Archive for 2013

Episode 38: Jane Austen

Posted 16 April 2013 by
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Episode 38: Jane Austen

Posted 16 April 2013 by
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A little birdie told us that a lot of you wanted an episode about the life and work of Jane Austen.

That would be several little birdies who tweet, post on facebook, write emails and vote on our Guaranteed Content Poll.  During this episode we do exactly what you have asked (over and over again) and chat about the life of author Jane Austen.

The ability to anonymously make wry commentary on social media may have appealed to Miss Austen, but one must wonder if she would have been able to limit herself to a mere 140 characters. (A very special gift from illustrator, Lisa Graves of History Witch)

Jane’s real life wasn’t exactly like the ones that she painted for the heroines in her novels. She was born into a family of modest means and  lived that way for her entire life. Like a few of her characters, her best friend and confidante was her sister – but unlike most of them, she never married. Four of Jane’s novels were published but only within her last few years (and she was never credited by name as the author); two more were published after her death. She did enjoy a social life, but lived a very ordinary, quiet and private existence.  There is only one confirmed picture of her, and even that was a sketch done by her sister. People who knew Jane claimed that it didn’t quite capture her appearance. Oh, Jane, this is but one mystery in your wake!

Sketch on left done by sister Cassandra (she looks irritated, right?) Portrait on right based on that sketch was created many years later

Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775 at Steventon Rectory, Hampshire England where her father, George, was the Oxford-educated parish Rector. Jane was the seventh of eight children, and only the second daughter. Sister Cassandra (who was three years older and named after Mum) would remain close to Jane for her whole life. Parents Austen believed strongly in education and reading and maintained a very loving  (and wildly rambunctious) household. Not only was the home filled with Austen children, but Rev. Austen took in several more boys and turned the home into a boarding school.

After a relatively brief and traumatic stint at a couple of girls boarding schools, Jane’s formal education was complete. Her father’s library and educational materials were available to her and, supplemented by the occasional tutor, she learned to play the piano, speak French, some Italian and do needlework. And she wrote. Quite a bit. Not merely letters, which were the primary communication device of the time, but she began to write poems, short stories, plays and short novels. This collection of work is now known as Jane’s Juvenilia which was eventually published in the 1930’s. The most humorous to us  is this 15 page History of England from the Reign of Henry the 4th to the Death of Charles the 7th: By a Partial, Prejudiced and Ignorant Historian. Illustrated by sister Cassandra, it shows the early wit of a writer who would later mock many a social convention.

As the Austen sisters grew to a marrying age both had episodes of love and heartbreak. Cassandra was engaged for a period, although he died while attempting to earn enough money for them to marry. Jane had two recorded (and one suggested and mysterious) relationships. The first was a hot and heavy flirtation with a young man who, when his parents realized he was smitten with the unmonied Jane, was made an offer he couldn’t refuse and left Jane. The second was a very (oh so very) brief engagement that lasted a whole evening. It wasn’t that Jane didn’t like to socialize, she was very social and loved to dance- but this is one more mystery in her legacy.

Quadrille, a popular dance of Jane’s time.

Why so much mystery? Certainly there was correspondence, or some type of primary source documentation? There was. Accent on “was”. For some reason, Cassandra (as well as some of the Austen brothers) destroyed most (as in: several thousand down to a couple hundred) of the letters that Jane sent. Most of the story of her  adult years had to be cobbled together through other accounts, and some parts will never, truly be understood. For instance: As two unmarried women of the time Jane and Cassandra were utterly dependent upon their family for survival. When Papa retired, the foursome moved to Bath. Jane’s opinions about the move as well as how she felt during that time are mostly unknown as she stopped writing her as yet unpublished novels, and there are few letters that remain from her.

We do know that she carried around three manuscripts- precious cargo they were- as she traveled to visit family and friends while Bath was her home base. Later, she lugged them around again as she and her female relations set to find financial support after the death of her father. It wasn’t until Jane, Cassandra and their mother set up house in Chawton Cottage, part of a property owned by an elder brother, did Jane begin to write again.

Chawton Cottage- Jane’s last happy home and now a museum

And write she did!

In 1811 Jane’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility was published in three volumes. We will cover all of Jane’s books in a separate episode, but publication came pretty quickly from this point until her death. Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma followed in print over the next few years.

First edition Sense and Sensibility by Jane…er, no, sorry…by A Lady.

However, Jane became ill- weak and in chronic pain- her writing slowed down. On July 18th, 1817 at the age of 41, Jane Austen died in the arms of her beloved sister. Her final two novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published together after her death. We cover many more details of Jane’s life, as well as some interesting tidbits about the Georgian and Regency periods,  in the podcast.  We also discuss Jane’s long lasting appeal- why her chronicling and wry observations of the Regency period ignite a level of intrigue in millions wonder who still wonder what other works she may have had in her future if death hadn’t stilled her passion.


Make your plans now to attend one of any number of events worldwide commemorating the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice! Here is a calendar! The closest to us is in Louisville…hmmmm?

You want to meet the other Janeites, right? Get in-depth information and talk about every aspect of the life and work of this woman? Visit the website (facebook page, twitter) of your nearest Jane Austen Society and dive in. Jane Austen Society of North America.

Google it yourself, there are so many websites devoted to Jane that we couldn’t possibly compile a list, merely give you a few to start with. How about-  The Republic of Pemberley? This site is a feast of intel and hosts an active community.

Or maybe- Seeking Jane which is a guide to the locations associated with Jane.

Jane Austen Fight Club video!

For the over 21 crowd: The Jane Austen Drinking Game. (Countenance: A calm and composed facial expression. Continence: The ability to retain bodily discharge. Yes, let’s all laugh again.)

While you are clicking around online, go take a tour of Jane Austen’s House Museum which is kind enough to provide a virtual tour (Oh, you know we love a good virtual tour).  This is is where she wrote the bulk of her published novels and was her last home. Or better: plan a trip around Austen! There are maaaany websites to assist you on this, and most of the links we provided will get you started, here is one to start with The World of Jane Austen. Remember to send us a postcard!

Books! Again, we had a stack of materials to choose from and narrowed it down to our favorites (although many others were quite good and it is fair to say that we have OD’d on Austen)

By Adams, Buchanan and Gesch

By Daniel Pool

Catherine Reef (YA book)

Claire Tomalin

Natalie Tyler

Jane Austen: A family Record (this is the book Beckett sniffs) by William Austen-Leigh and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh

We always recommend Supersizers, Go! and they don’t disappoint with the episode based on the Regency Period.

A very big thank you to Lisa Graves who crafted the irrelevant Jane illustration tweeting from the top of this post. We both adore her work and style (she also graciously did the illustration for our Julia Child episode) and are thrilled to share that she has author/illustrated a History Witch book coming in June! Visit her site History Witch for more of her charming women’s history illustrations and oddities about some of histories most colorful women.

As always, our music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at
(Closing song: Know Which Way the Wind Blows” by The Postmarks)

Episode 37A Minicast: The Women of Oz

Posted 22 March 2013 by
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During our full length Oz episode we talked about several women who were associated with Oz the stories: Dorothy, Ozma, the witches, Maud Gage Baum and others. We didn’t talk about the women associated with the 1939 MGM classic, The Wizard of Oz: Judy Garland, Billie Burke and Margaret Hamilton. Consider them now covered in this chat about the lives of the three female lead actresses from that timeless musical.

Margaret Hamilton, Judy Garland and Billie Burke circa 1939

Judy Garland

Francis Ethel Gumm was born on June 10, 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota to Francis and Ethel Gumm. What her parents lacked in creative baby naming, they made up for in show business savvy and soon “Baby” was performing with her two older sisters on the vaudeville stage run by her parents. A dalliance of Papa forced the family to move to California four years after her birth where they opened another vaudeville theater and Mama set to making her darlings stars.

The Gumm Sisters

The girls studied singing, dancing, acting and went on tour with their mother managing them. There are conflicting stories about how they changed their name to Garland- but the Garland sisters they became for one year…until the trio broke up when older sister Suzy eloped.

Francis, now called Judy,became a solo act and at 13 signed with MGM. They didn’t know exactly how to cast her- too old for little girl roles, not sexy or skinny enough for vava-voom teen roles- they found a place for her paired with Boy Teen Hearthrob- Mickey Rooney. On a grueling filming schedule, and physically curving out they also put her on amphetamines to give her energy and help her get thin, and sleeping pills to counteract those. (We all know this doesn’t end well, right?)

At the age of 16 she was cast in the role of Dorothy.(And we all know how that worked out, too, right?)

After Oz, Judy went on to make many more musicals and her own life became more dramatic than any film. First married at 19 to band leader, David Rose-that marriage ended three years later when she fell for film director Vincent Minelli. That marriage lasted for one child (Liza) and about six years. By 30 she was twice divorced, was becoming known as being unreliable and dropped by MGM.

A third marriage to producer Sid Luft, two more children (Lorna and Joey) and a career touring as a stage act followed. She did make a few more movies, had a short lived television variety show, a very bitter divorce, two more marriages before financial financial troubles really set in. On June 22nd 1969 while in London she died of an accidental drug overdose.

She was only 47.

Judy Garland

Billie Burke

(Deep breath) Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke was born on August 7th, 1884 in Washington, DC. Her father was a circus clown (no, really, he was!) and she spent a great deal of her childhood traveling with the circus…really! We know, cool.  At 18 her family settled in London where she made her stage debut as an actress. By age 22 she was on Broadway. Shortly after that, Hollywood was calling and she answered. She decided that she preferred stage work and headed back to New York.

Billie Burke in Vanity Fair, 1920

It was there that she met her husband, show producer, Florenz Ziegfeld. Marriage and one child followed, but the family was plummeted into financial difficulties during the Crash of ’29. Within three years, Flo would be dead and Billie was back in movies to support her and her daughter, Patricia. (For more on Flo Ziegfeld and his show, see this post by our friends, The Bowery Boys)

Billie was usually type-cast as an upper class ditz with a high-pitched voice. She mostly appeared in comedies and musicals and in 1938- at the age of 54 we might add- she was cast to play Glinda, the good witch.

Billie at age 69…we all should age this well! Such natural beauty.

After Oz her career really didn’t slow down much. She would ultimately make over 80 movies,, have her own radio and television shows, and appear in stage productions. She retired from acting in 1960, and died from natural causes on May 14th, 1979 at the age of 85.

Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Brainard Hamilton was born on December 9th, 1902 in Cleveland, Ohio. She attended an all-girls school and while she made her stage debut at 18, her parents insisted that she go to college. After college she became a kindergarten teacher, married and had one son…this life doesn’t really sound like the life of a movie star, does it? She did begin her acting career on the New York stage, but once she divorced her husband and was left to raise her son alone she kicked that acting career into overdrive.

A youngish Maggie

As a character actress, Margaret thought that she stood a better chance of getting work if she didn’t sign with one studio. Instead she made a very nice living traveling between them all and asking for weekly wages. When she was cast in Oz, she was guaranteed six weeks work…which turned into 23!

Her post Oz career included radio shows, television shows, a soap opera, and a very long run as the spokesperson for a coffee company. She was a lifelong supporter of education, made over 70 films and appeared in almost as many stage productions.

Margaret Hamilton, nothing like the witch…not one bit.

Following a heart attack, Margaret died in her sleep at the age of 82 on May 16th, 1985.

For media and book links to all things Oz, please see the shownotes from the Episode 37: The Wizard of Oz

As always, music comes courtesy of Music Alley, visit them at

Episode 37: The Wizard of Oz

Posted 8 March 2013 by
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Once a season we step away from factual subjects and focus on a fictional one. This season we traveled to the land of Oz and took a look around.

“But Chicks,” you say,”a Wizard is a man.”

To that we respond: Thank you for pointing this out. Yes, the Wizard is a man, and L. Frank Baum is a man…but Oz is full of women! Dorothy! Glinda! Ozma! Oz is a land of female rulers and strong charactered inhabitants- how could we not talk about it? (Besides, we like fantasy, okay? And there are several points in the Six Degrees of History Chicks Separation game with this subject.  Just trust us.)

W.W. Denslow illustration from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

We’re sure several images popped into your head when you saw the title, and we will cover most of them in this episode…except three: Judy Garland, Billie Burke and Margaret Hamilton. We decided to have a separate conversation about the lives of the three female stars of the 1939 movie . That chat will be posted as a companion minicast .

In 1900 L. Frank Baum introduced the world to the imaginary land of Oz. It wasn’t the first children’s book that he had written-but it would become a series that he would work on for the rest of his life that is full of characters, settings and storylines that are still being explored today.

Born in 1856 in  Chittenango, New York, Lyman Frank Baum was the son of a barrel maker and occupational experimenter who struck it rich in the oil business- Benjamin Baum and his wife, Cynthia Stanton Baum. Frank was a sick child with a weak heart but a big imagination. He also had the gift of very indulgent parents.

Aside from a short stint at Peekskill Military Academy (where there was, literally, a yellow brick road), Frank was educated at home by tutors and  parents who helped him peruse any interests he had. When he took an interest in the printing process, his parents bought him a home printing press. Later when he took an interest in acting, they got him a theater.

Franks brief experience in a military school…not exactly his thing

Once grown, he began touring with an acting company until he met Maud Gage- daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s co-author Matilda Jocelyn Gage. Love. Within a year they were married, and when she became pregnant with the first of four sons, the acting life ended and Frank the dreamer needed to become Frank the supporter.

He did not find success as a chicken breeder, store owner, newspaper man, or traveling salesman. One day he wrote out the Mother Goose rhymes that he had been sharing with his sons and they became his first book- Mother Goose in Prose. His second was a spin-off of that one, Father Goose: His Book.

Shortly after these two successes, he wrote down the stories he had been telling his sons and the neighborhood kids about a little girl named Dorothy in a magical land named Oz. With clever illustrations by W.W. Denslow, The Wizard of Oz was a hit.

Frank brought the story to the theater with a stage version ( although the adult cast wasn’t exactly what he had in mind when he wrote the story), and this also was a success. While he had no interest in writing another Oz book, he did have an interest in putting food on the table for his family. Frank Baum was an imaginative writer, but a businessman he was not and he would earn and lose his wealth many times over the years. Within four years of the first Oz book he was publishing a second. He would write 13 sequels to the original story (including our favorite- Ozma of Oz).

Shh, don’t tell the others, but this is our favorite

But that’s not all! Frank wrote several books and plays under pseudonyms and several of those were women’s names- the most successful being a series for teenage girls, Aunt Jane’s Nieces, under the pen name, Edyth Van Dyne.

L. Frank Baum circa 1911

Frank Baum died on May 6th, 1919 at the age of 92. His last book, Glinda of Oz,  was published posthumously a year later.

But the Oz books couldn’t end! Not only was the world enthralled with the story, it was making some serious coin for its publishers. After Frank’s death another 36 books would be written by a variety of authors making up what is considered the official 40 book Oz series.

About 38 years down the yellow brick road technology caught up with the stories. After Walt Disney scored big time with Snow White, movie makers were looking for the next big fairy tale and MGM landed Oz. We geek out about the making of this iconic movie for quite a while during the podcast. We chat about trivia as well as the differences between the movie and the beloved books (Like the shoes: Dorothy originally was gifted a pair of silver shoes, but red showed up so much nicer in Technicolor.)

2.6 million dollars, five directors, scores of writers, two Tin Man actors, and a shooting schedule that stretched from 6 weeks to 23 The Wizard of Oz finally opened…

Not the first technicolor movie by a long shot and didn’t follow the books exactly (and we cover those differences in the podcast), 1939 MGM movie poster

…and didn’t quite do as well at the box-office as you would have expected. While this film lasts on mostly due to annual televised showings beginning in the mid 1950’s- the movie wasn’t a flop by any standard, but it did originally fail to be a financial success. The movie did win two Academy Awards as well as a special award for 16 year-old Judy Garland.


So you really don’t want to read all the books in the Oz series, we get that- 40 is a lot of books. Here is a really fun shortcut to the plots and characters of each book as well as all the original cover art to them. Maybe after you read these reviews you will give in and get one of the books. And another. And another. Hey, fantasy series are all the rage these days- there is a reason and Oz started them all. Mari Ness on TOR.COM

Other than the books in the Oz series, we didn’t have a lot of recommendations for this episode. We  think that the Annotated Wizard of Oz was pretty terrific, as well as the Wicked Years series by Gregory McGuire and Was by Geoff Ryman (very dark, but very good).

Annotated Wizard of Oz edited by Michael Patrick Hearn

Was by, Geoff Ryman

The Wicked Series by Gregory Maguire (also available on and you can get a free book just by clicking the link to the far right, no, up higher…just sayin’)

And as far as movies go, get thee to the library and borrow the 3 -disc Collector’s Edition of the 1939 movie! So many special features you will be all Oz’d up in no time!

1978 brought a very interesting version of movie (it had previously been an Tony award winning Broadway play) The Wiz starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. Make your own judgement if it’s destined for Cult Movie Classic status or not.

1978 musical The Wiz

You can catch Tin Man, the Sci-Fi channel mini-series starring Zooey Deschenel, streaming on Netflix and decide if you think it’s good (and forgive Zooey for this one) like Susan, or if you can’t get past the first episode like Beckett.

Classic Oz touches sprinkled through story in semi Once Upon a Time style

Join in the serious business at the International Wizard of Oz Clubs, or join some chat with the Royal Historians and all at The Royal Website of Oz.

The Studio 360 podcast episode “American Icons: The Wizard of Oz” can be found here, or on ITunes: Studio 360

Want to read the rest of the Evil Overlord list? Find it here: The Evil Overlord List

Investigate your name’s popularity over time at The Baby Name Wizard (warning! It’s addictive!): Baby Name Wizard

Finally, there are a pair of the Ruby Slippers Judy Garland wore in the movie at the Smithsonian, but if you are looking for an Oz museum as you cross Kansas, here is one in Wamego, Kansas ( just  east of Manhattan). We have not been, but if you have let us know how it is in the comments!

On display in Washington, one pair of the movie ruby slippers

As always, our music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at
(closing song – If I Only Had a Brain by Elijah Tucker)

BONUS MATERIAL: The Declaration of Sentiments (1848)

Posted 14 February 2013 by
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Episode 36: Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Posted 13 February 2013 by
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Before there were suffragists to march and fight for the vote, there was Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Before she teamed up with another superhero for women’s rights, Elizabeth was a daughter, a sister, a wife, and a mother. Then, one warm summer day in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York she stood up, gave her first public speech and helped to start a movement.

Elizabeth Cady was born in November 12, 1815 in Johnstown, NY. She was the eighth of eleven children of  Daniel- a lawyer and judge- and Margaret Cady. All but one of their sons died in infancy and Daniel’s hope rested on his surviving son, Eleazar. That hope was crushed when he, too died at the age of 20. Elizabeth, then 11, couldn’t understand why she couldn’t fulfill the hopes of her father who said to her, “I wish you were a boy.”

She tried- she rode horseback and tried to do “boy” activites. She studied hard and excelled academically but there was one thing that she couldn’t control and it was the one thing that held her back: her gender.  Once she exhausted the educational options that she had, Elizabeth became involved in the Abolitionist and Temperance movements and began down a pretty traditional path when she married Henry B. Stanton.

Well, sort of traditional- except that she and Henry, a Reformer working to abolish slavery, took the word, “obey” out of the traditional vows, and their first voyage after marriage was to London for a World Anti-Slavery Convention. How’s that for a honeymoon? Of course, there is a lot more to the story (A LOT- we tell you this every time, you have to listen to the podcast to get all the juicy bits)- but while in London Elizabeth’s eyes were opened to several things. The one that impacts this tale, is the way that women were treated- even delegates at the convention who were female were not allowed to participate in any more than an observational role. She also met some rock stars in the human rights arena but during her time not participating in the proceedings, she and Lucretia Mott- a Quaker preacher who was very active in the anti-slavery movement- formed a friendship that would have a significant impact on Elizabeth’s life in a few years.

But first Elizabeth lived the married life of the wife of a lawyer in Boston. She had three children in short order and set up housekeeping in the city. She enjoyed her life a great deal- hello!- she was hobnobbing with the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson. But all good things must end and the family moved to Seneca Falls, NY (upstate, to the left- about halfway between Albany and Buffalo). In this new phase of her life she wasn’t as content as she had been in the city. She kept having babies (seven in total), but lacked the staff , support and outside interests that she had in Boston. Henry traveled a great deal as an anti-slavery lawyer and politician- and Elizabeth got caught up in the drudgery of small town life.

Elizabeth and two of her boys around the time of the First Women’s Rights Convention

One day, her old friend Lucretia Mott came to town and Elizabeth was invited for tea with her. Shortly after this the women present had created, advertised and were holding the First Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls (if this story is new to you, THIS is one of the historical turning points that President Obama was referencing in his 2013 inaugural speech). In front of an audience of about 300 people who had packed into the Wesleyan Chapel Elizabeth wrote and delivered her first public speech ever, the Declaration of Sentiments based on Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. The points outlined in the speech were designed to create laws that protected women and put women on equal footing legally with men. And the biggie? The right to vote.

Now part of the Women’s Rights National Park, the Wesleyan Chapel held the first Convention. (photo courtesy nps)

From where we are sitting suffrage for women seems like a no-brainer, but in this time it was fairly scandalous. Women at the time were not considered intelligent enough to sit on a jury, let alone own property, have a legal say in the welfare of their own children, or help to decide the government of their own country. 100 people signed the Declaration that day, mostly women but some men- vowing to do what they could to create change. Elizabeth, however, was torn. She was becoming rather famous for her speech but she felt strong devotion and loyalty to her family. How could she help the cause when her primary responsibilities required her to stay home?

Enter one Susan B. Anthony. The two met one day and not only was a friendship  formed- but a partnership. Elizabeth could write the words, and Susan- who was single and not tied to family obligations- could travel to deliver them. Elizabeth would later say, “I forged the thunderbolt, she fired it.”

For the next 50 years the two would work together on the cause of women’s rights.

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth later in life, they even look like the opposites that they were, don’t they?

It wasn’t easy, and they would often disagree. For instance, at one point Susan thought that the sole mission should be to get women the vote, while Elizabeth thought more broadly to religious and legal freedoms. But work together they did. For the most part, Susan did the leg work and Elizabeth did the brain work. But often Susan would travel to Elizabeth’s home and help out with domestic chores so that new speeches could be written.

The mahogany table that the women would work at at Elizabeth’s house and where Elizabeth wrote the Declaration. It later was at her funeral.

During that time they put in years of hard work, devotion, standing up for what they thought was right all with a goal of women’s suffrage in their minds and actions. It’s a long story and we go into some detail during the podcast, but it is filled with success and failure; determination and drive; support and alienation from those who they encountered; work for not only women’s suffrage but temperance and abolition, too. Elizabeth did it all while raising her family without much help from her traveling husband.

As the two women slowed down, just a bit- they got together to document the tale of the work done thus far in a book that would take years to write- The History of  Women’s Sufferage. Susan managed to vote in an election, although she was famously arrested, charged and fined $100 for her attempt. Elizabeth spoke throughout Europe and caused quite a ruckus when she re-wrote the Bible into The Women’s Bible offering counter-discussions for time honored interpretation of scripture from Genesis to Revelation. She also wrote her memoirs, Eighty Years and More.  Together they wrote a document and got it into the rights hands to be presented to Congress. This little document, very short, but very important, would be presented in every session for the next 45 years.

On October 26,1902, Elizabeth was 86 years old and living in New York City with her daughter. She was losing her eyesight and in constant need of physical assistance. She asked for assistance to stand, took in the view for several minutes, then was instructed by her family to sit she lay down and took a nap. That day she died in her sleep.

Susan would carry on the fight for the next four years, dying in 1906.

In 1920 the document that they had prepared was finally ratified and became the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote.


Companion podcast! Beckett reads the Declaration of Sentiments in a companion podcast. CLICK HERE .

Museum! If you happen to be near Seneca Falls, NY, you have to (have to…must, really!) visit the Women’s Rights National Historic Park. There are four properties including Elizabeth’s house and the Wesleyan Chapel where the first Women’s Rights Convention was held.

If you are interested in reading some of the works of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, try The Papers Project or the National Archives Teaching with Documents site. A History of Women’s Suffrage and The Women’s Bible are in the public domain and can be read through Project Gutenberg.

One of the organizations that Elizabeth helped to found and was the first president, The National American Women’s Suffrage Association morphed after the 19th Amendment into the League of Women Voters and is still an active organization today.

THE 19th Amendment!

Movies- we recommend this one Ken Burn’s documentary that is streaming on Amazon (Or get it from your library), Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.


Sisters: The lives of America’s Suffragists by Jean H. Baker

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed The World by Penny Colman

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: A Radical for Women’s Rights by Elizabeth Griffith

Elizabeth Cady Stanton:An American Life by Lori D. Ginzberg

Kid’s book Fave: Elizabeth Leads the Way by Tanya Lee Stone illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon

And finally, Elizabeth is in this book- but so are many others, but it’s just a great read (and if you have anyone else attributed to this quote than the author of this book on your Pinterest boards- go change it now!)

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Susan here. I stand corrected. The dance that my kids learn in physical education not history class in middle school is the Cotton Eyed Joe. Not necessarily a Missouri dance but one that originated in the south prior to the Civil War with probable slave origins. I still think it’s wonderful that a folk dance is taught, and remembered in this day and age. Take that Cupid Shuffle and we’ll see where you are in 150+ years.

As always music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at

Episode 35: Josephine Baker (Part 2)

Posted 21 January 2013 by
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Shownotes Episode 35: Josephine Baker, Part Two

Posted 21 January 2013 by
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In this episode we continue our chat about the many acts in the life of Josephine Baker. When we went to intermission, Ms Baker was touring  the world as an entertainment superstar with the help of her manager/fake husband/fake Count, Pepito Abatino. The one place that she had left to embrace her was her native country, the good ol’ US of A. When the house lights went up we were biting our nails! Would her homeland love and appreciate her as much as the people of other continents? Could Josephine go home?

Act Three

(It’s 1934 and Josephine  is taking the stage at the Ziegfield Follies in New York expecting a warm and loving response)

Crickets chirp.

Josephine didn’t have to get far onto US soil before she faced racial prejudice. As a ‘married” couple she and Pepito could share a hotel room, but not an entry door into the hotel. Her performances were not met with a warm reception for a variety of reasons: she danced with white male partners, her level of undress made audiences uncomfortable, and the songs that she was required to sing were not suitable for her voice. Her part in the show was your basic hot mess. Josephine blamed Pepito and sent him away, back to France ending their ten year relationship…and quite possibly his life. He was hospitalized and died of unknown causes a few weeks later. Stomach cancer or a broken heart?

Josephine got out of her contract and the US as quickly as possible. Shortly afterward she married Jean Lion, a wealthy French businessman. With this marriage she legally became a French citizen and had hopes of becoming a mother. Jean apparently had high hopes of her becoming his most fabulous accessory, a trophy wife. But first, Josephine must say good-bye to her public and set off on a farewell tour.

The only thing that fully got the good-bye and farewell part is the marriage; it doesn’t last long.

But our newly minted French citizen had some very important work in her future. WWII began and she volunteered to assist the war effort for her country. Her touring  continued from country to country with one major difference: She was doing it as a spy for the French Resistance.  She used her lifestyle of hobnobbing with those in the know to get intel and smuggled it back with her hat boxes and costumes, and eventually raised in ranks within the French Free Air Force.

Josephine in uniform

As always we go into much more detail in the podcast but essentially her spy duties came to a halt when she was hospitalized in Casablanca for 19 months.

But that wasn’t the end of  the war efforts of our heroine! Once recuperated, she went back on the road, this time  helping to spread a message of brotherly love by entertaining racially integrated audiences of soldiers. Ultimately she received two prestigious awards for her work in the war, the Croix de Guerre and the Medal of Resistance. And by the end of the war, she entered her fourth marriage, to her band conductor- Jo Boullion.

The war ws over, but Josephine still has some fight in her. At this point in her life, she directed it toward the fight for racial equality. She not only had lofty goals she had big…no, massive plans.

First she and Jo remodeled an old castle she named Les Milandes, in the south of France, into a tourist destination with a theme of brotherly love. This pricey undertaking required some capital, so off she went on another world tour. This time she was confronted with more racial barriers and opportunities for her to use her celebrity. One, an incident in New York’s famous Stork Club that involved then popular newscaster, Walter Winchell, got her banned from reentering the US for many years. (It’s a doozie, and we gossip on about the details in the podcast)

Next up, Josephine embarked on a plan to finally put herself in the role of a lifetime: Mother. She and Jo began to adopt babies of all colors and nationalities from around the world. They named the TWELVE children, The Rainbow Tribe.

Jo and Josephine with their young, and as yet incomplete, tribe

But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine for this unique family.

Act Four

(Open on Jo driving away from Les Milandes, Josephine and 12 stunned children left in his wake)

Josephine and Jo didn’t see eye-to-eye on many things. Ahem, many – but one important one being the children: How many? How to raise them? When was enough enough?  When Josephine was on tour, the children were raised by Jo and a series of nannies at Les Milandes. Mama would breeze in, sometimes with a new brother or sister- take a few pictures, love on them all, then go back on the road. The costs of the constant renovations to the castle were astronomical, and eventually she was so far in debt she couldn’t get ahead. Jo couldn’t understand her, deal with her, take it- whatever his reasons, he left  – although they never divorced.

On one hand she had this falling down resort that is getting her more and more in debt each day and is filled with her very large  family.

The tribe has grown and are growing up

On the other hand, she was doing civil rights work all over the world as she was touring .  She even spoke with Martin Luther King, Jr at the March on Washington as the only official woman speaker.

Josephine at the March on Washington

So what hand won?

Josephine after being forced out of Les Milandes

Not Les Milandes. She got physically tossed out of it. But that’s again, not the end. Over the next few years, in not so short order:  Princess Grace  rescued her, helped set her up in a sweet villa in Monaco and funds a comeback show.

Opening night in Paris. It’s April, 1975 and Josephine is 68 years old. Does the old girl still have what it takes, or has Paris already seen the best she had to offer years before? Is she a washed up has-been, or a timeless superstar?

When the reviews came in the roaring cry was… Superstar!

Josephine was back on the stage, the cheers of the crowd ringing in her ears- she was a success.

The next day, no one could wake her as she lay among her rave reviews in the papers. She would never awake again.  Within the week she was declared dead of a brain hemorrhage on April 12, 1975.

Josephine’s funeral procession through the streets of Paris



You can visit Les Milandes without ever leaving your house! This is a really fun website and one of the few where we don’t mind music. Les Milandes Website.

If you are leaving your house and headed to New York, maybe you can dine at Chez Josephine, NYC.

Although her life really reads like a movie, this is the one movie that we could get our hands on: 1991 The Josephine Baker Story starring Lynn Whitfield.

We know you like your books and here are the ones that we recommend for this woman:

Children’s book: Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Middle Grade-Josephine Baker: Entertainer by Alan Schroeder

Have your own compare and contrast fest with these three biographies:

The Josephine Baker Story by Ean Wood

Josephine Baker: The Hungry Heart by Jean-Claude Baker and Chris Chase

Josephine by Josephine Baker and Jo Bouillion

Josephine Baker: Image and Icon by Olivia Gonzales

As always, our music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at

Episode 34: Josephine Baker,Part One

Posted 13 January 2013 by
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Josephine Baker is often remembered simply as the woman who danced wearing nothing but a skirt of bananas in Paris during the 1920’s. But her life was far from simple. She was not only a dancer and singer, but also a spy, a civil rights activist and a mother.  She reinvented her life by sheer will and wits so many times that it’s not surprising that there are as many variations to her tale as there were roles in her life.

A young Josephine Baker

When we sat down to talk about this unique woman, we went a little long. Josephine wrote several auto-biographies- each painting a slightly different picture of her life. Several more biographies were written after her death- each giving slightly different details. Once we began our chat, we often ran into conflicting stories…it was so cool! Did she or didn’t she? Was she or wasn’t she? So many versions!

History rocks. It really does.

***And the story of Josephine’s life is also a little racy, parents may want to preview  the podcast first it to decide if it’s age appropriate for their kids.***

We have divided our conversation into two parts, and the show notes into acts. She was different from anyone in her generation (although she reminded us of several woman since) it seems fitting that our coverage of her life should be a bit different as well.


(Open on a poor, urban neighborhood in 1906)

On June 3, in St. Louis, Missouri Freda Josephine McDonald was born to Carrie McDonald. Listed as her father on her birth certificate:”Edw”. Mysterious! The father of record is Eddie Carson, a drummer who Carrie had spent a great deal of time with. Eddie would deny his role in the life of the baby who her mother nicknamed, “Tumpy”.  To deepen the paternal mystery- Carrie was very dark skinned, and Josephine was quite light. Even her birth had enough gaps to allow various tales to emerge. Hold on tight for the rest of her life!

We know this: She was born into poverty and lived in poverty for her entire childhood. Mama Carrie would pass Josephine back and forth between Grandmother Caroline and Aunt Elvira and Carrie’s home. As always we go into greater detail during the podcast, but Carrie soon married Arthur Martin and the couple would have three more children. Carrie worked as a laundress, Arthur worked at whatever he could whenever he could, but the family was never able to dig themselves out of poverty.

Josephine was sent to school, but she didn’t attend for long. Some times she was shipped off to work for families other times, as she got older, she would simply skip class.  When she was ten, race relations is St. Louis heated up and resulted in a serious time of rioting.

A trolley in East St. Louis is blocked by rioters in 1917

While East St. Louis burned during the riots, Josephine was safely on the OTHER side of the city. But the event most probably impacted her life, having such hatred and danger within walking distance would have to have been frightening.

At the age of 13, Josephine had her first marriage to Willie Wells, a steelworker. This didn’t last long, something about Josephine faking a pregnancy…or maybe being pregnant and having an abortion led to Willie leaving and never returning.


(Open on a young Josephine staring wistfully at an old, run down but still operational theater)

So maybe marriage wasn’t Josephine’s ticket out of her sad family life. She had been drawn to the theater, most specifically the Booker T. Washington Theater. There she would watch and imitate the acts, then take what she had learned outside to entertain patrons waiting for a show to begin. Eventually she worked her way into a dance troupe called, The Dixie Steppers.

With this troupe she would eventually go on the road, performing all over the south-eastern portion of the US and then heading north to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

By the time  Josephine reached Philly she had begun to create the comedic moves and offstage persona that would take her far.

But first, she had to get married again. This time the man, Billy Baker, gave her a small moment of familial stability and the last name that she would use for the rest of her life.

While Josephine had been taking steps up the performance ladder she kept her eye on the next level. With a few fancy moves of her own, the untrained dancer earned a spot on the first all-black show that played on Broadway, Shuffle Along.

So long, Philly and so long Billy!

In New York, and traveling throughout the country with the road show, Josephine honed her craft to the best of her ability, although was probably a choreographers nightmare. She was not only an untrained dancer, but her style included rolling her eyes, making funny faces and breaking into the dances of the age. While the audiences loved her comedic antics, the rest of the cast wasn’t amused about being upstaged. Another challenge for her was the color of her skin. Too light for some chorus lines, too dark for others.

Josephine moved to other shows when Shuffle Along closed, and was a prominent figure in the Black Renaissance of Harlem during the early 1920’s. She watched other successful acts, added (read:stole) new material for hers and worked more on her off-stage diva persona. She would strut around the streets and in after-hours clubs in increasingly outlandish outfits making sure that she was seen by as many eyes as possible. She dated as many men as she could, and worked day and night to develop a wild and exotic image.

In modern vernacular- she was establishing her brand.

Through another series of situations where she saw an opportunity and clawed her way to it,  19 year-old Josephine was soon cast in a new show being produced by an American named Caroline Reagan who wanted to bring the flavor of the Black Renaissance and American Jazz…to Paris.

(Montage to show almost overnight success of rising  American chorus girl to Superstar in Paris)

Josephine entertains Parisians with exotic American dances like The Charleston and other truly exotic routines

Josephine shows off the costume (plus a bikini top that she wouldn’t have been wearing on stage) for her famous Banana Dance

The set for her Banana Dance

An almost overnight sensation, Josephine’s offstage and onstage personas melt into one bright, exotic superstar. Here with her pet cheetah, Chiquita

How did she climb so far, so fast in a country where she could barely speak the language? Partially because she was an exotic act to them from her first step on stage- they hadn’t seen anything like her and her charisma and antics won them over. Partially because she was willing to reinvent herself as audiences bored of her act. Partially because she was bold and brazen and very little frightened her. And partially because of a man she met early on in her days in France- “Count” Pepito de Abatino. Pepito was as much of a Count as Josephine was- that is to say, not at all. But when she paired up with him as her manager (and lover and fake husband) she began to soar. Paris couldn’t contain her so she toured all through Europe and South America causing both scandal and admiration as she did.

Josephine and Pepito, Paris circa 1927

Josephine was huge in a great portion of the world, but her native country had yet to embrace her. Ten years after Pepito took her career to a level she had never imagined, he took her someplace that she dreamed of taking like she had Europe. He got her a booking in America. Could Josephine become a superstar on her native soil? Would her own country shun or warmly welcome her arrival?



We will post all of our book and media recommendations in Part Two, but thought you might like a select YouTube tour of Josephine’s life. All of the videos are PG -rated and will let you see her talent, her beauty and how she progressed through the years.

BANANA DANCE- Yes, we know- this is what you want to see and here is a version with a top on. Just watching this one video, we quickly saw what it was, that X factor that she possessed that drew people to see her. Lookit those bananas move!

From silent film 1927- This clip shows you her facial expressions and dance style- the moves that got her noticed even with no formal training.

Princess Tam Tam 1935– This is a short clip from one of her movies. She appears first at about 2:30, but the stage show is fun to watch.

Cha Cha circa 1950 – This is Josephine later in life, singing. She’s come a very long way (Baby) from the young banana dancer, don’t you think? Don’t Touch my Tomatos, and Cha Cha

Short interview with her later in life (SPOILER ALERT: This covers material in Part Two- it happened, you can read all about it, but we didn’t want to spoil it if you are waiting for us to tell you the story). This is in French. So you don’t speak french, so what? Just watch and hear her own voice talking in the language of her adopted country. She is watching Bridget Bardot speak on her behalf  from her home in the early 1960’s.

As always, music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at