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Clara Bow - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee

Flash Briefing: Clara Bow

Join host Kari Bovee, award-winning author of historical fiction as she shares stories of strong women of history combined with mysteries of the past.

>> Listen to Flash briefing HERE. <<

Named the first ever “It girl,” Clara Bow made a huge impact in the roaring twenties and was known as one of the decade’s leading sex symbols.

In 1921, at sixteen years old, she entered a nationwide acting contest called “Fame and Fortune.”

Showing up in her tomboyish sweater, lackluster skirt, and with absolutely no experience, Clara’s chances of winning were slim. But when she turned on the emotion, she won the judges over. She walked away with a silver trophy and an evening gown.

After the contest, Clara dropped out of high school to pursue her dreams. Then with two Clara Bow - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Boveemovies under her belt, Clara felt she was on her way, but then tragedy struck. Her mother’s mental health began to deteriorate after a diagnosis of epilepsy. Her father offered little help and left Clara alone to deal with her mother’s erratic fits of rage and temper. One night, Clara woke up to her mother holding a knife to her throat. Clara’s father had his wife committed. Even though Clara knew this was in her best interest, it still caused her great distress and in 1923, her mother died.

That same year, Clara left her father and New York and headed for Hollywood. She secured several other silent film roles and charmed audiences with her perky personality and her bold sexuality. She portrayed the perfect, adorable and charming “flapper” and the motion picture world took notice.

In 1926 she signed her first big movie contract with Paramount Pictures, and in 1927 she landed the lead role in a movie called It. The film was an instant box office success and Clara Bow became America’s first “It girl.”

Clara starred in 46 silent films, and eleven “talkies.” Her star burned bright, but at age 26, the actress burned out and started to show signs of mental instability, much like her mother. In 1931, Clara married Rex Bell, a rancher from Texas. She dropped out of Clara Bow - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari BoveeHollywood and went to his ranch to recuperate. She starred in two more movies, but then officially retired from acting two years later to devote her life to her husband and sons.

But, Clara’s gradual slide into mental illness culminated in a suicide attempt in 1944. She was  diagnosed with schizophrenia. When she was released from the hospital, she did not return to the ranch but instead bought a modest bungalow where she lived out the rest of her days until she succumbed to a heart attack in 1965.

Clara Bow became one of America’s best-loved film icons and the highest paid actress of her day. She influenced some of the most powerful people in Hollywood, and also the common woman who wanted to personify the loveable flapper with her “Clara Bow heart-shaped lips” and her charming down-to-earth realism and individuality.

Belle Starr - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee

Flash Briefing: Belle Starr

Join host Kari Bovee, award-winning author of historical fiction as she shares stories of strong women of history combined with mysteries of the past.

>> Listen to Flash briefing HERE. <<

Born in Missouri in 1848 Belle Starr would become one of the most notorious outlaws in American History.

After the civil war, Belle’s family moved to Scyene, Texas where they became associated with known criminals, including Jesse James and the Younger brothers. Belle married a man named Jim Reed in 1866. Two years later, they had a daughter who they named Pearl. Reed, too, became involved in crime and was soon wanted for murder in Arkansas. The family fled to California where their second child, Eddie was born.

In 1871 the Reed’s returned to Texas and settled in the town of Paris. Reed tried his hand at Belle Starr - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Boveefarming, but to no avail. He soon fell in with the Starr Clan, a Cherokee Indian family known for many crimes, but primarily horse theft. The Reeds also became reacquainted with Belle’s old family friends, members of the Jesse James gang and the Younger brothers gang.

In the Spring of 1874, Belle was arrested for a stagecoach robbery she allegedly committed with her husband and one of the gangs. Belle always had a keen sense of style and would often be seen riding with the gangs sidesaddle and perfectly attired in a black velvet riding habit, plumed hat, and carrying two pistols.

In the summer of 1874, Reed was killed. Belle then married one of the Starr brothers, Sam, and they settled in Oklahoma. Belle assisted her husband in criminal activities such as bootlegging, horse thievery, and harboring criminals from the law. In 1883, Belle and Sam were arrested for their crimes. Belle was found guilty and served nine months in Detroit, Michigan. Sam, too, was found guilty and assigned to hard labor.

Three years later, Sam was killed in a gunfight with lawman Frank West. It was said the relationship with Sam Starr was the happiest of Belle’s life, and with the death of her husband, her life of crime ended. But shortly thereafter, she died under mysterious circumstances.

While riding home from a friend’s house Belle was shot in the back. She fell off her horse, Belle Starr - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Boveeand was shot again, this time in the shoulder and the face. Legend has it, her own shotgun was used to do the deed.

According to Frank Eaton, also known as “Pistol Pete”, she had attended a dance on the fateful night. She danced with Frank and then a very drunk Edgar Watson asked her to dance. She refused him and left. Watson followed her and shot her. Eaton claims Watson was tried, convicted and hung for the murder.

However, another story circulated that there were no witnesses and no one was ever convicted of Belle’s murder. Suspects included her husband after Sam, another member of the Starr clan, her son, whom she had beaten for mistreating her horse, and Edgar Watson because he feared she would turn him in for a murder he committed in Florida.

The crime of how and why Starr was murdered has gone down in history as unsolved.

Helena Modjeska - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee

Flash Briefing: Helena Modjeska

Join host Kari Bovee, award-winning author of historical fiction as she shares stories of strong women of history combined with mysteries of the past.

>> Listen to Flash briefing HERE. <<

 The Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago was filled with attractions from around the Helena Modjeska - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee world. Great Britain was represented with a model of its latest warship, the Victoria. Japan hosted an outdoor exhibit of its unique Buddhist temple, and Egypt’s “Streets of Cairo” featured beautiful belly dancers. Fairgoers could walk through a Moorish palace, a German Village, and pavilions from Canada, Norway and Russia to name just a fe

One of the most interesting aspects of the fair was the celebration of women, thanks largely to the efforts of Bertha Honoré Palmer and the Board of Lady Managers. These women were dedicated to making the woman’s voice, and the woman’s cause, heard. Female artists, dancers, actresses, and suffragettes, were invited to show their talents, or speak their truths to the hordes of visitors who attended the fair. One such honored guest was the Polish Shakespearean actress, Helena Modjeska.

Born in Kraków, Poland in 1840, many of the aspects of Helena’s parentage and early life are ambiguous. Also uncertain in Helena’s history were the details concerning her first marriage, to her former guardian, actor and director, Gustave Sinnmayer—even to Helena. Years later, she discovered the marriage was null and void as he was still married to his first wife.

In 1861 Helena made her stage debut and for twelve years she graced the stage of theaters in Krakow and Warsaw, establishing herself as a consummate Shakespearean star. During that time, she left Gustav and in 1868 she married a Polish nobleman, Karol Bozenta  Helena Modjeska - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari BoveeChlapowski who was employed as the editor of a liberal nationalist newspaper. Helena later wrote that their home became the center of the artistic and literary world of Kraków. Poets, authors, artists, actors and politicians clamored to frequent the couple’s salon.

In 1876, Helena and her husband emigrated to America to, in her words, “settle down somewhere in the land of freedom, away from the daily vexations to which each Pole was exposed in Russian or Prussian Poland.” 

Despite the fact she could barely speak English, Helena was discovered by theatrical agent Harry J. Sargent who signed her for a tour on the east coast where she made her New York debut. She then spent three years abroad, mainly in London, attempting to improve her English, before returning to the stage in America where she achieved great success as a Shakespearean actress.

In 1893 Helena was invited by the Board of Lady Managers to speak to a women’s conference at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Her topic was the plight of women under Russian and Prussian ruled Poland. The talk resulted in a Tsarist ban on her traveling in Russian territory.

My novel, Folly at the Fair, the third installment in the Annie Oakley Mystery series, takes place at the Columbian Exposition of 1893, where Annie Oakley herself was one of the empowered women celebrated at the Fair. In celebration of the book’s recent release I am giving away three signed copies. To enter simply go to http://karibovee.com/raffle/

 

 

 

Kathleen Rockwell - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee

Flash Briefing: Kathleen Rockwell

Join host Kari Bovee, award-winning author of historical fiction as she shares stories of strong women of history combined with mysteries of the past.

>> Listen to Flash briefing HERE. <<

What does the Pantages Theater and the Klondike Gold Rush have in common? An American dancer and vaudeville star named Kathleen Rockwell.

She came from a well-to-do family in Junction City, Kansas, but her homelife was unstable and often fraught with tension, resulting in Kathleen developing an independent and rebellious spirit.

When she was a teenager, her parents tried to quell this rebelliousness by sending her to boarding school. She spent more time trying to figure out how to break the rules than study, and was soon expelled. By this time, her mother’s second marriage was on the rocks, so the two of them moved to New York.

Kathleen took a job as a chorus girl, and performed in various vaudeville houses. She then followed a job offer with a variety theater in Spokane, Washington, but soon heard rumors of a Klondike Gold Rush.

Rockwell settled in Dawson City, in 1900, where she joined the Savoy Theatrical Company. Kathleen Rockwell - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee She developed the Flame Dance, an off-color number in which she wore a red sequined dress trailing 200 feet of chiffon that she twisted and turned into an illusion of flames. The act was a favorite of the miners and it launched her into Klondike fame. At the Savoy, she became known as Klondike Kate.

It was during this time she met Alexander Pantages, a struggling waiter and bartender. The love affair was intense and often tumultuous. They were crazy about each other, but fought over petty jealousies and money—mostly Kate’s money. Pantages borrowed considerable amounts of Kate’s cash to launch his career in Seattle as a theater manager. He thanked her by marrying someone else.

Rockwell headed to Brothers, Oregon with $3500 in cash, $3000 worth of jewelry, and trunks filled with dresses, gowns and hats to try her hand at homesteading 320 acres. She was one of a number of women who claimed their land by living on the claim for the required five years. This was shortly after women had earned the right to vote in Oregon. She was known to have worked the land, and her garden in vaudeville gowns and dance slippers.

While in Brothers, Kate would fall in love and marry twice. After the second marriage ended, she moved to Bend, Oregon where she would become a celebrity again, but this time, it was for her charity work. She worked hard to raise funds for her charitable causes and this time earned the nickname, Aunt Kate. She also trained young girls with their eye on Hollywood fame in voice and dance.

She ended up in Sweet Home, Oregon where she met and married William L. Van Duren, and lived out the rest of her days in a happy and loving relationship. She died in 1957.

Fannie Brice - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee

Flash Briefing: Fannie Brice

Join host Kari Bovee, award-winning author of historical fiction as she shares stories of strong women of history combined with mysteries of the past.

>> Listen to Flash briefing HERE. <<

Fanny Brice (sometimes spelled Fannie) was born on New York’s lower east side in 1891 as Fania Borach. The third child of Hungarian/Jewish saloon owners, Fanny’s interests were not in the family business. At fourteen years old, she made her stage debut during amateur night at Keeny’s Theater in Brooklyn. Shortly after, she started working in burlesque reviews as a singer and comedian.

In 1910 while performing in a burlesque show, she was noticed by famous show-man, Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. After the show, he approached her back stage and said he wanted to Fannie Brice - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Boveeput her under contract for his Ziegfeld Follies. Fanny agreed and thus began her long association with the popular entertainment icon. She performed in seven Follies between 1910 and 1923 and in several Midnight Frolic editions 1915 to 1921. In the 1921 Follies she was featured singing “My Man.” Wildly popular, the song became her signature hit.

Brice was most famous for her character Baby Snooks. She performed as Baby in the 1934 Follies. Fanny and Snooks then hit the airwaves in radio at CBS and The Baby Snooks Show was featured weekly till 1948. In 1944, Brice got her own half-hour show on CBS and earned $6,000 a week. Brice was so invested in Snooks, she would often do her radio performances in costume, even though her audience couldn’t see her.

Completely devoted to the character, she told biographer Norman Katov: “Snooks is just the kid I used to be. She’s my kind of youngster, the type I like. She has imagination. She’s eager. She’s alive. With all her deviltry, she is still a good kid, never vicious or mean. I love Snooks, and when I play her I do it as seriously as if she were real. I am Snooks. For twenty minutes or so, Fanny Brice ceases to exist.”

Brice was married three times, first to a local barber in her teens. The marriage lasted three days before she sued for divorce. Her second husband, known as the love of her life, Fannie Brice - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari BoveeNicky Arnstein, was a lady’s man, professional gambler, and white collar criminal. Arnstein served fourteen months in Sing Sing for wiretapping, and Brice visited him in prison every week. In 1918 they married after living together for six years. In 1924 Arnstein was charged in a Wall Street bond theft , was convicted, and sentenced to Leavenworth Federal Prison where he served three years. Upon his release, he never returned to Fanny and their two children. She divorced him and then married Billy Rose, a songwriter and stage producer. Her third marriage, too, ended in divorce.

Fanny’s career was long and varied. She worked as a song “model”, comedian, singer, theater and movie actress. She starred in many films, two in which she plays herself, The Great Ziegfeld (1934) and The Ziegfeld Follies, (1936.) She recorded several songs for Victor and Columbia. After her death, she posthumously received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for her 1921 recording of “My Man.”

At the age of 59, Fanny Brice died on May 29, 1951, of a cerebral hemorrhage in Hollywood, California, depriving the world of her varied and abundant talents. She is most famously portrayed in the movies Funny Girl (1968) and Funny Lady (1975) by the incredibly talented Barbara Streisand.

Olive Thomas - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee

Flash Briefing: Olive Thomas

Join host Kari Bovee, award-winning author of historical fiction as she shares stories of strong women of history combined with mysteries of the past.

>> Listen to Flash briefing HERE. <<

In 1914, Olive Thomas won “the most beautiful girl in New York City” contest. With that win under her cap, she started modeling for commercial artists in New York City, and it wasn’t long before she caught the eye of famed Broadway producer Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. 

Ziegfeld offered her a job in his renown Broadway Shows, the Ziegfeld Follies and the Midnight Frolic. While the Follies was entertainment for the entire family, the Frolic was a more risqué show that catered primarily to wealthy gentlemen. 

While Thomas loved her work on Broadway, the lure of silent films drew her to Hollywood. Olive Thomas - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari BoveeShe met and married Jack Pickford, the ne’er-do-well brother of Mary Pickford, the biggest and most successful actress of the silent film era. While Thomas was known for her beauty, she was also known for her wild, ways. The couple partied day and night, despite Thomas’s punishing work schedule. Within six years she appeared in over twenty films.

Her husband Jack was just as prolific. He played bit parts in 95 shorts and films. Though he was considered a pretty good actor, he never quite lived up to his potential. He preferred drinking, drugs, and womanizing.

With their marriage on the skids, the couple decided to take a second honeymoon in Paris in 1920. After a night of binge drinking, dancing, and drug use, they returned to their hotel room at around 3:00 am. Pickford flopped onto the bed, while Thomas went into the bathroom. Moments later, she woke Pickford by screaming, “Oh my God!” He found her holding a container of mercury bichloride, a substance used to treat Jack’s syphilis, and that also served a dual purpose as bathroom clearer. In her drunken stupor, Thomas had used the toxic liquid to wash down some sleeping pills.

Olive Thomas - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee

She was rushed to the hospital where she succumbed to the poison three days later.

Rumors abounded that she either committed suicide because of Jack’s constant philandering, or that she was murdered by her nutty, inebriated husband. A police investigation and autopsy followed. The coroner ruled the death accidental, but the stigma never left Pickford.

The character of Sophia Michelle in my novel Grace in the Wings was inspired by the beautiful and tragic Olive Thomas. If you are intrigued, you can find the book on Amazon You can also learn more about me and my books on my website at Karibovee.com. 

 

Lillian Smith- Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee

Flash Briefing:

Join host Kari Bovee, award-winning author of historical fiction as she shares stories of strong women of history combined with mysteries of the past.

>> Listen to Flash briefing HERE. <<

Like Annie Oakley, Lillian Smith learned to shoot a rifle when she was barely big enough to hold it. Like Annie Oakley, Lillian Smith started competing in shooting contests before the age of 15, and like Annie Oakley, Lillian Smith impressed upon Wild West Show owner Buffalo Bill Cody that she needed to be in his show, but that is where the similarities end—and the rivalry between the two women begins.

 Annie Oakley had become the darling of the Wild West Show, besting her male sharpshooting counterparts at every turn, and her place in the show was on solid footing.Lillian Smith- Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee Modest, in both her appearance and comportment, Annie couldn’t have been more different than this upstart teenager who used coarse language and wore flashy clothing—something Annie probably could have tolerated until Lillian started bragging that “Annie Oakley was done for” now that she had joined the show. The rivalry began. Annie even started to tell the press she was born in 1866, instead of 1860, to narrow the age gap between the two. 

The two traveled with the Wild West Show to England to perform at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Annie was further irritated when she was criticized in the press for first shaking the hand of Alexandra, Princess of Wales, before that of her husband, Bertie, England’s future King Edward, even though Lillian did the same. When Annie was presented to Queen Victoria, a drawing in an illustrated newspaper showed Lillian being presented instead. But most vexing of all was a letter published in an American newspaper, claiming that in England, Annie was being left out in the cold. This, of course, wasn’t true. Lillian Smith- Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari BoveeAnnie was still getting the lion’s share of press, and on the field at Wimbledon, Oakley bested Smith hands down and got a personal congratulations from the Prince of Wales. 

Nevertheless, the rivalry and the lack of support from Buffalo Bill Cody was too much for Annie to bear. She left the show at the end of the London run. Back home, Smith was ridiculed for her performance at Wimbledon, and allegations surfaced that she was cheating in her Wild West act. Finally, Cody realized Smith would never have the same showbusiness appeal as Annie. Smith left the show in 1889, and Annie came back just in time for the Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago.

In the first two novels of my Annie Oakley Mystery series, Girl with a Gun and Peccadillo at the Palace, I have fun with this rivalry between these two female sharpshooting sensations. You can find the books on Amazon.