Archive for the Episode Category

Episode 171: The Harvey Girls

Posted 23 February 2021 by
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Harvey Girls, undated, Creative Commons

Over 100,000 women left their hometowns for adventure, a job (and maybe to find a husband) to become Harvey Girls. These poised, skilled, efficient, charming women waited on customers in Harvey House restaurants all across the US and stayed to help establish communities in growing towns.  But, it’s impossible to tell the tale of these brave women who helped settle the American West without talking about the man behind them: Fred Harvey.

Mr. Fred Harvey, the man behind the women. Public domain

As a very poor, 17-year old, recent British immigrant, Fred landed a job at Smith and McNell’s restaurant in New York City and began learning the skills necessary to run his own, full-service restaurant. The first one he opened suffered from a poor partnership and, basically, being in the wrong place at the wrong time (Civil War era St. Louis wasn’t the most stable of areas.) A position as a sales agent led to a life on the rails for Fred-the newly developing railroad system rails, that is-and that life gave him plenty of time and reasons for dreaming of a decent place to get a meal. The cafes at the time weren’t doing the job, so Fred decided he had to open them himself.

Harvey House in Florence, Kansas. Second in the chain, the first to offer rooms and dining opened in 1878. Art Davis, wikicommons

A deal with the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe railroad to open restaurants along their train line made Fred’s dream restaurant a reality. Not just any restaurant but one with the finest-yet affordable- food, the cleanliest dining area, and the most respectable staff the West had ever seen. In 1876, Fred was in the right place, at the right time, with the right idea and expansion soon followed.

Harvey house uniform (it changed a little over the years…but not much.)

His restaurants nailed everything in his vision…except for the respectable staff part, but bringing in female waitresses more than solved that. Oh, sure, he had some societal issues to deal with: at the time waitressing was hardly a dignified profession and the areas where these women were going were a bit rough- but Fred and his team overcame all of that and the Harvey Girls made their debut in 1883.

A very young Mary Elizabeth Colter (about 23) source unknown, public domain

Fred Harvey, the man, and Fred Harvey, the company, opened doors and created an environment where waitressing became a dignified position and being a Harvey Girl was the most sought-after job of them all. The company opened other doors for women– designer Mary Colter had a very long and successful career with the company as a designer and architect, a position rarely held by women.

Alvarado Hotel opened in 1902 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was sadly demolished in 1970. Albuquerque Historical Society, public domain

Fred Harvey wasn’t just in the food business, the company ran booksellers and concession stands at all railroad stops; they opened hotels, resorts, and museums showcasing the arts and crafts of the Native American tribes in the area. Their promotion of travel to the South West and the development of the Grand Canyon as a major tourist destination cemented their place in American history…but it was the Harvey Girls who married, settled in their new hometowns, and helped establish communities all across the American West that has had the longest impact.

Postcard from The Harvey Girls film marketing materials. All aboard the Atchison, Topeka, and the Sante Fe (yeah, it’s going to be rolling around in your brain for a while, don’t fight it.) wikicommons


Time Travel with The History Chicks


Stephen Fried


Lesley Poling Kempes



Richard Melzer


Rosa Walston Latimer


Juddi Morris, middle-grade


Gina Kauffman


Diana Pardue


A Discworld book, Beckett doesn’t recommend starting the series here, but she’s a big fan of them all.


The book that the movie was based on, by Samuel Hopkins Adams


Fred Shaw. Maybe bring a salt shaker; definitely bring another biography of Mary Coulter.



You can stay at La Posada (when you can travel safely, of course.) Take a gander at their rooms and grounds!

Harvey Houses Civilizing the Old West website for pictures and info of former Harvey Houses.

Belen New Mexico (not Minnesota, what was Susan thinking?)Harvey House museum, lots to see online, nothing to see in person because they are closed due to Covid right now as is the Leavenworth, Kansas Harvey House Museum in the Harvey mansion. If railroads are you thing, the Panhandle Railroad Museum in Wellington, Kansas may inspire a trip. Maybe.

Mary Colter buildings at the Grand Canyon, 

The Native American Collection at the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City was seeded by the Fred Harvey Company “Indian” department.

Fred’s first job in the US was at Smith & McNell’s in New York City, here’s an article about the restaurant at Restauranting Through History

The New York Public Library has a massive collection of digitized menus from the past, including THESE FROM HARVEY HOUSE.

An itinerary for a self-guided (but Harvey developed) South West tour.

For information about The Harvey Girls movie on The Judy Room.

There is a Fred Harvey/ Mary Coulter fan page on Facebook. It’s been around for as long as we have and it looks fairly active.

A more detailed history with sources of the Railroads in America.

The Bata Shoe Museum (just because.)

Moving Pictures!

The website/app to find out how you can watch whatever movie you’re thinking of, JustWatch.

Documentary Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound is on Vimeo with interviews with former Harvey Girls!

Here’s a link to rent the 1946 western extravaganza, The Harvey Girls for a couple of bucks on Prime streaming (we get no kickback for this.) Also, you’re welcome:

Episode 170: Ella Fitzgerald, Revisit (and a request)

Posted 2 February 2021 by
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From a rough start on the streets of Harlem to the Apollo stage, smokey clubs, years on the road, and in recording studios Ella led the world through the trends and wild ride that was the musical scene during most of the last century.

If Ella’s story touches you like it touched us, would you please consider supporting the musical arts in your own community or through the Jazz Foundation of America? This is not sponsored, it’s just a cause that is near and dear to our hearts and we know that, with no shows, live musicians are struggling around the country due to the pandemic.

Shownotes and recommendations for this episode are here, in the Way Back Machine.

Episode 169: 10th Birthday Love Letter

Posted 19 January 2021 by
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On January 20, 2011, we launched the show with a three-minute introduction explaining what this podcast was going to be. It was recorded the very first time we sat down in front of a microphone and it’s a little…raw. Truth be told, we didn’t fully know what the show was going to be like, we just had a vague idea: women’s biographies told conversationally with a touch of irreverence. Likewise, we had no clue what being a podcaster meant, Beckett always describes that time as a, “nearly vertical learning curve.” (more…)

Episode 168: Shirley Temple Black

Posted 8 January 2021 by
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via Flickr, Gushi Soda

We kick off 2021 with optimism and a charming smile, but Shirley Temple Black was a lot more than just an adorable, emotional cheerleader through the Depression, that was only her first act.

Shirley Temple was born on April 23, 1928, in Santa Monica, California. She was the third, last, and the only daughter of George and Gertrude Temple.

Shirley’s brothers were 9 and 13 years older than she was which gave Mama Gertrude a lot of time to dote on Shirley. Look, we moms we all know that our kids are the most talented, most adorable, brightest kids on the planet–Gertrude just went with that and enrolled the tot into dance classes at barely three years old.

Shirley in 1933’s Glad Rags to Riches, one of her Baby Berlesk films.

Gertrude was right, it wasn’t long before Shirley was discovered and her film career began, which was great as the country was getting deep into the Great Depression and Americans needed the cheer and optimism the little girl provided, the happy endings of her movies, and the way those 56 curls bounced…simply put: Shirley Temple provided the right escapism by the right person at the right time.

Her first feature movie was Stand up and Cheer. In it, she sings and dances with James Dunn the song Baby Take a Bow. This is not that movie- so confusing, this is her fifth feature-length movie.


She signed her name at Grauman’s in 1935; her actual star and induction into Walk of Fame were given in 1960. Flickr, Troy David



Shirley leaves a meeting with President Roosevelt in 1938. Library of Congress


Beckett’s mom on the left, before she learned she wasn’t naturally a redhead!

But the years and years of superstardom didn’t inflate her ego to unsustainable proportions, they only set the foundation for the strong, determined, and seemingly eternally optimistic woman Shirley was going to grow into. So what if her first marriage was a flop except for the child it produced? Her second marriage in 1949 gave her two more well-loved children and a happily ever after.

1948, she’s was wrapping up her film career and her first marriage was on its last legs. via wikicommons


Shirley and baby Susan, 1948– Shirley is 20. Public Domain

Shirley herself divided her life into three acts: Child star, Mother and Wife, and Public Service. The third act had her traveling the world, serving as US Ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslavakia, as the first female Chief of Protocol for the State Department, a trainer of future Ambassadors, surviving and speaking out about breast cancer, and doing impressive (and global) work for both the Multiple Sclerosis Society and environmental organizations.

Chief of Protocol (and President Ford) 1976 Public Domain


Shirley Temple Black, 1998 (at 70, dang, she did aging well!) Shutterstock

Shirley Temple Black died at age 85 on February 10, 2014, of COPD. She’s interred in the Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alta California and lives on as an eternally tap-dancing, singing, joyful bundle of cute in the hearts of anyone who watches her movies.

Shirley did so much more with her life than appear in movies, but we’ll just go ahead and perpetuate that image watching videos like this one, seven-year-old Shirley (although her bio had her as six…we cover that and all her other Hollywood treatments in the podcast) dancing with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson as the first interracial dance pair on film:


Time Travel with The History Chicks


Good for looking at both Shirley and America during her film career.


The autobiography written in 1980s, she claimed part two was being written, her son had promised its publication in 2018, but it never was.



More in-depth biography but Shirley was still alive when it was published so it ends

The other biography, The Shirley Temple Story by ester David and Irene David is hard to find and doesn’t seem to be available online, if your library doesn’t have it you can try EBay, your Grandma’s bookshelf, or Etsy.


The Shirley Temple Pinterest board is the best place to go for links to even more intel on the moppet! We have a board for every episode, following is encouraged and appreciated!

Santa Monica History Museum has an annual Shirley Temple exhibit, when they are open, which they aren’t right now.

Want to brush up on your geography? This is Beckett’s favorite site to do that! SPORCLE

More details on the auction of her collection in 2015.

Dirty Shirley Cocktail

Susan likes her cocktails fancy

The PoshTots catalog appears to be no more, but you can find lots of elaborate playhouses at Lilliput Playhomes.

The Shirley Temple King on Instagram


Moving Pictures!

We aren’t going to link you up to all the Shirley Temple movies, you’ll have to do that yourself, but here’s a couple of clips for immediate enjoyment.

Will Farrell’s Pearl the Landlord is very inappropriate, you’ll have to look it up yourself, but it reminded Beckett of the Baby Berlesks, which you can watch on Amazon Video (although they are a buck apiece.) If you’re into more wholesome content, you can watch Shirley Temple’s Storybook on Prime Video (no extra charge.) Mod 60s Retelling of Classic Fairytales.

Here is Shirley when she was on her book tour in the late 80s, the part about her “encounter” in an MGM office is at the 12:20 mark.

Here’s some info on the Shirley Temple Peony (which, admit it, is a fun word to say) from

And for no other reasons than we mentioned it in this episode and it amuses Beckett so, we’ll end with this:


Just kidding, we’ll end with this (special thanks to Lindsey Marie from Twitter for reminding me! S.)

Break music: Little Blossom by John Marco Leon
End music: B-Movie, by The Spoons
Both used with permission

Mrs. Claus: A biography revisited

Posted 24 December 2020 by
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Mrs Claus- subject of literature, film, and art…but who was she? (Photo Courtesy Enesco)

Mrs. Claus isn’t a one-dimensional support player in Santa’s life- when the spotlight shines on her it’s easy to see depth, wisdom, wit, beauty, endurance, and some really amazing cookie recipes. As is our tradition (and we’re all about the traditions over here) today we are sharing the story of Mrs. Claus for Christmas!

Older and wiser folks may want to preview this episode for holiday spoilers (antasay ausclay ablefay) before little ears listen. For more photos and links, visit the original SHOWNOTES HERE 

The main body of this episode is from 2014, but in the updated portion, Beckett talks about this ad for Mark & Spencer (this is the EP, there’s a 60-second version as well.)

Whatever holiday and whatever traditions you have, we hope that you and yours are able to make it very merry this year! We’ll be back in January (so long, 2020!)

Susan and Beckett


End song: Santa Will Find You, Mindy Smith, courtesy MusicAlley

Episode 167: Charlotte Brontë, Revisted

Posted 7 December 2020 by
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A familiar portrait of  Charlotte, a chalk drawing by George Richmond in 1850. wikicommons

This week we’re revisiting our discussion of the life of Charlotte Brontë (entirely because we made a gamble and lost–explanation in the first minute of the episode.) Charlotte didn’t let her circumstances and the discouragement of others stand in the way of her goal of becoming a published author; she got knocked down over and over before she was able to present the world with one of the most beloved heroines in literary history. Along the way, we have a chance to talk about the lives of her literary sisters: Emily and Anne.

If you’re in our private Facebook group, The History Chicks Lounge, Charlotte is the subject of this week’s Sunday Bake Parade. Early in the pandemic, the group started a weekly baking challenge based on a shared weekly theme of a former subject. Each Sunday the new subject is revealed and, over the course of the week. we get inspired by her and bake (or cook, or mix…we’re pretty loose with the definition of “bake”) and snap a picture of our creation. On the following Sunday, we have a show-and-tell of our bakes and explain how the subject inspired us. It could be her era, area, maybe a recipe we know she made, or something named after her…whatever motivated us to create. Repeat. You should come play! Join us HERE by answering a very simple question.

If this is the first time you’ve joined us for this episode, you can find all the links and recommendations for media (and more) in the original Shownotes!

Episode 166: Pocahontas, Revisited

Posted 23 November 2020 by
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As we in the US celebrate our Thanksgiving this week, we thought that this was a perfect time to revisit Pocahontas, the real story not the Disneyfied one. All links to things we talked about can be found on the original shownotes from 2017, POCAHONTAS SHOWNOTES.

Break music: Courtesy of James Harper of Harper Active; End Music: Daughters of History by Morning Spy

Episode 165: Wonder Woman, Part Two

Posted 10 November 2020 by
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Parents may want to preview this before kids listen as we continue to step back from reality (sorta) to talk about the many lives of Wonder Woman. When we left our heroine, she had just been launched into the comic book world in 1942. This episode covers her many adventures, her multiple worlds, the time she was stripped of her powers, and the women who brought them back. (more…)

Episode 164: Wonder Woman, Part One

Posted 31 October 2020 by
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Little Ears warning: Parents may want to preview this episode, we discuss several adult themes including suicide, alternative lifestyles, and…” adult play.” 

We step back from reality (sorta) to talk about the many lives of Wonder Woman, her original creator William Moulton Marston, the women who originally inspired the superhero, and the creators who recrafted her to suit their own visions. It’s a heck of a ride. And there is a Little Ears warning–you know how cartoons often have adult themes and jokes that go right over the heads of little kids? We talk about some of Wonder Woman’s in these two episodes–oh yeah, two! There’s A LOT to talk about, her story begins in the early 1900s and hasn’t ended yet! (more…)

Episode 163: Belva Lockwood and Shirley Chisholm, Revisited

Posted 12 October 2020 by
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Belva Lockwood was the first qualified woman to run for President of the United States and she did it while suffragists were still battling for the vote in 1884 and 1888.


Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman to run for POTUS in 1972 and the first female nominee for the Democratic party.


This week we divide and conquer to give you a remastered two-fer of glass-ceiling crashing women in US politics. Beckett shares the life of Belva Lockwood and Susan talks about Shirley Chisholm in this mini-series of women who ran for the office of POTUS. (more…)