Archive for the Podcasts Category

Episode 80: Queen Nzinga

Posted 22 November 2016 by
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Just your ordinary Princess to Queen tale: born into a royal family, rose to power, protected her people and country for generations with little more than her bravery, wits, bow and arrow and gallons of blood spilled and some, perhaps, consumed.

The only way that the story of Queen Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamaba is like a lot of Princess to Queen tales–it’s full of fact and fabrication. The truth is that there are so many versions out there that the details of her life are a little muddled. We do know that Nzinga was a warrior queen who held back Portuguese colonization and slave trade in her African kingdoms of Ndongo and Matamba in the 1600s.



Her father was Ngola (king) Kiluanji; her mother, Kangela, was a former slave turned second wife of Kiluanji and the mother of Nzinga and (at least) two sisters. Kiluanji came to power as the Portuguese were invading Africa and Nzinga’s childhood was spent in a country at war, although she was fairly protected at court. She learned the traditional work of women but also something a little unusual but necessary: how to speak and write Portuguese AND quite a bit of “boy” lessons: hunting, trapping, shooting…and warfare and diplomacy. She did have an older half-brother who was the rightful heir, but her father saw something in Nzinga that led him to take her under his wing for some lessons in ruling.

When her father died her brother take over…did a few horrific things like have Nzinga’s son killed…until her brother died and Nzinga put her spear in her hand and called herself Queen of Ndongo. Oh yes, we do know a little bit more and we go into it in the podcast–what the Ndongo culture was like, a Slave Trade 101 history lesson and some of the more provable parts of how she came to power and stayed there. But we also dive into a lot of the legend, mostly because it’s a really amazing story: she did what to her concubines? She ate what when she went into battle? The Imbangala warrior bands made her do what?

Her rough terrain down in Aaaafrica ...or maybe: during her reign down in Aaaafrica...

Her rough terrain down in Aaaafrica …No? How about: During her reign down in Aaaafrica… Valley of the Moon, Angola, Wikicommons


Nzinga maintained control of her country of Ndongo (and, Matamba–the one she took by force), kept many of her people from being captured and traded as slaves, offered refuge to anyone who needed it and used every move at her disposal (including shifting alliances, religions and some pretty gruesome tactics) to rule for almost 40 years. 40 YEARS of war (and a really impressive wardrobe, but that would be silly and frivolous to spotlight when she did so many seriously powerful things.)

(We totally spotlighted it.)

Nzinga died peacefully in her sleep on December 17th, 1663 at the age of 82. When she did, Portugal moved in and the her kingdoms were incorporated into modern day Angola–although there would be another 300 years of brutal and ugly history before the Portuguese rule finally ended in 1974.

Statue of Nzinga in Luanda

Statue of Nzinga in Luanda


Time Travel with the History Chicks






Little kids

Little kids

Middle Grade

Middle Grade


This whole series is excellent, short introductions to African women you should know!

Surely you know all about Rejected Princesses, right? Nzinga is only one of the maaaany women who probably won’t have a Disney movie…but should.

Njinga – Rainha de Angola  trailer…”teaser” would be a better word since neither of us could find the movie to watch.

What’s for supper? Toasted termites? Didn’t your mom teach you to try something before you make that face? Here is a list of 11 Edible Insects for when you are feeling adventurous. Or hungry. Or want to dare someone.


Maybe you’ll find something tastier at Nzinga’s Breakfast Cafe in Durham, NC? (We’ve never been, but would totally give it a try if we were there. Been? Give us your review on our Facebook or Twitter)

The field is really wide open to use any of the (20 plus) versions of her name, but here is how one Nzingha is ruling her field! Fencer Nzingha Prescod, via ESPN (maybe the only ESPN link we will ever give you. Maybe.)

Click the link for, perhaps, the best photo ever taken of a Fencer. Ever.

Click the link for, perhaps, the best photo ever taken of a fencer.

And, finally, here are some of the names/spellings out there for her:

Nzinga, Nzingha, Jinga, Ginga, Zhinga, Njinga, Njingha,Zinga, Zingua, Ann Nzinga, Nxingha, Mbande Ana Nzinga, Nzinga Mbonde/i, Dona Ana de Sousa, Lady of Ndongo, Ngola Nzinga…


End song, Angola Avante (National Anthem), learn more about it here!


Episode 79: Lizzie Borden Revisted

Posted 29 October 2016 by
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Is there a better time to revisit our favorite Victorian More-Than-Likely Murderess, Lizzie Borden, than right now? We think not.


Lizzie Borden took an axe gave her mother 40 whacks, when the evil deed was done, she gave her father 41.

Hatchet. Step-mother. Closer to 28 whacks total. And the big question: did Lizzie even do it? We talk about the family, the times, the build-up, the weirdness, speculation and aftermath of the headline grabbing story the changed the quiet life of a 32-year-old Lizzie Borden. (And her father and stepmother, natch.)

Lizzie became quite the cover girl!

Lizzie became quite the cover girl!

Since we first recorded this in 2011, there’s been some improvement in our sound. We’ve cleaned up the audio a little, and cried at the sound of the five-year-old at the beginning who is now in middle school. (WAH!)


Since 2011 Christina Ricci has played Lizzie in both a movie and a tv show

Since 2011 Christina Ricci has played Lizzie in both a movie and a tv show!

There are so many places you can look more into the life and mystery of Lizzie- here are our ORIGINAL SHOWNOTES with books, movies and links to get you going on your own detective work…did she or didn’t she?






Episode 78 : Shirley Chisholm

Posted 26 October 2016 by
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We wrap up our short series of “women who ran for the US Presidency before Hillary Clinton” with Shirley Chisholm!

Photo Credit: John O'Halloran, US News & World Report

Photo Credit: John O’Halloran, US News & World Report

Shirley St. Hill was born in 1924 in Brooklyn, NY to Charles and Ruby St. Hill. Her parents were both immigrants from the West Indies and they made a painful decision to send Shirley and two of her sisters to live their early youth on her grandmother’s farm in Barbados.

Shirley’s education was solid: prestigious Girl’s High in Brooklyn, Bachelors degree in Sociology with a minor in Spanish from Brooklyn College, Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education from Columbia… she was smart, she was quick, she was well spoken, well read and well, she had a dynamic personality wrapped in a very petite frame.


Episode 77: Belva Lockwood

Posted 23 October 2016 by
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Belva Lockwood, pioneer in the field of law, and second woman candidate for President.

Belva Lockwood, pioneer in the field of law, and second woman candidate for President.

We continue our series of Presidential candidates with Belva Lockwood, the woman who many regard as the first “legitimate” female nominee for the office. You be the judge; certainly, her age and employment history are a contrast to Victoria Woodhull, (covered here), whose earlier campaign, in 1872, was tainted by scandal (and marred by not meeting the age requirement of 35).

This woman had it all together, but it hadn't come easily!

This woman had it all together, but it hadn’t come easily!

Belva Bennett Lockwood was born in 1830 on a farm in upstate NY. She paid for and arranged her own education, but family pressure drove her to marriage rather than college.

Being widowed at 22 changed the course of her life; teaching, college, law school, and finally the groundbreaking milestone of being the first woman to argue cases before the Supreme Court.

Belva was not only a pioneer herself, but sponsored other trailblazers to the Court..

Belva was not only a pioneer herself, but sponsored other trailblazers to the Court..

Then, in 1884, Belva Lockwood ran as the Equal Rights party’s candidate for President. She was no fool; the Presidency was a long shot, but the impact on society would be undeniable. She took the inevitable backlash in stride, saying that being featured in a political cartoon was an accomplishment in itself.

You have to be famous in the first place to be mocked in the national media!

You have to be famous in the first place to be mocked in the national media!

A halfhearted attempt at the office in 1888 ended her quest for elected office, but her reputation was such that several Presidents, many educational institutions, and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee all relied on her advice.

Her portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.

Her portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.

Belva’s example had been an inspiration for women to move into a sphere that had been denied them. (A convention of female lawyers she chaired in 1893 had over 200 attendees.)

Belva Lockwood died in 1917, having forged a path of education, advocacy, and determination for generations to follow.

When asked if there would ever be a woman President, Belva said:

If a woman demonstrates that she is fitted to be president, she will someday occupy the White House. It will be entirely on her own merits, however. No movement will place her there simply because she is a woman. It will come if she proves herself fit for the position.

Listen to the audio for her life in detail!

Here are the books Beckett recommended:

"Ballots For Belva" by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

“Ballots For Belva” by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

"Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would be President" by Jill Norgren

“Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would be President” by Jill Norgren

The closing song is “Keep on the Path” by The Mystery Body.

Episode 76: Victoria Woodhull

Posted 9 October 2016 by
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Victoria Woodhull crafted a life for herself from pretty raw materials. She traveled from an abusive childhood to a very aristocratic end but the life in the middle? Ah, that is the part were she was a woman ahead of her time.victoria_woodhull_by_mathew_brady_c1870


Victoria California Claflin was born on September 23, 1838 to Reuben Buckman (Buck) and Roxanne (Annie) in the very sweet town of Homer, Ohio. Buck was an abusive scoundrel, Annie a mentally unstable religious zealot and Victoria’s childhood of abuse, poverty and lack of much of an education became even more of a struggle when the fine townsfolk of Homer shoo’d the Claflins away.

To support the family, Buck taught Victoria and her sister, Tennessee, a valuable life skill by putting them in front of audiences all over the Midwest as spiritual healers, clairvoyants, fortune tellers, sellers of magical elixirs…and we can only speculate what else. Even Victoria’s marriage at 15 to the dashing and charming Canning Woodhull wasn’t an escape–he was a womanizer, addict and all around crappy husband. After their son was born a year later the family moved several times, Victoria took a series of jobs to help them survive while her husband did as little as possible even while he was delivering their second child (it’s a gross story) (oh, yeah, we tell it.)

Escape from this life came in the form of one Colonel James Blood. He believed like she did, saw the world the way she did and, most importantly, made her happy.

Image courtesy, Flikr: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums'

Not the rocking caravan, but some from the 1800s                                                 Image courtesy, Flikr: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

When Victoria and crew including her sister, Tennie, moved to New York they began by earning money the way they always had, but since they were able to tell fortunes (or read people), they  must have known that Cornelius Vanderbilt would come into their lives, right? Known that with his mentoring (is that what the kids are calling it these days?) Tennie and Victoria would make quite a bit in the stock market. But if they had known what would happen after Victoria got involved with the suffrage movement do you think they would have stayed? Maybe, but Victoria wasn’t a very conventional suffragist (Victoria wasn’t a conventional anything), and while the suffragists were talking about the best way to bring equal rights to women, Victoria was living that life.

Victoria, deep in thought about…we have no idea
Bradley Rulofson,

Victoria and Tennie were the first two female stockbrokers in New York, Victoria was the first woman to speak before a congressional committee, they began a newspaper, Victoria started a speaking career and, oh yeah, she announced her candidacy for president.

With the suffragists watching (after they had to postpone their meeting because STUFF WAS HAPPENING!

With the suffragists watching Victoria address Congress (after they had to postpone their meeting because STUFF WAS HAPPENING!)

Like we said, not very conventional. Her platform, to our ears, sounds the opposite of radical: women’s rights, equal rights for equal pay, aid to the poor, and legislation to help women who were trapped in marriages by a society that failed to see the way they were treated. Okay, so “Free Love” sounds to our ears what it did to the Victorians, but all Vicky wanted was to get government out of her bedroom.



So many errors occurred between announcing her candidacy to election day 1872 that even a skilled politician today wouldn’t have been able to overcome them: Support, then a slow backing away from the suffragists, constant badmouthing by the Beecher sisters, lawsuits, a juicy scandal involving a high profile minister, a kooky and greedy extended family…and an arrest right before election day that sent both Victoria and Tennie into jail.

Ulysses S. Grant won without a fight from Victoria (or Susan B. Anthony's vote)

Ulysses S. Grant won without a fight from Victoria (or Susan B. Anthony’s vote)

She didn’t stand a chance. But she knew that going in her candidacy was symbolic and after it was all over, after Victoria moved on to a life of downright upstanding citizenry in England, Victoria knew that she had gotten her message out. The country was 48 years away from women voting, 144 years from the first woman nominee from a major party, and the US is still trying to legislate love but by thinking far ahead of her time, but in 1872, Victoria Woodhull wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and even that was ahead of its time.

Victoria's final years were spent in Bredons Norton...and she was happy and beloved by her village.

Victoria’s final years were spent in Bredons Norton…and she was happy and beloved by her village…and very, very wealthy.


Time Travel with The History Chicks



The grand mama of  Victoria sites (well, the great, great, great step-granddaughter of them anyway) head over to Victoria-Woodhull. com, Victoria Woodhull Spirit to Run the White House has Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly archives, Victoria Woodhull Presidential Library and enough reading to keep you busy for a very long time from a distant relation of Victoria’s.

Whaaa? The 19th Amendment didn’t give all women the right to vote? Well, it did, sorta, but states moved quickly to take that right away from native Americans and women (and men in some cases) of color. Here is a really great (read:eye opening) timeline of Voting Rights History in the United States.

Speaking of eye opening: Literacy rates in Early America are probably higher than you thought.

15th Amendment says what? and a case from the 14th Amendment regarding voting rights. What’s the lesson here? Know your Amendments, people!



Fox Sisters, Leah, Kate, and  Margaretta circa 1884

Victoria’s obituary from the New York Times.

Quick review of female US presidential candidates if you don’t want to read a whole book (below.)

Information about the Fox Sisters  (and a lot of other creepy stuff, it’s the website of the American Ghost Society.)

Eugenics, Anthony Comstock and Victoria Woodhull. Light reading. No, not really, but more in-depth intel about those obscenity charges that kept her in jail on voting day.

When you are in Wichita, Kansas check out Old Cowtown (place Beckett talked about), they do have a very impressive list of events. The Steampunk Expo that started at Old Cowtown has moved on to a different venue, it’s in November and you can learn more about it here, Emerald City Steampunk Expo. (Thanks for that heads-up, Robert!)

An in-depth look at the colorful history of the Ludlow Street Jail in New York from Atlas Obscura, and an article from The Bowery Boys about notorious Boss Tweed’s time (and end of time) in the jail and a bit about Great Jones street.

On Film!

The documentary narrated by Kate Capshaw with Gloria Steinam commentary:kate-capshaw-documentaryAn upcoming documentary about Victoria, The Coming Woman, is in editing, it’s a labor of love project so follow along with the Rau Sisters to it’s completion.



Mary Gabriel

Mary Gabriel

Myra MacPherson

Myra MacPherson

Ellen Fitzpatrick

Ellen Fitzpatrick

And, finally, how Beckett saw the Claflin kids (please don’t let that be cussing subtitles in some language we don’t know):

Panoply Survey 2016

Posted 8 October 2016 by
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If you would be so kind, would you click the link below and take a couple of minutes to tell us a bit about your podcast listening preferences? It’s anonymous and filling it out helps to tell our partner network, Panoply, about the kind of shows and content that interests you. The survey is only going to be active for a short time….got a couple of minutes now?


Panoply Listener Survey



Thank you!

Beckett and Susan

Episode 75: Marie Curie Part Two

Posted 17 September 2016 by
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Marie faced life after Pierre Curie died with two children, more than just a touch of radiation exposure and a desire to use science to help all humanity but she also had a lot of non-science drama on the horizon.

Nobel portrait, circa 1911

Nobel portrait, circa 1911


Brief recap: Polish born genius navigates an early life filled with heartache and challenges to pursue one of academics and science in Pre-WWI Paris. She finds love, builds a family and when her partner in love and work, Pierre, dies in a horrible accident everything seems to be crashing down on her. Details on Part One, you should go listen.

Back in her Manya days. L-R: Manya, Papa, Bronya and poor, 2nd place Hela.

Back in her Poland Manya days. L-R: Manya, Papa, Bronya and poor, 2nd place Hela.


Episode 74: Marie Curie Part One

Posted 27 August 2016 by
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A lot of people only know Marie Curie as a woman who won a Nobel prize (or two…spoilers) but that is just a small part of the life of this intelligent, brave, determined and focused physicist, wife and mother. Her life was so full it’s going to take us two episodes to bring it to you.

Marya Sklodowska was born in Russian controlled Warsaw, Poland, in 1867, the 5th child of two educators. But before you think that having teachers for parents must have made getting an education easy, think again. The Russians weren’t fooling around when they told the people of Poland that they were Russian now, forget everything Polish. And the Polish people weren’t fooling around when they said, “uh, yeah, about that…no.” This meant that Manya (her nickname), her sisters and brother had to learn twice as much: what the Russian education system expected and what their heritage and love of Poland dictated.

Manya (because we love the name and will use it as long as we can) at 16

Manya (because we love the name and will use it as long as we can) at 16


Episode 73: Agrippina the Younger

Posted 6 August 2016 by
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Julia Agrippina (the Younger) was born on November 6, 15 AD just one year after Caesar Augustus died…that would be Great Grandpa Augusta to Agrippina. She was the first daughter to Germanicus, a very popular military general, and Agrippina the Elder a very brave and unconventional Roman military wife. Although her father would die when she was very young  coughpoisoncough and the rest of her family didn’t fare so well either, Agrippina would do what was needed to survive a very high profile life in a society where “high profile” meant “giant target.”Rome_Agrippina_Minor

This episode was a little different for both of us– the magnitude of materials we needed to reference so that we could puzzle together Agrippina’s life was surprising. We cover that dramatic life as the daughter of a military leader, the sister to an emperor, the wife AND niece to another emperor and the mother to yet another…but we also talked about life, challenges, customs and survival strategies for women in ancient Rome.

And we talk a lot about poison.


Episode 72: Elizabeth Keckly

Posted 16 July 2016 by
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When we were researching Mary Lincoln we both admired her friend, Elizabeth Keckly, so much that we knew that had to talk about her. She was born a slave, eventually bought her freedom and built a very successful business (twice) all before she, too, realized her own White House dream. Yes indeed- Lizzie needs her time in the spotlight.Keckley1870framed