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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.

Wife Victoria - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee

Flash Briefing: Wife Victoria

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. <<

I don’t know about you, but I love the history of the British monarchs—from the mythical  tales of King Arthur, to Henry VIII, to Elizabeth I, and beyond. Probably one of my most favorite monarchs is Queen Victoria. Up until the current reign of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria was the longest ruling monarch in Britain, reigning for 63 years. But not everyone wanted it that way. During her time as Queen, Victoria endured eight assassination attempts—eight because one of the would-be murderers tried to kill her twice.

Wife Victoria - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari BoveeThe first attempt occurred in 1840, when Victoria was pregnant with her first child. Victoria and Albert were enjoying a carriage ride when a man by the name of Edward Oxford fired a pistol at the couple. Twice. And twice he missed. Unflustered, Victoria demanded the driver drive on, so they could continue their ride.

Two years later, a man named John Francis made an attempt on the Queen’s life while again, she and Albert were out in their carriage, but Francis either did not pull the trigger, or his gun didn’t fire. He then crossed the mall and ran into Green park. Victoria figured the best way to capture the man was to lure him out of hiding by yet another carriage ride the next day. But, this time, she ordered the carriage to ride faster. It probably saved their lives as Francis fired on them for real, this time.

There were five more attempts on Victoria’s life, but, unafraid, she never let it stop her from riding in an open air carriage, or attending outdoor events, to see and be seen by her adoring public. While such attempts are usually met with a death sentence, Victoria wouldn’t have it. None of her would be assassins suffered that fate—but they suffered another one, imprisonment for life.