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 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…)
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.
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? (Figurine Photo Courtesy Enesco)
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
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?
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.
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.
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)
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.
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 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.)
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)
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
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:
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.)
Agatha Christie once said that she wanted to be remembered as, “a good writer of detective and thriller stories.” We say she needs to be remembered for a whole lot more: daughter, wife, mother, pharmacist, playwright and adventurer only begin the list.Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on September 15, 1890 in Torquay, England. She was the third (with a huge age gap) child of Frederick and Clarissa (Clara) Miller. We cover all the details of her family in the podcast, but let’s suffice it to say that her childhood was by all accounts idyllic and her family and home were full of kooky, smart, interesting characters worthy of a book series on their own.
Agatha and her father at Ashfield
She was indulged by her parents, older brother and sister as well as the small staff of their charming upper- middle class home. Agatha didn’t attend formal school until she was a teenager but was educated at home. Bright and imaginative, she broke her mother’s “rule” that children shouldn’t learn to read until 8, but taught herself at 5. Oh yeah… she was a tree-climbing, imagination game playing, rule breaking, dog loving kid who had everyone in her life wrapped around her finger.
That is, until her father died when she was 11. With her brother and sister grown and living lives of their own, Agatha and her mother set off to redefine their family. Papa wasn’t the greatest money manager and financial troubles worsened after he died. But Clara, through smart choices, was able to keep the beloved family home, as well as provide a finishing school education in Paris and a coming out season in Egypt for Agatha. Agatha toyed with the ideas of “careers” as a professional singer or concert pianist. A bad review of her voice crushed her first dream, and stage fright her second. Once they were back home in Torquay, World War I broke out and it was all hands on deck with the war effort. Agatha, in her early 20s, did her part and worked in the local hospital. First in nursing duties and then in the pharmacy. She learned chemistry and biology and the education that would help her most in life: how poisons and medicines worked in the body. And in her free time what did she do? Write. Her sister challenged her to write a detective story by saying Agatha couldn’t so during the war Agatha completed a novel, The Mysterious Affair At Styles, and sent it off to publishers. She soon met a dashing and charming young aviator, Archie Christie who would- despite concerns and lack of time together- become her husband. Life with Archie distracted her- setting up a home and having a baby will do that- but one day she got word that her novel, starring a detective who was to follow her around for most of her career- Hercule Poirot- was to be published.
Agatha’s first novel, published in 1920, four years after it was written. (Remember that, aspiring novelists!)
Agatha was contractually obligated to write five more books, and Archie seemed to like that she was bringing in some money- so she did. Although he wasn’t what we would consider creatively encouraging, the income supported his golf and living-the-good-life habits. Agatha quickly learned the book business, got an agent and renegotiated a new contract with a better publisher. She was gaining success as a writer (although it took quite awhile for her to accept that she really was one).
Agatha traveled with Archie for his job and learned to surf!
The family moved into a larger home and named it Styles after her first book. The Christie family seemed to have it all- but Archie was getting a bit more than his fair share: he had fallen in love with another woman. This news, along with Agatha’s mother’s death, sent the couple down a slippery slope and led up to what was possibly the greatest mystery in Agatha’s own life (aside from why Archie was such a jerk)- her eleven day disappearance in 1926.
Agatha goes missing one day! Her car is found full of her belongings but she is gone! Her face is splashed all over the press.
Who best to stage her own disappearance than a mystery writer? Or was it amnesia from a car accident? What of the maaaany clues that were left behind and ignored? Was this all a publicity stunt?
(But some of us know exactly what happened to her, right? Right? Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey…)
Riiiight, wink wink…amnesia. Sure.
In a plot twist worthy of a Christie novel, Agatha’s divorce changed her life for the better. With Rosalind away at school, Agatha booked passage on The Orient Express and got her groove back. A series of introductions and adventures led her into the life of 14 years younger archaeologist, Max Mallowan. A very delightful romance ensued, and they were married within two years.
Agatha and Max
The Mallowans would spend months on archaeological digs where she wasn’t The Queen of Crime…more like the Queen of Grime. She helped to clean and log artifacts and wrote when she could. Whatever it was- the love, support, adventure, locations- she began a pace of 2-3 novels a year for the next ten years including psychological romance novels under the pen name Mary Westmacott. World War II slowed her a bit, as Max joined the Air force and Agatha again went to work in a pharmacy. Tax and pay issues began to plague her which were complicated by the war. Her method for solving financial problems was simple: write more books (okay, that may be the oversimplified version, we do go into detail on all of this during the podcast). She was amassing a very large library of her books and eventually Queen Elizabeth took notice and awarded her the order of Dame Commander.
That is a lot of books
Plays, movies, television shows…Agatha’s work was everywhere and she kept up the pace as long as she could.
Agatha and Max near their home, Greenway. She had a really great life. (Courtesy National Trust)
Agatha at the Acropolis 1958. She looks so happy. (courtesy National Media Museum)
On January 12, 1976 at the age of 85, Dame Agatha Christie Mallowan died of natural causes at her home. Agatha is buried at St. Mary’s church, Cholsey, UK.
Detail on London Sculpture: left to right, Hercule Poirot, the Orient Express, the pyramids, a mousetrap, a country house, typewriter, and Miss Jane Marple. (Courtesy Guidedwalksinlondon and this link has more to share on Agatha!)
TIME TRAVEL WITH THE HISTORY CHICKS If you want to immerse yourself into the Christie subculture, you must go here first: AgathaChristie.com. Maintained in part by her archive trust, you can read more about her life and work, see a bunch of pics and *sings* there is an active message board! Really a great site for new and established Christie fans. The British Museum has an pretty cool online tour of pieces from Agatha and Max’s archaeological work, spotlighting one of the larger parts of her life when she kept out of the public eye. Agatha Christie and Archaeology . Headed to Torquay, the “English Riviera”? A gallery is devoted to Agatha at the Torquay Museum, including Poirot’s study (donated from a movie set).
This very room in Greenway seems to be refurbished exactly as she had it. Go, report back and tell us if it is!
Agatha and Max’s stunning home, Greenway, is now open to the public. Go! Take pictures! Better yet, take us! Books! We narrowed our favorites about Agatha down to three books each. Beckett’s choices: And Susan’s favorites: The BBC movie is available on DVD, we got a copy from the library (Freesies!)
1079 movie explanation of what happened during Agatha’s disappearance. Horrible. Watch old episodes of Murder She Wrote, instead.
Beckett geeked out about the Agatha themed geocaches, join in the hunt at Geocaching.com While we can’t go hunting the ones in the UK and New Zealand -if you can dooo iiit!
As always, music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at musicalley.com