Monday, July 30, 2012

Abandoned Women

From the Daily Record:

THEY are the women history has chosen to forget – the 2500 Scots banished to Tasmania for the pettiest of crimes.
Today, for the first time, we can reveal the stories Scotland was too ashamed to tell – and celebrate the women cruelly sentenced to exile on the other side of the world.
Not only did these formidable females survive the treacherous journey and years of servitude, many went on to become model citizens once free and the mothers of a new nation.
In her new book, Abandoned Women, historian Lucy Frost remembers these long-forgotten women. More than 12,500 British convicts were banished to Van Diemen’s Land – Tasmania – between 1803 and 1853. A fifth were Scots women.

Review - Calling Invisible Women

Review of "Calling Invisible Women" by Ben Steelman at Star News Online:

Ever since H.G. Wells' 1897 novel, the notion of invisibility has been like catnip for writers and filmmakers.
Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" used invisibility as a metaphor for discrimination and for white America's blindness. H.F. Saint, in "Memoirs of an Invisible Man" (1987), used invisibility to probe the yuppie lifestyle. "Hollow Man," the 2000 Paul Verhoeven film starring Kevin Bacon, seemed to posit that invisibility might prompt an otherwise normal man to become a serial rapist.
But what about the Invisible Woman? Except for Marvel Comics, which promoted the Fantastic Four's "Invisible Girl" to adult status some years back, the idea hasn't been kicked around that much.
So Tennessee author Jeanne Ray is almost plowing virgin soil with her new novel "Calling Invisible Women" – and she's harvesting a bumper crop.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, "Calling Invisible Women" takes the perspective of a woman of a certain age – specifically, 54-year-old Clover Hobart, a sometime garden columnist for her hometown paper in Ohio.

Anonymous in Their Own Names

From We-enews:
Edward L. Bernays, Heywood Broun and Harold Ross have long been lauded as media innovators, their accomplishments chronicled in hundreds of articles and books. With very few exceptions, though, writers have failed to recognize a fundamental reason for the success of these three remarkable media ventures: each man had an uncredited collaborator.

"Anonymous in Their Own Names" consists of separate but intertwined biographies of these three women whose work was invisible in their own time and has remained invisible to countless authors who have detailed their husbands' accomplishments but could not "see" the crucial contributions of their wives.
Their invisibility is ironic given that they were feminists who kept their birth names when they married as a sign of their equality with their husbands and repeatedly battled the government and societal norms to continue using their names.
Still, they carried out their most important work anonymously--masked by their husbands' fame, which they helped create.

From the Publisher - Vanderbilt University Press:
Anonymous in Their Own Names recounts the lives of three women who, while working as their husbands' uncredited professional partners, had a profound and enduring impact on the media in the first half of the twentieth century. With her husband, Edward L. Bernays, Doris E. Fleischman helped found and form the field of public relations. Ruth Hale helped her husband, Heywood Broun, become one of the most popular and influential newspaper columnists of the 1920s and 1930s. In 1925 Jane Grant and her husband, Harold Ross, started the New Yorker magazine.

Yet these women's achievements have been invisible to countless authors who have written about their husbands. This invisibility is especially ironic given that all three were feminists who kept their birth names when they married as a sign of their equality with their husbands, then battled the government and societal norms to retain their names. Hale and Grant so believed in this cause that in 1921 they founded the Lucy Stone League to help other women keep their names, and Grant and Fleischman revived the league in 1950. This was the same year Grant and her second husband, William Harris, founded White Flower Farm, pioneering at that time and today one of the country's most celebrated commercial nurseries.

Despite strikingly different personalities, the three women were friends and lived in overlapping, immensely stimulating New York City circles. Susan Henry explores their pivotal roles in their husbands' extraordinary success and much more, including their problematic marriages and their strategies for overcoming barriers that thwarted many of their contemporaries.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Long Haired Village

From The Nation:

HAIR is very important to women, who generally use it to highlight their features, but for the women of the ethnic Yao people of Huangluo Village, China, hair is their most prized possession.
Located in the Longji Scenic Are of Gulin, China, Huangluo Village numbers around 82 households of Red Yao ethnics, who get their name from the traditional red clothing. Like many other Chinese villages, Hunagluo enjoys very attractive natural surroundings and has plenty of ancient traditions to keep tourists entertained, but the most fascinating thing about it is the women’s obsession with long hair. In fact, the Yao settlement has received a Guinness certification for the “world’s longest hair village” and is also known as the “Long Hair Village” across China. Considering the average hair length of the 120 women in Huangluo is 1,7 meters and the longest locks exceed 2.1 meters, I’d say its reputation is well-deserved.
Hair has always played a big part in the lives of the Red Yao women of Huangluo. Until a few years ago, it was considered so important that no one, apart from the husband and children was allowed to look upon it when let loose.

Misattributed Female Firsts

From Policymic:
As America mourns the passing of Sally Ride, much has been written about her status as the first female American astronaut. Somewhere along the way, the word “American” sometimes gets dropped, and we begin to think of her as the first woman in space. In fact, that title belongs to  Soviet astronaut Valentina Tereshkova, who flew the Vostok 6 into space in 1963, 20 years before America sent a woman into space. What other feats of feminism happened decades, or even centuries, before we think they did?

Results of Amelia Earhart Search

Further to my blog post on More On Ameilia Earhart Search, comes this from Heritage Daily:
Earhart, who was the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932, was en route to Howland Island on the 2nd July 1937 when the Electra 10E aircraft she and Noonan were in disappeared. Many experts believe that a navigational error which led to the pair running out of fuel over the sea was the cause of their disappearance.

Though disappointed by initial findings the group leading the project, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIHGAR), still believe that Earhart and her navigator Noonan crashed onto a reef off the Kiribati atoll Nikumaroro, in the Pacific Ocean and died soon after.

Obit: Marjorie Chibnall

She was known for her many studies of Anglo-Norman history, including, most notably, her mighty six-volume edition and translation of the Norman chronicler Orderic Vitalis’s Ecclesiastical History, published between 1969 and 1980 — the product of 30 years of painstaking work.

Her first publications, a series of papers on alien priories (English religious houses under the control of a mother house abroad) began before the Second World War, and she continued to publish into her 90s. Her last book The Normans, published in 2006 when she was 91, won praise from a reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement as “a masterly work, the most elegant and concise account of Norman history currently in print”.

Baby Cages - 1930s Parenting

It's possibly wrong to judge other ages by the standards of our own, so we'll try to reserve judgement about these photos of child rearing techniques from 1930s London.

Short on space? Want baby to get fresh air and sunlight? Why not dangle them from your window in a cage! 

What could possibly go wrong?

The baby cages were at least designed with the best intentions, allowing families living in blocks of flats without gardens a way of giving their babies a taste of the great outdoors.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Historic Newspapers

If you do not know already about this great service, then here is the lowdown.

Historic Newspapers offers you a selection of original newspapers dating back as far as the 1800’s. The archive is made up of of over 7 million editions from all over the world. To date the UK titles have been catalogued as far back as 1900 by date and title, there are also lots of US and regional issues, as well as many from the Victorian era.

These have proved to be popular gifts for milestone events, particularly birthdays and anniversaries, but also for historians and schools. In addition, Historic Newspapers offer free teaching history resource packs and also have a newspaper research facility with a dedicated team in place for special requests.

My copies arrived yesterday - thanks Thomas! 
  • Times 18 August 1820 Trial of Queen Caroline
  • Times 4 April 1913 Trial of Mrs Pankhurst (Suffragette leader)
  • Times 5 July 1934 Death of Marie Curie

They were carefully wrapped and boxed for the long journey down under - and arrived in very good condition!

I urge you all, researchers and readers alike to avail yourselves of this wonderful service. And folks, the kind people at Historic Newspapers are offering readers a special discount on all purchases over £5.00 - just type in the code: 15TODAY when finalising your order.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Most Beautiful Princess - Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna

Christina Croft talks about "Most Beautiful Princess – A Novel Based on the life of Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia".

In the early hours of the morning 18th July 1918, two carts left the small Siberian town of Alapaevsk and followed the Sinyachikhenskaya road to a disused mine. There, soldiers alighting from the carts, ordered eight blindfolded prisoners - six men and two women - to walk forwards and, striking their heads with rifle butts, forced them one after another into the waterlogged shaft. Having hurled hand grenades after them into the pit, the soldiers assumed their task was complete and were about to leave when to their amazement the sound of singing echoed from beneath the ground. From a ledge nineteen metres below a woman was singing the Russian Orthodox hymn: ‘Lord Save Your People.’

Some weeks later as the First World War drew to its bloody conclusion across Europe, battles still raged for control of revolutionary Russia. With the arrival of the White Army in Alapaevsk, the bodies were recovered from the mine: five grand dukes, a companion, and two middle-aged nuns. By the side of the incorrupt body of one of the nuns lay an unexploded grenade, on her breast an icon of Christ.

How did a fairy-tale princess, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm II and King George V, and sister-in-law of two Russian Tsars come to so terrible an end? ‘Ravishingly beautiful’, ‘saintly’, ‘enigmatic’, revered as a saint by the poor of Moscow, what drove the Lutheran daughter of Princess Alice to turn her into the Russian Imperial Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna, then ‘Matushka’ mother of the poor, and finally Holy Imperial Martyr Saint Elizabeth? Why did the gentle Elizabeth of Hesse-Darmstadt, described by one her admirers as ‘the most beautiful creature of God I have ever seen’, die of infected wounds and starvation in a mineshaft in Siberia?

These were some of the questions which prompted me to write: Most Beautiful Princess – A novel based on the life of Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia (link: ), whose life was so remarkable that it amazes me that so few people have even heard of her.

At the age of nineteen, ‘Ella’ married Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich, a younger brother of Tsar Alexander III. From the moment she arrived in Russia, she became the object of both adulation and gossip, as rumours of her unhappy marriage and the alleged cruelty of her husband swept across Europe, even to the ears of her doting grandmother, Queen Victoria. Highly-strung, domineering and obsessed with order, Serge’s strong reactionary views had made him many enemies in Russia, and Ella’s absolute submission to his whims led to speculation that he treated her as little more than a glamorous ornament. The fact that the couple remained childless suggested that the marriage remained unconsummated, and increasingly salacious stories spread through Russia and beyond. For twenty years Ella endured the slanders and, following her conversion to Orthodoxy, found comfort in the practice of her religion, her devotion to charitable causes, and her overriding determination to bring to bring about the marriage of her younger sister, Alix, to the future Tsar Nicholas II. Despite immense opposition from both families – and especially from Queen Victoria - Ella ardently believed that this marriage was meant to be and promised Nicholas that she ‘move heaven and earth’ to bring Alix to Russia. For six years she argued and cajoled and when at last the engagement was announced, she could take pleasure in the knowledge that she had virtually single-handedly engineered the match...which, sadly, was to lead to such tragedy in 1918.

In 1905, in the wake of the disastrous Russo-Japanese War, discontent spread through Russia bringing the country to the verge of a revolution, which would claim the life of Ella’s husband, by then the Governor General of Moscow. One afternoon as Ella was working on a Red Cross project in the Kremlin, she heard the sound of an explosion outside and knew at once that something had happened to Serge. Running out into the snow she discovered her husband literally blown to pieces and, though the guards tried to hold her back, she gathered the remnants of his body in her own hands and had what was left of him taken to a nearby monastery. After spending the night in prayer, she visited the prison where his assassin was being held captive, to assure him of her forgiveness and to find out what had driven him to commit such a crime. From then on, Ella’s life changed dramatically. After twenty years of stagnation in a glittering palace, she gave away literally all she possessed – her palaces, furs, cars, even her wedding ring – and, purchasing a piece of land in the poorest district of Moscow, built a hospital, orphanage and convent where she trained as nurse and personally treated the most abject of patients. Wandering at night through the slums and backstreets, she gathered the orphans and child prostitutes and provided them with a home. Her schemes for the improvement of housing for students and young workers and her tireless efforts on behalf of the poor soon led the Muscovites to revere her as a saint. Wherever she went crowds gathered to ask for her blessing and to kiss the hem of her garment as she passed, but, while she won the hearts of the poor, the rich could only gaze askance in horror. To the aristocracy her way of life was a scandal, demeaning to the Imperial Family; and further divisions arose between Ella and her sister, Alix, due to Ella’s opposition to the Tsarina’s guide and friend, Rasputin.The First World War brought further heartache for Ella and Alix. Though both worked indefatigably for the Russian wounded, they could not hide their German origins and were accused of spying for the enemy. Spat at or even stoned in the street, Ella continued her work with the poor, while desperately pleading with Alix to part with Rasputin whose constant presence was bringing the dynasty to disaster. Alix refused to listen to the warnings and in one bitter scene, told Ella to leave the palace. They would never meet again.

In the early months of the Revolution, the Communists were so impressed by Ella’s care for the poor that she was allowed to continue her work unimpeded but the Bolsheviks seized power in 1918, the days of the Romanovs were numbered. Ella’s cousin and former suitor, Kaiser Wilhelm pleaded with her to escape to Germany before it was too late, but she refused to abandon her orphans. At Easter 1918, she was arrested and taken to Siberia where, the day after the massacre of the Tsar and his family, she was murdered.

Several weeks after her death, when the bodies were recovered from the mine, Ella’s alone remained incorrupt. Even a year later when the coffins were transported to China, Ella’s body remained intact. In 1921 her elder sister, Victoria (grandmother of the present Duke of Edinburgh), had her body taken to the Orthodox Church on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem from where many miracles have been reported. Sixty years later, she was canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church and her statue now stands above the West Door of Westminster Abbey with those of other 20th century martyrs.

‘Most Beautiful Princess’ - based on my earlier biography of Ella, which was short listed for the Biographers’ Club Award in 2004 – is available in paperback and in Kindle, Nook and Apple format.

Please visit Christina at:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

More on Amelia Earhart Search

Following on from my blog post on Amelia Earhart - New Evidence, comes this article from Discovery News:

Components of Amelia Earhart's plane might have floated for weeks in the waters of an uninhabited island in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati, according to new analysis of a photograph taken three months after the disappearance of the glamorous aviator on July 2, 1937, during a record attempt to fly around the world at the equator.
Shot by British Colonial Service officer Eric R. Bevington in October 1937, during an expedition to assess the suitability for future settlement and colonization of Nikumaroro, a deserted island between Hawaii and Australia, the grainy photo has prompted a new expedition to find pieces of Earhart's long-lost Lockheed Electra aircraft.
"We will depart Honolulu on July 3rd aboard the University of Hawaii oceanographic research ship R/V Ka Imikai-O-Kanaloa. In about eight days we should get to Nikumaroro, where we will carry out a deep-water search for the wreckage," Ric Gillespie, executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) , told Discovery News.

See also this from the Bunsen Burner

Exactly 75 years after Amelia Earhart departed on her final flight before disappearing somewhere over the Pacific, an expedition team is searching for the wreckage of her plane using new methods and pursuing new hypotheses.

Amelia Earhart, born in Kansas in 1897, is famous for being the first woman to complete a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. She also held a number of aviation speed records and played a major part in the formation of a professional women’s aviation group called the ninety-nines.On July 2 1937, near the end of a journey around the globe roughly following the equator, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, departed from Papua, New Guinea. They were bound for Howland Island in their Lockheed Model 10 Electra aircraft. They were never seen again and no trace of the airplane has since been found.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Divorce Rights For Bangladeshi Hindus

From the China Post:
Unlike her Muslim compatriots, Tarulata Rani is unable to inherit anything from her family, cannot divorce and cannot claim maintenance from her absent husband — all because she is a Bangladeshi Hindu.

Unlike Bangladeshi Muslims or Hindus in neighboring India and Nepal, Bangladeshi Hindu women can't divorce as the legal provisions do not exist and their marriages have not been allowed to be officially registered.

“Is it a crime to be born a Hindu girl?” Rani, 22, who was married two years ago, told AFP.

Last month Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved a new law that will introduce official marriage registration for Hindus in Muslim-majority Bangladesh in a move designed to protect the rights of women like Rani.

The legislation, expected to be passed shortly in parliament, has been welcomed by civil rights activists and many Hindu women.

But critics say it is a token gesture that does not go far enough amid opposition from the religion's hardliners, who see it as unnecessary political interference in their cultural traditions.