Episode 14: Clara Barton

Clara Barton. We have received a lot of requests to discuss the life of this teacher, nurse, founder of the American Red Cross and legendary humanitarian. In this episode we finally get to do just that. (Audio is remastered from the original, We’re Still Learning phase.2/19)

Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born December 25, 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts to Stephen and Sarah Barton.  We talk about her childhood as the youngest  ( by several years) of five siblings and share some stories about her childhood.  It wasn’t as if she was babied, quite the opposite- she was given freedoms and allowed to do activities that other children her age would probably not have been. It didn’t appear as if she was a particularly cheerful child, very much a tomboy and very smart.

Her birthplace today is a museum dedicated to her life

We do tell some interesting stories that will revisit her later in life: Her father was a former soldier and told her about war. Her brothers taught her to be brave, her mother taught her to think for herself. All of them taught her to work hard.

But the most foreshadowy of tales is the one that happened about age 11. Her older brother, David, fell from a roof and was badly injured. Clara stayed indoors, by his side, nursing him back to health. For months!

The nursing theme will run through her whole life, of course, but first she had to be a teacher. And learn some valuable life lessons.  Painful ones.  At one point she had established a public school in Bordentown, New Jersey and, upon returning after a summers break, discovered that her position had been given to a man ( at a higher salary) and was told that she could be his assistant! Ouch.

Bordentown school established by Clara

Off Clara went to Washington, DC to take a job as the first woman clerk in the US Patent Office.

Of course we discuss this in more detail, but Clara rocked the job.  We don’t know if she was the best office buddy to have, but this woman knew how to get things done!

Which was good because when the Civil War broke out her getting things done skills would be put to the test. In addition, Clara was a master at seeing a need and filling it. She saw a need for supplies to be collected, so she ran ads , set up warehouses and started getting the needed supplies to the battlefield.

Circa 1865

Clara Barton’s history in the battlefields of the Civil War is a history of the war itself. She was at many of the famous battles, tending to the injured and dying. She assisted in amputations, and helped with first aid. She wrote down the names of the dying, so that family could be notified. She made the men, without regard to uniform color, as comfortable and well fed as possible until they could be moved to hospitals. Or passed away.

It was during this time she was called The Angel of the Battlefield.

Her contributions to her country during this time cannot be taken lightly, as we often do, but instead, fully appreciated for the sacrifices that she made while remembering the context: where were most women during this war?

After the war, Clara was sent to help establish a cemetery at Andersonville Prison. Her painstaking task was to mark the graves of the 13,000 soldiers who had died during the 15 months the prison was open.

From Harpers- Clara Barton raising the flag at Andersonville Cemetery

For most people, the things that she had accomplished during the Civil War would be enough for one lifetime. But Clara wasn’t done.While on vacation in Europe, she had a chance to see the Red Cross in action. And she liked what she saw. This was exactly what she had done during the war. She decided that the United States needed to sign the Geneva treaty and establish a Red Cross of its own.Of course, in retrospect, we can see that whatever this woman sets her mind to, happens. And it did. It took a lot of hard work on her part, but in 1882 President Chester Arthur signed the treaty of Geneva and the American Red Cross was officially established.

We discuss her role, her further wars and how she maintained control and an active life working for the Red Cross for the rest of her life. She retired at age 82 (EIGHTY TWO!) although she continued to make speeches for many years.On April 12,1912 at the age of 90, Clara Barton died in her home in Glen Echo, Maryland.

Time Travel With The History Chicks:

If you happen to find yourself in Glen Echo, Maryland visit the Clara Barton National Historic Site. If you happen to find yourself in your own house in another town and want to see a chunk of this treasure, simply click this link http://www.nps.gov/clba/index.htm

Lots of virtual toys to play with! Her birthplace in North Oxford, Massachusetts is also a museum devoted to her life. http://clarabartonbirthplace.org/site/

Of course, The American Red Cross has quite a bit of information about the life of this woman, including a virtual museum with some artifacts that belonged to her. http://www.redcross.org/museum/history/cbcollection.asp

If you are inspired by the dedication this woman made to this organization–or whatever your reason- perhaps you would like to make a donation . Click here and then click on the big red button. http://www.redcross.org/

Books! You like books! Since we were compelled to discuss this woman thanks to an email from a young lady, here are some recommended young reader books:Your library will have a lot to choose from- and they all have the same title!”

Your library will have a lot to choose from!

Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross by Dorothy Francis

Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross by Cynthia Klingel and Robert Noyed


If Civil War era medicine is your thing, there is a museum in Maryland devoted to it. http://www.civilwarmed.org/

The life of this unique woman can be looked at many ways- through medicine, through battles and the Civil War, through humanitarian efforts we could go on and on with paths for your self discovery. But this should get you going. If you are compelled to look farther into her life, drop us a line and let us know what you did!

As always, music comes courtesy of music alley, find them at music.mevio.com

Episode 13: Princess Charlotte

Our friend Queen Victoria would probably not have existed without the story of a Princess that came before her—Charlotte Augusta of Wales. She was the only child of George (later to become King George IV) and Princess Caroline of Brunswick. Charlotte would have become Queen had she outlived her father and grandfather, but she died during childbirth.

Charlotte Augusta of Wales

Died? In childbirth? There must be more!? There is, and we tell it to you in this podcast. It’s quite a tale, beginning before Charlotte is even born.

*insert that dreamy going back in time music*

Charlotte’s father was, how shall we say, Money Sucking Royalty. And not only that, he was a playah. (yeah, we did. We promise we won’t , ever again.) Prince George attempted to marry his longtime mistress, Maria Fitzherbert, but his father ( King George III) wasn’t about to give the royal nod to that coupling. Prince George, in order to up his allowance, per the Prime Minister William Pitt, needed to marry. What’s a prince to do? He networked  1700’s style for a spouse his father AND his many mistresses would approve of.

Enter Princess Caroline. She was his first cousin and one of the last two choices (choice two being a cousin from the other side of his family tree, Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.) Prince George chose Caroline- not because she was prettier or less tied to scandal because she wasn’t that- but because his mistresses approved of her (probably because she was less of a threat).

But Princess Caroline needed, um, a little work. She arrived in Britain pretty much a hot mess. Not that Prince George was a physical catch himself. We go into some detail, but basically they got along well enough to marry, consummate the marriage and get pregnant. Once.

Charlotte was born January 7th, 1796. What was her childhood like? Well, what would your childhood be like if your parents didn’t live together, were forever quarraling, and you were left to the care of paid staff and hauled out only when your parents needed you for something? Like that.

We do spell it out a bit more, but basically she was a wild child, prone to pulling pranks and, yet, was adored by her people. They were less than thrilled with the current ruler (Mad King George, anyone?) and the next in line (Daddy Dearest) wasn’t any better. She had to be the hope of the people, right?

After an adolescence and entrée into society  she pulled some whoppers in the way of impropriety. Just your average, bored teenage Princess.  If reality TV was around in her day we would probably be watching Her Minxship instead of Jersey Shore. (Uh, not that we watch Jersey Shore)

Handsome, non?

Finally she meets HIM. The One.  A career military man, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The path to the alter took some time, and some manipulations- but on May 2nd, 1816 the two were married in Carlton House. He was a super dreamboat, she was a popular princess; he calmed her wild ways, she gave him the political position he desired – the country was all over this!

Carlton House, where the wedding was held (also where Charlotte had been born)

Oh my my my my….

And then the waiting game for an heir began. Within two years, and two miscarriages, she finally carries a baby for the full nine months…but then this blissful life takes a turn. Poor medical care meets a very large baby. We talk about this a great deal in the podcast, and we don’t want to spoil it for you- but Charlotte delivers  a stillborn son. Hours later, she follows him in death.

Funeral of Princess Charlotte, by James Stephanoff

Leopold and the entire country are thrown into deep grief for their beloved Charlotte.

Leopold will go on to play a crucial role in the life of Queen Victoria. Or should we say, UNCLE Leopold? His sister, Princess Viktoria, will give birth to the future Queen. And Victoria’s Albert? He can also call him Uncle Leopold.

Leopold would eventually become the first King of Belgium and marry again. His wife gave birth to a daughter whom they named Charlotte.

Time Travel with The History Chicks

Books! We recommend Charlotte and Leopold: The true story of the Original People’s Princess by, James Chambers

Poems! George Gordon N. Byron (Lord Byron)

Episode 12: Queen Victoria Part Two

Welcome to the second part of our conversation about Queen Victoria. So much to talk about, we just couldn’t keep it at an hour!  We start with a recap , but get down to a good chat pretty quickly starting about the time of the Crimean War.

Victoria and Albert really worked together not only to run the country, but to raise their family.  He took his role as the Prince Regent ( Neener! He did what  her mother and John Conroy never could!) very seriously, and Victoria took her marriage vows equally as seriously. We had gone on before about Victoria  continually having a strong male to support her, and Albert took that role  until his death. They really had an almost modern marriage- working very much together in business and in family life raising all those nine  children.

Several years before Albert’s death. Big happy fam

Of all the little darlings Victoria bore, none would give them more trouble than our old friend, Bertie. Ahh, Bertie…nearly killed his father, he did. We go into the scandal (because you know we love scandal) in more detail in the podcast, but basically he had taken up with an actress and the gossip reached his parents ears. Albert (the Dad) was already run ragged by the affairs and wars of the country, the last thing he needed was worry about scandal in the family.

Bertie, Bertie, Bertie…

Alberts  death in 1861, at age 42, was listed as typhoid fever, but Victoria blamed the ‘ dreadful business” of Bertie’s affair.  Victoria, up until now a refreshing ray of sunshine—ok, slight exaggeration, but more upbeat than we had ever given her credit before- Victoria’s life, and the life of her family was plunged into deep mourning.

This is when all that dreadful black comes into play.

Victoria and Albert’s daughters in mourning

Victoria removed herself ,and her family, from public life for many years.  She hung out, behind closed curtains, in her royal palaces. It was not a very cheery time for anyone close to the Queen.  And again, we are reminded that she does best when she has a man- in some form- near her. That man,at this point   of her life, was a servant from her beloved Balmoral Castle in Scotland -John Brown.

John Brown and Queen Victoria by Edwin Landseer

We talk about the portrayal of this phase of her life in the  1997 movie  Her Majesty, Mrs Brown. John Brown was a very dedicated servant to the Queen. He was with her a great deal of time, and she trusted and respected him.  She also slowly came out of her deep mourning during the time he was with her. Was it an improper relationship? Was there scandal? We speculate. Because it’s fun to speculate. Later in her life she has a similar servant /relationship with Abdul Karim. We speculate about that during the podcast as well. Again…fun!

Several years after John Brown, Victoria hung with The Munshi, Abdul Karim

While all this mourning is in progress, life is going on. Children are marrying, grandbabies are being born, and oh, yes, Great Britain is still a country in need of its Queen. Because of changes in British government ( increased power to the House of Commons, lessening  in the House of Lords) the role of the monarchy was shifting. The political roles that the Queen held was waning, although she was still, you know, The Queen.  We track several plummets and rises in her popularity in the podcast, but overall she was had more peaks than valleys.

Bertie Marries! Alexandra, Princess of Denmark

In 1866 she attended the first Opening of Parliament since her husband had died, and she got back to business. We discuss the various Prime Ministers that served during her reign, most notably, Benjamin Disraeli.

Queen Victoria’s children were spread all over Europe. If you click the Special Features tab, you will find exactly how Victoria’s bloodline spread throughout Europe. Her bloodline also spread Hemophilia throughout Royal houses. Her own children, Leopold had the disease and Alice and Beatrice were carriers.

People were literally refusing to be placed next to certain others in this picture. You thought your wedding seating was complicated!

Queen Victoria ruled long enough to celebrate both her Golden (50th) and Diamond (60th) Jubilees. BIG parties . Big. And of course we talk about them…hello? Parties?

Four years following her Diamond Jubilee, at the age of 81, Queen Victoria ended her 63 year reign when she passed away at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. She left very detailed instructions for her funeral, and was laid to rest next to Albert at Frogmore Mausoleum.

Time Travel with The History Chicks

Let’s go to Buckingham Palace: http://www.royal.gov.uk/TheRoyalResidences/BuckinghamPalace/BuckinghamPalace.aspx

Victoria and Albert museum in London? http://www.vam.ac.uk/

Too obvious? How about Balmoral Castle?  You can rent cottages! Sleepover! http://www.balmoralcastle.com/

Adore all things Victorian? You must check out Victoriana.com: http://victoriana.com/

And here is a link to yet another pretty interesting blog, Lisa’s History Room ( and by” interesting”, we mean you can click links and go on adventures within the posts till long past bedtime): http://lisawallerrogers.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/victoria-albert-art-love/ That blog led us to this wonderful collection of the art of Victoria and Albert! http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/vanda/index.asp

We kept reading about the bell like quality to her voice—looked at a lot of disappointing YouTube videos, tried to listen to a BBC recording, and never did hear it. Bumming.  If anyone finds it, let us know, ok?


1997 Her Majesty, Mrs Brown



Queen Victoria at Home, by Michael De-La Noy (This is the one with the family over front and back covers)

Queen Victoria but Christopher Hibbert

And finally, if you want to get your royal webchatter on..and we know some of you adore those messageboards…for all things royal ( please read the rules and be kind) : http://royaldish.com/