algonquin Round Table.

Dorothy ParkerHow complex was she and how full was her life? It’s going to take two episodes, that’s how much. (It’s okay, we were a little surprised, too.)

It was a dark and stormy night (what? It was!) when Dorothy Rothschild was born in West End, New Jersey at her family’s summer house on August 22, 1893. Her father Henry had fallen in love and married the girl next door, Eliza, and the pair had three children before Dorothy came along. They lived fairly affluently in New York; life as a Rothschild (not those Rothschilds) was very comfortable.

During a typical summer at the shore when Dorothy was five, Eliza suddenly died. Henry was inconsolable. He sold their house, moved the family a few times around New York City and, when he realized that he needed a wife to raise his children, he married.  Eleanor- on paper- -sounded a lot like Eliza, but if your step-kids call you “Mrs. Rothschild” (or nothing at all) you can pretty much assume you are not at all like their mother.

We go into far greater detail in the podcast about things like the dirt on Jewish Dorothy’s Catholic school education, her troublemaking ways and why she thought she was responsible for the death of her stepmother (she wasn’t). We chat about the antics of short, dramatic, artsy and moody Dorothy when she was sent to Miss Dana’s School for Girls where most of the student body was anything but short, dramatic, artsy and moody.

A lovely school for lovely ladies who will live lovely lives...and Dottie Rothschild.

A lovely school for lovely ladies who will live lovely lives…and Dottie Rothschild.

By the age of 14 Dorothy’s formal education abruptly and mysteriously ended. She loved to read and write “verses” with her father, but as Henry was aging and her brothers and sisters moved on to adult lives, Dorothy was left to care for him. Dorothy and Henry would spend winters in New York and summers at the shore for six full years before Henry passed away.

Henry’s estate wasn’t large enough for Dorothy to live on for the rest of her life, so in 1914, 21 year-old Dorothy Rothschild set off on her own. She moved into a boarding house, got a job playing piano at a dance school and spent a great deal of time writing poetry and submitting them to magazines. Empowered by the success of her first poem being accepted for publication, she put on her best suit, walked into the office of the editor of Vanity Fair magazine and asked for a full time job as a writer.

And he sent her away.

But a few months later he got in touch with her, told of a position at Vogue and Dottie dove in. So what if it was a fashion magazine and not the meatier Vanity Fair? She was a writer…(tiny font) of picture captions.

Vogue 1917

Vogue 1917

Dorothy was small, well bred and articulate with large eyes and an ingenue look (although not quite the demure personality to match). She attracted the eye of many a man and was especially drawn to Edwin Pond Parker. He was a stockbroker, play/partyboy who drank a lot and didn’t care that his old Connecticut family weren’t thrilled that their son had fallen for a Jewish girl from New York. (This worked out fine because they weren’t invited to the wedding when Dorothy and Eddie married in 1917.)

Dorothy and Eddie

Dorothy and Eddie Parker (She’s not looking all that happy…but that hat! Want!)

What was happening in 1917 besides the fun loving Parker’s setting up house? World War I. Eddie headed off to the military while Dorothy threw herself into her work developing her witty style that soon landed her in the offices where she knew she belonged: Vanity Fair.

April 1921 cover of Vanity Fair

April 1921 cover of Vanity Fair

Dorothy fit into the magazine of pop culture, politics, art and lifestyle of  New York perfectly. She began as New York’s only female theater critic and her sophisticated, sharp, funny reviews very quickly gained a large audience while the shenanigan filled office environment fueled her. It was during this time that a simple lunch of writers and critics at a local hotel morphed into a daily event of verbal sparring and witty banter from Jazz Age New York’s literati and reporters. What was said at the table would be quoted in newspaper columns and spread throughout the country. The group called themselves the Viscous Circle but, because of their large table in the middle of the hotel dining room, they were recognized as the Algonquin Round Table.

Round Table members Art Samuals, Charles MacArthur, Groucho Marx, Dorothy Parker and Alexander Wollcott

Some Round Table members: Art Samuals, Charles MacArthur, Groucho Marx, Dorothy Parker and Alexander Wollcott

When Eddie returned from the war he was addicted to both alcohol and morphine and their marriage started to skid out of control. About the same time Dorothy stepped over the line in a review and was replaced at Vanity Fair. She scrambled for more work, began to write short stories as well as any freelance writing she could. A few of her Round Table friends began a new magazine, The New Yorker, and she began writing book and theater reviews but the days of the party work atmosphere were gone.

And then Eddie was gone, too. The couple finally divorced  in 1928, but that wasn’t the end of the drama in her life, not by a long shot.

 

Covering our bases with both whiskey AND a dirty martini.

Covering our bases with both whiskey AND a dirty martini.

Media recommendations will be on the shownotes for Part Two, so go fix yourself a little nip and when we return: Part Two of the life of Dorothy Parker.

Episode 54: Marie Antoinette Reboot, Part Two

Posted 8 July 2015 by
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In Part One we talked about Marie Antoinette’s childhood, the speedy preparations for marriage and her early years in France. In this episode, the conclusion of our revisit, we get to the rest of her story as she travels from well-liked to queen to the (dramatic pause) guillotine.

Near the end circa 1791Alexander_Kucharski,_La_Reine_Marie-Antoinette_(années_1790)

 

Husband, Louis XVI, while fumbly in the Create an Heir department and lacking a lot of things in common with her, was kind to Marie. During her, let’s call them “party years” he indulged her and gave her a little playhouse all her own so that she could escape the demands, traditions and all the backstabby, gossipy people of Versailles: Le Petite Trianon. It was a place Marie could let her hair down, grant admission to only those who she invited and frolic and dress like a fair country maiden (Disney World style– no need to actually take care of the animals, that’s what the servants are for).

Louis XVI. He gave her this...

Louis XVI. He gave her this…

Le Petite Trianon...Marie's playhouse

Le Petite Trianon, Marie’s playhouse…

Hans_Axel_von_Fersen2

…where she hung out with her friends including him. Axel Von Fersen (Dreamy, right?)

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Episode 53: Marie Antoinette Reboot, Part One

Posted 11 June 2015 by
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**Giveaway details at bottom of post!**

Once upon a time there were two podcasters who began their women’s history show with an episode about Marie Antoinette. Four and a half years later they revisited her life simply because they felt there was more to say about this woman who has been long misquoted and misunderstood. They were able to add a great deal of content and context and have a much longer conversation -two parts!- about the life of the last Queen of France.

(The first episode was never heard again and we all lived happily ever after.)

Marie in her softened years, by Louise Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun

Marie in her softened years, by Louise Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun

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Episode 52: Lydia Pinkham

Posted 10 April 2015 by
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Women who need to be remembered often have Lemon to Lemonade lives and Lydia Pinkham is no exception. The going got tough and she turned some herbs (and a wee bit of alcohol)  into not only an empire but a leaping advance in women’s health and education.

Lydia Pinkham NWHM

 

Lydia Estes was born in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1819 into a family led by gentleman farmer, William, his wife, Rebecca and many brothers and sisters. Papa was a wise real estate speculator and they were fairly well-off. But this wasn’t some quiet, subdued Quaker family, oh no! They split with the local Quaker Meeting over the subject of slavery, the Estes family siding with good friend, former slave and abolitionist Fredrick Douglass. They opened their home for many abolitionist gatherings where the children and women were not only seen but heard.

Lydia grew to be a politically active and educated teacher who attracted the eye of widow Isaac Pinkham. On paper Isaac looked an awful lot like her father as far as business sense goes, but it was all paper. 30 years, four children, several upward then downward home moves when the Panic of 1873 hit family finances hard.  Isaac was emotionally down for the count and the family was fiscally ruined. (more…)

A quick status update!

Posted 20 February 2015 by
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Hello everyone!
I’m sure you’ve been wondering where we’ve been…
The library, yes, and assorted bookstores, but not, unfortunately, at the big table that seats 14 at The House of Wood, recording anything.

For you see, Susan has lost her voice. She has a paralyzed vocal cord, in fact, so she DOES have a voice, but the nature of it would scare small children. (Sorry, Susan, you know it’s true. )

This hasn’t been a short term thing, she’s been suffering from this since before Christmas, and it looks to be late March before we can hope to hear the dulcet tones of her voice again.

She has become adept at both sign language and interpretive dance, neither of which translate well to an audio podcast!

SO we have a couple of friends who have volunteered to step in, and there might be a month or so of format changes, since I can hardly expect my new crew to nerd out as hard as Susan and I do, so watch this space, and I’ll have some moviecasts to you soon.

Thanks for the outpouring of support on the Facebook page, and on Twitter – for those of you who don’t know, Susan is the voice of our Twitter feed, so if you’d like to pass on some Get Wells, head over to At the historychix, with an x, and begin the banter. Her typing fingers are as fast as ever.

Thanks for your patience, and all of the messages that have headed our way, and we’ll be back with you, just as soon as we can.

Minicast: Mrs. Claus

Posted 23 December 2014 by
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Once upon a time there was a busy, yet highly compassionate and generous bachelor. He became known the world over, but lacked something in his life: a wife. Mrs. Claus often takes a back seat to her more famous husband, Santa, but it’s time her history was told.

Mrs Claus- subject of literature, film and art...but who was she? (Photo Courtesy Enesco)

Mrs Claus: subject of literature, film and art…but who was she? (Figurine Photo Courtesy Enesco)

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Episode 51: Joan of Arc

Posted 20 November 2014 by
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Joan of Arc,  Jeannette,  Jean, The Maid,  La Pucelle, Hero,  Heretic, Visionary,  Lunatic…that’s a lot of names and titles for a teenage girl who is remembered for events from only a short period of her  life. For most of it she was an ordinary girl in an ordinary small town, until she allowed extraordinary visions and voices to lead her into history.

Joan of Arc, Sir John Everett Millais

Joan of Arc, Sir John Everett Millais

During the podcast we needed to place Joan into history in a bit more detail than normal. That means a little primer on the Hundred Years’ War- a series of battles and skirmishes between England and France over land for about 116 years.  Are there podcasts that spend a great deal of time on this important game of Mine! No, Mine!- yes. Is this one of them? No, we just called a war a “game” for goodness sakes, but you will get a very succinct overview that will explain where and why Joan of Arc’s life played out like it did.

Henry V...well, Tom  Hiddleston as Henry V- close enough to the real thing, right?

Henry V…well, Tom Hiddleston as Henry V- close enough to the real thing, right?

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Episode 50: Hattie McDaniel

Posted 20 October 2014 by
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The fabulous, multi-talented HattieMcDaniel.

The fabulous, multi-talented Hattie McDaniel.

You know that old story of the “overnight success?” A band you’ve never heard of bursts onto the scene and takes the world by storm. Often you find that they have twenty years of hard work and paying their dues before finally achieving their goal. The same is true of Hattie McDaniel.

Born to former slaves, and growing up in the abject poverty that followed America’s black population in the Jim Crow years, Hattie McDaniel was determined that a life of servitude and struggle was not to be her fate.

A young Hattie during the Denver days.

A young Hattie during the Denver days.

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Episode 49: The Women of Gone With The Wind

Posted 29 September 2014 by
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Once a season we obsess over a subject for our Fictional Episode and this time we let ourselves be carried away with Gone With The Wind. The epic book and movie is only part of the story of a free-spirited, rebellious, creative and unconventional Southern woman and the novel that she wrote of  Southern life during the American Civil War and Reconstruction periods.

pre-release poster framed

A talk about Gone With The Wind would be hollow without spending a great deal of time looking at the life of the creator of this classic, Margaret Mitchell. You can listen to the podcast episode for all the juicy bits- but here is the nickel version:

Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell was born November 9, 1900 in Atlanta, Georgia. Except for a brief stint at Smith College in Massachusetts, Atlanta was her lifelong home.

Margaret Mitchell with a fabulous hat...and a cat. (courtesy Media Services News)

Margaret Mitchell with a fabulous hat…and a cat. (courtesy Media Services News)

The only daughter of Eugene, a lawyer, and May Belle, a suffragist, Margaret’s childhood was filled with days running with the boys, riding horses, reading and writing stories. Much of her time was spent at the knees of her extended family who talked (and talked) tales of life during the War Between the States. She was, as the proper ladies say, a “very spirited child” who grew to  become a very spirited woman. Her mother died during the Spanish Flu epidemic and her first fiance was killed in World War I shortly before Margaret was presented to society.

In true heroine and debutante fashion she partied through her pain and plowed through her social season in a big and bold manner. She wore a revealing dress for her formal portraits and performed a blackball-from-the-Junior League-worthy scandalous dance at a talent show; she was the darling of the society page and the sweetheart of many a beau.

 

Daring dress? Ah, how times have changed.

Daring dress? Ah, how times have changed.

Here is a version of the Apache Dance (with Ray Boldger who was starring across town as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz during the filming of GWTW -love it when our subject’s stories converge). Warning before you hit play: It is quite a violent dance.

But every Party Girl needs to hang up her dance card at some point, and Peggy chose from her field of suitors Red Upshaw…for reasons that we just can’t quite wrap our heads around. He was dashing but had no job, no prospects and was physically abusive to her. The silver lining of this marriage is that Peggy went to work as a journalist so that the couple could have some income. Journalism she loved, Red she did not and the marriage ended in divorce within a couple of years. She turned right around and married the Best Man from her first wedding, John Marsh (and they did live happily ever after).

"The dump" where Margaret and John lived and she wrote her one published novel.

“The dump” where Margaret and John lived and she wrote Gone with the Wind.

While  recuperating from an injury, Peggy quickly wrote a rough draft of a novel: the story of Pansy O’Hara, a strong and determined survivor of the Civil War. She puttered around with the manuscript for many years, keeping it in envelopes stuffed around her apartment and talking very little about it to her friends who would tease her about writing the Great American Novel.

Our friends know us so well, don’t they?

One day an editor from Macmillan Publishing came to Atlanta on a scouting mission. Fueled by derogatory comments flipped by a snotty writer, Peggy gave the editor her sloppy manuscript. It was a hot mess, but it was a brilliant hot mess! The romance between a morally questionable but properly raised heroine (whose name was changed to Scarlett) and a dashing Rhett Butler that skimmed over the true grit as well as the reasons for the the Civil War was an instant hit!

Very soon Hollywood came calling. Within three years of the novel’s publication Gone with the Wind was the winner of a Pulitzer Prize and a movie that is still capturing our attention 75 years later. While she couldn’t avoid the fame that the novel generated, Margaret Mitchell did everything in her power to distance herself from the movie making. It was probably best, the production – led by David O. Selznick- was as wild as Scarlett and Rhett’s buggy ride through a burning Atlanta. (Oh, the tales we tell! You really should be listening to the podcast.)

gwtw prank

Vivien Leigh and Olivia DeHavilland pranking on the set. Yes, reading that novel is hard work and laborious just just to lift it!

At the movie’s premier (in Atlanta, natch) Margaret let the spotlight shine on her momentarily, and very soon the United States entered World War II. Margaret had the time and means to volunteer and lend her name to philanthropic endeavors including the funding of several black students of Morehouse College through medical school.

The Atlanta premier drew QUITE a crowd! (Courtesy Margaret Mitchell House)

The Atlanta premier drew QUITE a crowd! (Courtesy Margaret Mitchell House)

On August 11, 1949 as she and John were going to a movie on her beloved Peachtree Street, Margaret was struck by a drunk driver. She never regained consciousness and died five days later at the age of 48.

Courtesy Atlanta History Center Tumblr

Courtesy Atlanta History Center Tumblr

She never wrote a second novel, but that first one was all she needed. Many have attempted to imitate, but without Margaret Mitchell the world never really will know if Scarlett managed to recapture the heart of Rhett and live happily ever after in Tara.

 

TIME TRAVEL WITH THE HISTORY CHICKS

Fiddle dee dee, you want to learn more about the book, movie and life of Margaret Mitchell? Why, we have a few places for you to start:

Go tour “The Dump” that is now the Margaret Mitchell House, a lovely museum dedicated to Atlanta history!

Tours of “Tara”: Peter Bonner’s website and his facebook page to help save what is left of the movie Tara…and is sitting in a barn in Georgia right now.

This post on this site and this post on this one  with give you a nice rundown of GWTW references in The Simpson’s (we can not make this stuff up, People).

Want something a little more, oh, colorful? How about learning the history of Technicolor?  Widescreenmuseum.com (LOTS of other information on this site for movie buffs. You guys might want to plan a long trip down a rabbit hole.)

The University of Texas at Austin has both a physical exhibit for those fortunate enough to be in Austin, and an online exhibit for the rest of us.

Books? We have a few:

Obvs.

Obvs.

By Darden Ashbury Hametz

On the Road to Tara, by Aljean Hametz

On the Road to Tara, by Aljean Hametz

Fun and fast trivia, by Pauline Bartel

Fun and fast trivia, by Pauline Bartel

 

A new book, “The Making of Gone With the Wind” by Steve Wilson will be published in September (2014), but here is a peek at some really fabulous images from it.

Almost as much of a classic as the original movie itself. Almost. 

You want to watch the bunny version. You know you do, it’s okay, we watched it over and over.

Beckett’s fabulous GWTW Pinterest board. 

pinterest

 

As always, music comes courtesy of Music Alley, visit them at MusicAlley.com

Encore: The Wizard of OZ

Posted 12 August 2014 by
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