A woman who made her high flying dreams come true, Bessie Coleman was the first woman of African American descent and the first woman of Native American descent to obtain her pilot’s license, and the first black person of either sex to earn an international pilot’s license
Born in Atlanta, Texas in 1892, Bessie was one of thirteen children—and one of nine who survived. Her father was Cherokee Indian and her mother African American. The family made their living sharecropping in Waxahachie, Texas.
At 22 years old, Bessie moved to Chicago where she worked in a barber shop as a manicurist. Many of the shop’s clientele were pilots who had returned from World War I with stories to tell of their delights and terrors in the sky. It was then, Bessie decided she wanted to become a pilot—but flight schools did not accept women or African Americans at the time.
Robert S. Abbot, an African American lawyer and newspaperman published an ad highlighting Bessie’s dreams of aviation, and through that, she received a sponsorship from Jesse Binga, founder of the first privately owned African American bank in Chicago. After taking French lessons, Bessie took her dreams to Paris where she learned to fly a Nieuport 564 biplane.
In 1921, Bessie made history by obtaining her pilot’s license from the Fédération Aéronautique International. Emboldened by her achievement, Bessie was determined to excel at her passion and spent the next year honing her skills, and then came back to the US to launch her career in exhibition flying.
She made her first appearance at an airshow in New York in 1922. Christened “Queen Bess,” Bessie became a popular draw for the next five years and was known for her difficult and sometimes dangerous stunts. In 1923 at an airshow in Los Angeles, she crashed her plane and broke three ribs and her leg.
Determined to use her success to help combat racism, Bessie spoke to audiences across the nation about the pursuit of aviation for African Americans. She is quoted as saying, “The air is the only place free from prejudices. I knew we had no aviators, neither men nor women, and I knew the Race needed to be represented along this most important line, so I thought it my duty to risk my life to learn aviation…”
And risk her life, she did.
In 1926 during a practice flight with her mechanic, William D. Wills, Bessie’s plane took a sudden and unexpected dive. Not wearing her seat belt, Bessie was thrown from the cockpit at a staggering 2,000 feet and died on impact. Unable to gain control of the plane, Wills perished in a burst of flames as the plane hit the ground.
Bessie’s life was cut short at age 34, but her story serves to inspire all of us, still today.
Fashion icon, military leader, murderer. Few women can lay claim to all three titles, but Cleopatra was no ordinary woman. Born in 30 B.C.E., Cleopatra, who ruled Egypt for 21 of her 39 years, was a woman of great beauty and style. She was also a fierce leader who craved power and control. Among many other bold actions to maintain that power and control, Cleopatra optimized her social status, femininity and charm, personally led a fleet of ships into battle and helped to organize war efforts, and took part in the death of three of her rival siblings.
Having no Egyptian blood running through her veins, Cleopatra VII Theos Philopator, was born into the Greek Ptolemaic family who ruled Egypt from the time of Alexander the Great’s death in 323 B.C.E.
The second daughter of Ptolemy and possibly Cleopatra V Tryphaena or Cleopatra VI Trypaena, (either woman could have been Ptolemy’s sister or cousin, it is not known for sure), the young Cleopatra showed much promise as an intellect and future leader. She studied science, literature, philosophy, and became fluent in 9 languages, including Egyptian, which the rest of her family refused to speak.
While Cleopatra had the makings of a great and cherished leader, her father did not. Having allowed centralized power and corruption to flourish, Ptolemy lost control of his dynasty and fled to Rome with the young Cleopatra in tow. Cleopatra VI Tryphaena took control of Egypt, but died soon after, some say from poison administered by Cleopatra’s older sister Berenice IV, who then assumed the crown. With Roman support, Ptolemy and young Cleopatra returned to Egypt in 55 B.C.E. and Ptolemy had Berenice imprisoned and later executed.
Soon after their return, Ptolemy died and wrote in his will that Cleopatra and her 10-year-old brother, Ptolemy XIII, would share the crown. The two married, as was common in Egyptian royal culture, and ruled together. Not wanting to share the regency with a boy 8 years her junior, and desirous of complete control, Cleopatra took the reins. She had Ptolemy’s name eradicated from official documents and had her face alone printed on Egyptian currency.
The Gabiniani, powerful roman troops and named the guardians of the young Ptolemy, opposed Cleopatra’s willfulness and lust for power and ran her out of Egypt. She fled to Syria with her only remaining sister, Arsinoe.
While in exile, Cleopatra’s young brother made his own mistakes, the most grievous by far, angering the most powerful man in Rome, Julius Caesar, by ordering the execution of Pompey, a military and political leader of the Roman Republic. While Pompey was Caesar’s political enemy, he was also his son-in-law, husband to Caesar’s only legitimate daughter who had died in childbirth. Furious, Caesar seized the Egyptian capital and made himself arbiter between the rival claims of Ptolemy and Cleopatra.
Using Ptolemy’s fatal mistake to her advantage, Cleopatra set out to gain favor with Caesar. She had herself smuggled into Caesar’s palace rolled up in a carpet, dressed in her royal finery. Enchanted with her brashness, beauty, and brains, Caesar fell in love that night. An affair developed and nine months after that fated meeting, Cleopatra had a son whom she named Caesarion Ptolemy.
Soon after the love affair started, Cleopatra’s brother, Ptolemy XIII, drowned in the Nile, some say at Caesar’s hand with the encouragement of his beautiful mistress. Caesar then named Cleopatra’s youngest brother, Ptolemy XIV, Pharaoh of Egypt, and Cleopatra as co-ruler, and the siblings married. Caesar then set sail for Rome.
Four years later, Cleopatra took her young son with her to Rome where she and Caesar rekindled their relationship, much to the grievance of the Roman people. Their loyalty lay with Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia, and they were outraged at Caesar’s blatant flaunting of his relationship with the Egyptian temptress. He even went so far as to house Cleopatra in one of his country villas just outside Rome, and also had a golden statue of her, portrayed as Isis, erected in the temple of Venus Genetrix.
After the assissination of Caesar in 44 B.C.E., Cleopatra returned to Egypt to claim her title as Pharaoh. After her return, young Ptolemy XIV died, many say poisoned by his older sister. Cleopatra was known to concoct poisons and perfumes as a hobby. After her brother/husband’s funeral, she named her son as co-regent.
At the height of her power and beauty, Cleopatra’s popularity with the Egyptians was paramount for several reasons. Like all fashion icons she wore exotic hairstyles, jewelry, and clothing; she was the first of her family to speak her countryman’s language, Egyptian; and she believed herself to be the embodiment of the reincarnated Egyptian goddess, Isis. Because of her engaging personality and style, Egyptian women made themselves up and dressed like her. According to the historian Joann Fletcher, “so many Roman women adopted the ‘Cleopatra look’ that their statuary has often been mistaken for Cleopatra herself.”
Rich, powerful, intelligent, and beautiful, Cleopatra was in her prime when Mark Antony, a triumvir who ruled Rome after the death of Caesar, summoned her to Tarsus to incur her support of his planned war against the Parthians. In her typical diva fashion, Cleopatra made an entrance designed to impress. For the voyage she designed a golden barge adorned with purple sails and silver oars. Dressed as Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, Cleopatra set sail for Tarsus determined to win over the Roman trimivir, who also considered himself the embodiment of a god; the god Dionysus.
As she had hoped, Mark Antony fell for her, and Cleopatra had yet another powerful Roman leader hopelessly devoted to her. So devoted that at her urgent suggestion, Mark Antony ordered the execution of Arsinoe, Cleopatra’s younger sister, whom as the last sibling left, Cleopatra feared would attempt to take the throne. The murder took place on the steps of the sacred Temple of Artemis, a scandalous act against the temple sanctuary and thus, the Roman people. Already not in favor with Rome because of her relationship with Julius Caesar, Cleopatra further scandalized the city when she convinced Mark Antony to marry her in an Egyptian ceremony while still married to Octavia Minor, sister to his fellow triumvir, Octavian.
With the relationship between Octavian and Mark Antony on the brink of disaster even before Cleopatra, tensions continued to rise and in 33 B.C.E. Octavian waged war against Egypt and in doing so, Cleopatra. Two years later, the conflict climaxed with the battle of Actium. Cleopatra led the charge, alongside Antony’s fleet, with dozens of Egyptian warships, but the lovers’ forces were no match to Octavian’s army. Cleopatra and Mark Antony fled back to Egypt.
Their respite was not to last, and in 30 B.C.E. Octavian invaded Egypt. There are several stories surrounding the death of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, but the most popular is when Octavian invaded, Mark Antony believed he had captured and killed Cleopatra, so attempted to take his own life by falling on his sword. When his friends learned that Cleopatra was hiding out in her mausoleum, the rushed Antony, still alive, to her where he died in her arms.
With Octavian’s rise in Roman power, Cleopatra feared she would meet a public death much as her sister Arsinoe did, so committed suicide in her mausoleum with two of her women attendants as witnesses. The most recounted story is that she had a venomous snake, the Egyptian asp, smuggled into her sanctuary and enticed it to bite her arm. Other stories claim she used an ointment, or drank wine laced with poison of her own making.
Like many of history’s empowered women, Cleopatra lived her life on the edge making bold, sometimes unpopular but always provoking decisions, taking monumental risks and enforcing change. She lived her life at top speed, she rarely looked back, and she never settled for defeat.
For nineteen years, Sonora Webster Carver made her living on the back of a flying horse.
Clad in a trim bathing suit, Sonora climbed a forty-foot wooden tower and when a galloping horse charged up the adjoining ramp, she jumped on its back and the two would sail through the air, eventually landing in a tank filled with twelve feet of water.
The notion of diving horses was developed by Doc Carver, a sharpshooter who toured in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. After he left the Wild West Show, Doc took his own circus show on the road, featuring the captivating horse divers.
Sonora was born in 1904 to a working-class family in Waycross Georgia, and at nineteen years old, she was looking for some adventure and a way out of a life of what she called “genteel poverty.”
After seeing an ad placed by Doc Carver calling for “a girl who could swim and dive, and was willing to travel,” Sonora felt she’d found her ticket. Her sister Arnette followed in Sonora’s footsteps and at fifteen also joined the show.
Both Sonora and Arnette loved the thrill of sailing in the air on horseback. The girls reveled in their jobs and in their fame, and for Sonora, the adventure also led to love and marriage. Doc Carver’s son Albert, who took over the show after Doc’s death in 1927, was smitten with the feisty horse diver and he and Sonora married in 1928.
Although horse diving by nature is a dangerous occupation, Arnette, in an interview, said the secret to avoid injury was to “keep your head tucked down to one side, so that when the horse raised his head as he jumped up at the bottom of the pool, you wouldn’t get smacked in the face.”
Unfortunately for Sonora, she couldn’t avoid injury all together. In 1931 while diving her horse Red Lips off Steel Pier in Atlanta, Georgia, Sonora hit the water off balance with her eyes open. Both retinas detached resulting in blindness. But the loss of sight didn’t deter the amazing young woman. She continued for eleven more years and went on to become the most famous horse diver in history.
Horse diving continued until 1978 when the SPCA grew concerned over the safety and well-being of the horses. According to Arnette, Doc’s horses were always treated well, and no horse was ever injured while on his watch.
At age 13, Lucretia Coffin was sent to the Nine Partners School in Duchess County, New York, which was run by the Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers. After graduation she became a teacher at Nine Partners and met her future husband, also a teacher there, James Mott. Learning that the male teachers were paid significantly more than female teachers started Lucretia on a mission to fight for women’s rights, and for the rights of other suppressed peoples.
In 1821, Mott became a Quaker minister. With her husband’s support, she traveled extensively as a minister, and her sermons emphasized the Divine within every individual regardless of sex or race.
In 1833, her husband helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society. At the societies organizational meeting in Philadelphia, Lucretia, as an experienced speaker through her ministry, was the only woman presenter. Days after the conclusion of the convention, Mott and other white and black women founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.
In 1838, Lucretia attended an Anti-Slavery convention at Pennsylvania Hall, a newly opened meeting place built by abolitionists.
During the convention, an unhappy mob rioted and destroyed the hall. Mott and the white and black women delegates linked arms to exit the building safely through the crowd. Afterward, the mob targeted her home. As a friend redirected the mob, Mott waited in her parlor, willing to face her violent opponents.
In June 1840, Mott attended the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention, in London, England where she met activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton admired Mott, and the two discussed the possibility of working together in the future to tackle issues including women’s right to property, their earnings, and custody of their children in the event of divorce.
In 1848, Mott and Cady Stanton organized the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention, at Seneca Falls, New York. By this time, Lucretia Mott had become a well-known advocate of minorities rights and women’s rights, and her fame eventually reached the political arena. That same year, during the National Convention of the Liberal Party, five voting delegates cast their vote for Mott to be the party’s candidate for the office of U.S. Vice President. She placed 4th in a field of nine.
Over the next few decades, women’s suffrage became the focus of the women’s rights movement. While Cady Stanton is usually credited as the leader of that effort, it was Mott’s mentoring of Cady Stanton and their work together that inspired the movement.
After the Civil War, Mott was elected the first president of the American Equal Rights Association, an organization that advocated universal suffrage. In 1864, Mott and several other Hicksite Quakers incorporated Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, which remains one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the country.
In 1948, a stamp was issued in remembrance of the Seneca Falls Convention featuring Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Lucretia Mott. And, in 1983, Mott was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Lucretia Mott always adhered to her Quaker ideals of equality of all people regardless of race, sex, or creed. Did you know that Annie Oakley was raised Quaker? Knowing that helped me in my research for my Annie Oakley Mystery Series. If you are curious about it, you can find my books on Amazon.
Most famously known as William Randolph Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davies deserves credit in her own right as an actress, film producer, screenwriter and philanthropist.
In 1916, Broadway showman Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. signed Marion on as a featured player in his popular Ziegfeld Follies. That same year, she also made her screen debut modeling gowns made by Lady Duff Gordon in a fashion newsreel.
The following year, she appeared in her first feature film, Runaway Romany, directed by her brother-in-law, Broadway producer George Lederer. Marion not only contributed as the lead actress, she also wrote the screenplay.
Then she starred in two films—The Burden of Proof and Cecilia of the Pink Roses. Playing mainly light comic roles, she quickly became a popular film personality appearing in lead roles alongside major male stars. She earned a lot of money and spent much of it helping family and friends.
She soon caught the eye of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, and took on the new role of “mistress.” Hearst, highly supportive of her film vocation, founded Cosmopolitan Pictures to produce her films. He also took over management of her career.
While Hearst kept his wife at bay, Marion filled the void as friend, lover, and hostess of Hearst’s lavish parties for the Hollywood elite held at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, and also aboard his luxury yacht, Oneida.
Linked with Hearst’s famous name and lifestyle, Marion’s name would also be linked to scandal when famous Hollywood film producer, Thomas Ince, died.
In November 1924, Marion was hosting a weekend party on the Oneida. It had been rumored around town that Marion had fallen victim to the charms of playboy and known philanderer Charlie Chaplin, who was also a guest aboard the yacht that fated weekend. One story has it that Hearst, jealous of Chaplin, took a gun and fired it into what he thought was Chaplin’s cabin. Instead, it was Thomas Ince who got the bullet. There has never been any evidence to support that story.
His autopsy showed that he suffered an attack of acute indigestion and the cause of death was actually a heart attack. But, people love to gossip. Especially about a wealthy business tycoon and his mistress.
Marion stayed with Hearst until his death in 1951. Eleven weeks and one day later, she married Horace Brown, but the marriage didn’t last. In her later years, Davies devoted herself to charity work. In 1952, she donated nearly two million dollars to establish a children’s clinic at UCLA which was named for her.
Marion was one of many well-known women in history who got her start with the Ziegfeld Follies. I was so fascinated with the Ziegfeld phenomenon, I wrote a historical mystery with the Follies as a backdrop called Grace in the Wings. If you liked this flash briefing, you might like my novel. You can find Grace in the Wings on Amazon.
Juanita and Ethyle Perry; two young women who left their family when they were teenagers to find their fortune. And they did.
Not much is known about the Perry twins’ early life. Some say they were born in Oklahoma and raised in Riverhead, Long Island. Others say it was the other way around. Either way, it’s clear the two left home at a young age to make their claim to fame with their talents as expert horsewomen.
In the early nineteen teens, they secured jobs as cowgirl performers for the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West show. In 1916, the Miller Brothers and Buffalo Bill Cody combined their Wild West shows.
Previously, in the early 1890’s Bill Cody employed the Cossack Riders, a group of male equestrians from Georgia and Russia who performed daring feats of horsemanship.
The Perry twins, expert at trick riding and horse handling, became known as the Cossack Girls because they could perform any trick their male counterparts could, and more. The added bonus for the audience was that they were infused with charming star power and were pretty to look at. They had the whole package.
A favorite act they performed consisted of one of them, dressed as a gray-haired old woman driving a team of horses. Before long, the horses spook, rear up and then bolt, the wagon carrying the old woman careening out of control toward a group of townspeople as they leave their Sunday service. Just before the horses reach the townsfolk, the other twin, riding a charging stallion and resplendent in a beaded buckskin ensemble, emerges onto the scene. The rider catches up to the wagon, leaps out of the saddle and onto the back of one of the team, and swerves them out of the path of the churchgoers. The twin driving the wagon regains control and with the help of the rider, brings the team to a quiet stop. Disaster averted!
After a successful run with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, the Perry’s joined Barnum and Bailey’s Wild West extravaganza, but then tragedy struck. While performing, Juanita was thrown from her horse and trampled to death. Devastated, Ethyle left her life of performing. In 1921 she married William Cody Bradford, Buffalo Bill Cody’s nephew. She passed away at the age of seventy-three.
Many women graced the stage of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and it was said he paid them a fair wage, often as much as their male counterparts. One of the most famous female performers of the Wild West Show was, of course, the one and only Annie Oakley.
I’ve done years of research on Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and the famous Miss Oakley, and have written a historical mysteries series featuring Annie as an amateur sleuth. The third full-length novel in the series titled Folly at the Fair, comes out June 2. If you like a rollicking good time with plenty of action and intrigue, you’ll love this series. You can find the books on Amazon.
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 movies 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 Hollywood 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.
Bertha Honoré Palmer and her Board of Lady Managers set out to celebrate and honor women of the world who were dedicated to making a difference through their art, their philanthropy, and their beliefs at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.
One such woman who was invited to speak at The Woman’s Building was lady Henry Somerset, an advocate of women’s rights and the Temperance Movement.
Born to London nobility, Lady Isabella Caroline Somers-Cocks was the first born of Charles Somers-Cocks, third Earl of Somers, and his wife Virginia. Fun fact, Isabella was also the first cousin of the writer Virginia Woolf’s mother, Julia Stephen. The family was deeply religious and raised as an Anglican, young Isabella had aspirations to become a nun.
But, it was not to be. In 1872, she married Lord Henry Somerset and two years later, they had a son. However, what seemed to be an idyllic marriage was doomed to failure as Lord Henry was homosexual. Because homosexuality was against the law in England at the time, Isabella, as a woman, was expected to keep her husband’s secret and remain in an unhappy marriage. But this wouldn’t do. She separated from Lord Henry and sued for custody of their son, thus exposing her husband’s infidelities.
She won custody of her son and Lord Henry moved to Italy, but because of her deep religious convictions, Lady Henry would not divorce her husband. Although she still enjoyed her life as a titled, wealthy heiress, the custody battle, the couple’s separation and her husband’s sexual orientation resulted in scandal and Lady Henry was shunned by London society. She moved to Ledbury and immersed herself in the raising of her son and charity work. When her father died in 1883 he left her vast estates in Surrey, properties in London, and the slums in the East End.
Her interest in Temperance came about when a close, personal friend committed suicide while intoxicated. She was also alarmed by the considerable occurrence of public drunkenness she witnessed in the streets of London’s East End, particularly in children. She became a member of the Order of Rechabites, an organization dedicated to the promotion of total abstinence from alcoholic beverages.
In 1890, Lady Henry was elected president of the British Women’s Temperance Association. The following year, she travelled to the United States, where she spoke at the first World’s Christian Temperance Association convention in Boston. In 1893, she would return to the United States to speak at the Woman’s Building on women’s rights and temperance at the request of the Board of Lady Managers.
In 1895, Lady Henry opened the Colony for Women Inebriates, a facility intended to rehabilitate alcoholics, in Surrey, England where she devoted the rest of her life to the women who’d come seeking help from their addictions.
Did you know that Annie Oakley believed in temperance? Raised a Quaker, she never touched alcohol. I wonder if she went to see Lady Henry speak at The Woman’s Building of the Columbian Exposition in 1893?
In celebration of my newest release in the Annie Oakley Mystery series, Folly at the Fair, I am giving away three signed copies of the book! To enter just go to http://karibovee.com/raffle/ Good luck!!
The Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago was filled with attractions from around the 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 Chlapowski 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 tohttp://karibovee.com/raffle/
Sophia Hayden is best known for designing The Woman’s Building at the Columbian Exposition in 1893. She was only twenty-one years old.
Born in Santiago, Chili, Sophia would leave there at a very young age, on her own, to attend school. At six years old, Sophia’s parents, Elezena Fernandez, a Santiago native, and George Henry Hayden, an American dentist from Boston, sent their daughter to Jamaica Plain, a suburb of Boston to live with her grandparents and attend the Hillside School.
Later, at Roxbury High School, Sophia became interested in architecture. An extremely bright and dedicated student, she was then accepted to MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she obtained a degree in architecture and graduated with honors. But unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to get her hired as an architect, most likely because she was a woman. After graduation, she took a job at Boston High School as a mechanical drawing teacher.
Fast forward to 1891. Businesswoman, philanthropist, and socialite Bertha Honoré Palmer and her Board of Lady Managers, a group of women dedicated to representing women at the Columbian Exposition of 1893, needed someone to design The Woman’s Building to do just that. They ran a design competition for female architects. Thirteen women entered the competition by submitting their designs. Hayden based her design on her college thesis project, a striking classic Renaissance structure with pavilions at the center and both ends, multiple arches and columned terraces. She won first prize and the chance to go down in history as the only female architect involved in the building of what would become known as the White City.
However, the Board of Lady Managers and Sophia didn’t see eye to eye on much of anything after the contest, particularly concerning philosophies of obtaining furnishings and art for the interior. Sophia also faced frustration with the continual changes demanded by Bertha Palmer and her construction committee. Other architects sympathized with and defended Sophia’s ideals, but in the end, Bertha Palmer fired her.
Sophia’s frustration and dismay at being removed from the project was somewhat soothed with an award for the building’s “delicacy of style, artistic taste, and geniality and elegance of the interior.”
The following year, Hayden designed a memorial for women’s clubs in the U.S. but the memorial was never built. Hayden never worked as an architect again. Sadly, all of the buildings in the White City were destroyed two years after the Fair.
Since all of my books in the Annie Oakley Mystery series feature strong, talented and empowered women, I had to highlight the Woman’s Building in my latest release Folly at the Fair, which takes place during the Columbian Exposition of 1893. In celebration of the release I am giving away three signed copies of the book to my Alexa listeners. All you have to do to enter is go tohttp://karibovee.com/raffle/ I hope you are a winner! Good luck!