Episode 152: Catherine the Great *An entirely true story

Posted 25 May 2020 by
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The real Catherine and Peter

Have you watched Hulu’s The Great yet? It’s a new series based on the life of Catherine the Great. It’s funny, bawdy, beautifully costumed and shot in some very lovely locations (mostly in the UK) but how true is it? The graphics tell us, right upfront, that it’s “an occasionally true story” so we’re warned. BUT there is just enough truth to make even us pause and Google, so we thought that a revisit was in order. This episode was originally posted in 2016, and we’ve remastered the audio as best as possible. Part Two coming soon!

Time Travel with The History Chicks

For a sassy recap, head over to 2016: CATHERINE THE GREAT PART ONE .

Episode 151: Zephyr Wright

Posted 14 May 2020 by
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Not all civil rights activists lead marches, sometimes their contributions are quiet and out of the spotlight. We talk a lot about the women who have the bullhorn in their hands and are leading the charge, but what about the women who work behind the scenes? The women whose contributions aren’t well known but are, nevertheless, important? Zephyr Wright was one of those women.

Zephyr, far right with her handbag*, as President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1964. *fairly certain that’s her, she wasn’t in front of the camera much!

We’re giving Zephyr top billing on this one, but the family she worked for was intertwined with Zephyr’s life so tightly that we give First Lady Lady Bird Johnson (yes, and the rooster, LBJ) a bit of time in her spotlight.

Luci Johnson and Zephyr at a birthday party in Washington…but who is the grumpy fellow in the corner? Rene Verdon, perhaps? (Yes, we think so.)

We talk about Zephyr’s early life in Marshall, Texas, her education at Wiley College, and her transition to life as a cook for the Johnson family beginning in 1942. But “cook” doesn’t really describe who she was to Lady Bird, Lyndon, Lynda Bird, and Luci. She was a perfectly matched food creator, sure, but her job was so much more nuanced than that: she helped keep the house, tend to the children, be at the ready whatever time and with whoever Congressman Johnson came home with for dinner and she gave Congressman Johnson…then Senator Johnson, then Vice President Johnson…and, finally President Johnson a personal window into the life of people of color in the United States. She gave him a perspective that he then used to pass significant civil rights legislation. (Don’t fret, we tell the truths about this very…complicated man–both good and bad.)

The Johnson family, Luci, Lady Bird, LBJ, and Lynda Bird at the LBJ Ranch in Texas, Christmas 1963

We do also, talk a lot about food. Have some snacks at the ready, you might get hungry for Tex-Mex…maybe even peach ice cream if Mary Mallon’s story didn’t scare you away. (Recipe links are below.)

Time Travel with The History Chicks


By Adrian Miller, and here’s a link to our friend, Suzy’s podcast, Cookery By The Book, when she interviewed Adrian Miller.


By Kate Anderson Brower


Pretty self-explanatory. Because there are no biographies of Zephyr, we had to dig into Lady Bird’s quite a bit.


By Michael L. Gillette


by Jan Jarboe Russell


by Betty Boyd Caroli


Adrian Miller, author of The President’s Kitchen Cabinet, has a website dedicated to information adjacent to that in his book (and, well, yeah, things from his book which you should get your hands on anyway.)

The closest we’ll get to an autobiography: Zephyr Wright’s Official Oral History

You will find a lot, including a fairly easy to use database of all those interviews and diaries, at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library website, Discover LBJ.

From her hometown newspaper: Zephyr Wright, White House Cook, LBJ’s Conscience, and from a Marshall, Texas historian: Four Marshallites Roles in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.and about segregation in Marshall from Texas Monthly.

Zephyr in her own voice from NPR (scroll down, middle column.)

RECIPES! (Reading, reading…recipe!) You want that ice cream, don’t you? “Lady Bird Johnson’s” Peach Ice Cream., and popovers, and her Pedernales River Chili which may be a lessipe, we already know she used Rotel instead of plain tomatoes.

Lyndon Johnson wasn’t the most traditionally dignified of presidents, Atlantic article about womanizing, the Vietnam war, and more surprises from over 20 years ago. For some Good Johnson, here is a speech he gave to Congress in 1965 where he talks about race relations (video and transcript.) And for both Good and Bad Johnson, here is an article (with an offensive language warning) from MSNBC about him being both a civil rights hero and a racist.

Not our Zephyr, but here’s a blog from the daughter of a Zepher, Mariah’s Zepher,and Helen Williams obit that talks about her role in the Johnson house.

If you would like to take a dive into the origins of chili, maybe start with this article from Texas Monthly.

Why we said “Pedernales” the way we did…blame LBJ!

We would like to thank our sponsors for this episode, and this one will make you smarter and help direct your creativity! (There is a link at the top of this page to ALL of our sponsor links and codes.)

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A Chicks Check-in

Posted 28 April 2020 by
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We wanted to take a minute to update you on things from this side of the mic, and brag about our friends in our Facebook private group who have started some really fun group projects.  You can join us in The History Chicks Lounge, and join our Book Club on Goodreads!


We’ll be back in a couple weeks with the story of a woman we really want you to know!

End song, Curious Women by John Williams used with permission from iLicense

Episode 150: Margaret Brown and the Titanic Revisited, Anniversary Edition

Posted 15 April 2020 by
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The 108th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is happening the week we posted this in 2020, during a worldwide pandemic…what a better time to talk about a maritime disaster, right? Wait, come back! It’s inspirational! Margaret “Molly” Brown was brave and smart and kept her wits about her as the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in 1912. After our discussion of Margaret, come with us on a Field Trip to the Titanic traveling exhibit. it’s like you’re with us!


Episode 149: “Typhoid” Mary Mallon

Posted 1 April 2020 by
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New York American 1909

Mary Mallon was a hardworking Irish immigrant in early 1900s New York City. She was strong, determined, and a good cook with both an extraordinary cussing vocabulary and a high concentration of Salmonella typhi in her digestive tract. Because of the latter, which she refused to accept and couldn’t, or wouldn’t, control the spread of, she was imprisoned for the latter portion of her life.


Episode 148: Annie Malone and Madam C.J. Walker

Posted 17 March 2020 by
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Annie Turnbo Post Malone

Annie Turnbo Malone, circa 1920, via wikicommons, fair use

Netflix has created, Self Made, a limited series on the life of Madam C.J. Walker starring Octavia Spencer. This series is only “based on” her life so we figured that a refresher of the facts was important. However, we know that Madam C.J. Walker got her hair care education, her business template, and her professional start thanks to Annie Malone and her Poro college, and Annie entered the Millionaires Club before the woman who usually gets credit for it. We thought Annie deserved a little time in the spotlight, too.


Episode 147: Isadora Duncan

Posted 3 March 2020 by
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Isadora Duncan was a dance pioneer who bewitched audiences during her lifetime and trained young girls in her methods and methodology so that, after her passing, they could teach generations who danced after her. She was a rebel who loved hard, experienced great tragedy as well as great success and, to paraphrase the words of Paul Anka famously sung by Frank Sinatra, she did it her way.


Episode 146: Mary Church Terrell, Part Two

Posted 18 February 2020 by
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Mary circa 1925ish (the photo isn’t dated) Library of Congress

When we last left Mary Church Terrell, it was 1898, she was 34 years old, standing on a stage and receiving thunderous applause after having given a speech entitled, The Progress of Colored Women to an audience at the National American Women Sufferage Association. (You can read her speech here, at blackpast.org.)  (more…)

Episode 145: Not Mary Church Terrell, but Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Posted 3 February 2020 by
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This is not Mary Church Terrell, Part Two. That episode is coming as soon as we can finish it, but Ida and Mary’s lives crossed paths quite a bit and while you wait just a little longer for Mary, Part Two, we thought it would be a good idea to remember the life of this brave and brilliant writer and activist.


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Episode 144: Mary Church Terrell Part One

Posted 22 January 2020 by
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Mary circa 1900, LOC

Mary Church Terrell was born the year that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, she died the year that U.S. schools became desegregated and she worked as a civil rights activist and suffragist in between to better the lives of African Americans. She lived such a full life (and we get to give a lot of background on the issues that she championed) we’re going to break this into two episodes. (more…)