Barbe-Nicole Clicquot lived an upper-class life during a tumultuous time in French history and, upon her marriage, worked with her husband in a very unusual capacity: helping to run a family vineyard. But, when he passed away at a very young age, she made an unusual and audacious choice about how to live her life.
Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin was born on December 7, 1777, in Reims, France. She was the eldest of three children of Nicholas and Jeanne-Clementine Ponsardin. Her father, a wealthy textile merchant, hobnobber with royalty, and a very fast (and smart) talker was able to keep the family safe and their fortunes intact during the French Revolution and all the changes in government that happened afterward.
Barbe-Nicole was married at 20 to the 24-year-old lad next door, Francois Clicquot. They had quite a bit in common and soon added to that list with: “learn all about becoming a vigneron” and running the Clicquot-Murion and Son vineyard, a side business in Francois’ own family’s textile business. They had one daughter, Clementine, and faced one failure after another trying to get the wine business off the ground.
And then, Francois died when Barbe-Nicole was just 27. Over a life of genteel widowhood or perhaps, remarriage, she chose to continue the work that they had begun together. With the assistance of her generous father-in-law, a mentor/temporary partner in the wine business, and a very enthusiastic outside salesman, Louis Bohne, the Veuve (that means, “widow” in French) Clicquot changed the company name to Veuve Clicquot and got very, very busy. She followed the same tradition that she and Francois had set: one failure after another during the reign of Napoleon who kept getting into war with the very countries that she was trying to establish a business in.
Finally, she got her big break when Russian soldiers took control of the city of Reims, fell in love with her outstanding sparkling wine, and became ambassadors for her product back in Russia.
Barbe-Nicole’s is a tale of defying the odds, planning ahead despite every evidence that you should quit, perfecting your craft and preparing for success whenever it may strike, and succeeding at a time in life when most women were…well, certainly not running a successful, international company and creating innovations that would be used for centuries.
Along the way, we dispel some myths about the beverage, give a mini-lesson in champagne production, talk about life in France during the beginning of the 1800s, and tell the story of a remarkable woman who became the face of champagne and the head of a world-famous champagne house.
Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot died after a very long life and a great deal of success on July 29, 1866, at the age of 89.
Time Travel With The History Chicks
The epicenter of Veuve Clicquot is their website. There’s lots of marketing (Barbe-Nicole would be proud) but also some things to discover about the Grande Dame herself and you can book a visit at the vineyard (you know, for the next time you’re in France!)
Madame Clicquot: A Revolutionary Musical cast recording, “Vintage 2023!”
While we can’t comment on the story holding up over time, there are several versions of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma (“Emmuska”) Orczy for you to choose from: Here’s a free audio version on Libravox and the version we discussed was the 1999 televised series with Elizabeth McGovern (oh heeeey, it’s Cora Crowley!)
The jury is still out on the quality of the 2023 movie, Widow Clicquot which (as of recording) was just premiering at the Toronto Film Festival. There isn’t even a trailer to share yet (as of this writing) but here is an early review from IndieWire. We’re going to wait and judge it for ourselves!
Join us on our Facebook private page, The History Chicks Podcast Lounge, and join the conversation about what YOUR Vitamin H/Macaroni and Cheese movie is (this only makes sense after you listen to the podcast!)
The song in the middle is Champagne by Leht Mo Jo, and the end song is That’s What Hopes Are For by Emma Wallace both used with permission,
We’ve gone fishin’…okay, not real fishing, but we have taken a little summer break to focus on some life transitions that we have going on in our personal lives. Because one of them has to do with sending our sons off to the next chapters in their lives and facing empty nests ourselves, we thought of Lillian Gilbreth. Not only because she had many children herself, or because we both admire her so much for all she did as a working mom when working moms were very rare (in her social class, anyway.) We didn’t think of her because of her long-lasting and still-in-use work to make women’s lives easier (and men’s, of course.) Nope. We thought of this episode because both of our about-to-be-launched sons are in it! Not only is Beckett’s son in the 30-Second Summary, but the boys, who were 10 at the time, were causing a ruckus while we were recording!
This summer we’re all Barbie Girls, but the origin of this iconic doll stems from a very real woman, Ruth Handler. After seeing the movie, we thought that listening to Barbie and Ruth’s history really would enhance the experience–there are A LOT of Barbie history Easter Eggs in there, thanks Greta Gerwig!
This episode was recorded several years ago, and the entire shownotes can be found HERE! SHOWNOTES ARE HERE!
*The beginning section of part two of this episode, the story of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, has the strongest Little Ears warning we’ve ever had. Adults, please preview this before kids (or really, anyone who is sensitive to violent content) listen. You can pick her story back up at the 48:00 minute mark.*
After our discussion about the heritage of Queen Charlotte, we decided to divide and conquer with two mini-episodes on aristocratic women of color in the Georgian and Victorian eras.
In late April we set off on our first Field Trip of 2023 with a whirlwind tour of Washington, D.C. with 40 of our newest friends. It’s hard to get away for the eight or nine days of our other Field Trips, so what can we see and do in half that time?
The answer: a lot.
We outlined the trip in the episode from the first night to the last final dinner together and gave our fellow travelers a chance to share their impressions, highlights, photos, and lessons that they learned from the trip.
We began with cocktails and a trolly tour of the nation’s capital at night. All the monuments and buildings were lit and sparkling–it was a magical way to see the city as a whole.
On our first full day, we toured the museum and estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post, Hillwood, from the mansion to the gardens and a special visit to the archives. That afternoon we visited the former home and office of another previous subject, Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office, and followed that with afternoon tea at the historic Willard Hotel.
Day three brought us to two Smithsonian Museums: The National Museum of African American History and the National Museum of American History and ended with dinner, dancing, and meeting visiting listeners on a Potomac cruise.
I go to prepare a place for you by Bisa Butler. Read about it HERE (Susan LOVED this piece of art.)
Finally, on day four, we had a “Women That Changed America” walking tour, a trip through the National Portrait Gallery, and on to a private tour and dinner at Mount Vernon, the site we were just talking about on both the Martha Washington and Ona Judge episodes! That is a high point of all these trips: Standing where so many of our former subjects had been during their remarkable lives.
If you would like to join us on Field Trip, there are still (as of May 17, 2023) a few spots for London in September of this year. That trip is almost sold out (Paris is so sold out that the waitlist could fill two more tours) but there are still tickets for the dinner cruise in both London and Paris so head over to Like Minds Traveland take a gander at that itinerary and join us for dinner!
Ona Judge was born enslaved, grew up enslaved, and while she was legally enslaved, she lived free for the majority of her life. Ona Maria Judge was the daughter of an enslaved seamstress named Betty and an indentured servant, Andrew Judge. Both were working at George Washington’s home plantation, Mount Vernon when Ona was born. Andrew made a fast exit because he could once his four years of indenture were complete, and Ona was raised in the enslaved community of the Virginia plantation.
Ona was there when the Washingtons went to the Revolutionary War, and she was there when they came back home to stay, eight years later. Shortly after that, she was tapped to be trained as Martha’s personal “servant,” and it was in this capacity that she went on the road with the Washingtons when George was elected President of the United States.
We go through a lot of her life, her responsibilities, the people that were her community and family, and what life was like in the bustling world of Philadelphia where Ona was introduced to something that she had never seen: a free-Black population.
Since Ona’s story runs parallel to Martha Washington’s, we strongly suggest you listen to that episode (#225) to get a fuller picture of the setting, and challenges, of Ona’s life. What makes Ona’s story special is that she just walked away from enslavement when she was 22 and never went back. We talk about what she did for the next 52 years as a fugitive boldly living her life as a free woman.
***Shownotes are under construction, please come back later for our media recommendations, but here’s a couple to hold you over:***