Tag Archives: empowered women in history

Roxelena and Her Rise to Power – Witchcraft or Love? (Part 2)

(Continued from 4/22/18, find Part One here.)

Mustafa, the eldest of all the Suleiman’s sons, was next in line to rule. According to Ottoman Imperial custom, when a Sultan came into power, he had his brothers killed, to ensure the stability of the empire. Some believed that Roxelena, with the help of the grand vizier Rustem Pasha, and fearing for the safety of her own sons, influenced the Sultan against Mustafa.

Suleiman's Harem

Previously, one of Mustafa’s supporters, a commander in Suleiman’s army and later his grand vizier, Ibrahim Pasha, suffered execution at the hands of Suleiman. Although Ibrahim committed several grievances against the Sultan, many thought Roxelena, through her influence, encouraged his execution to make way for her own sons.

Several years later, Suleiman selected Roxelena’s son-in-law, Damat Rustem Pasha to become grand vizier. It soon became clear that a rivalry between the Sultan’s sons had surfaced and could not be ignored. In 1553, according to some accounts, Rustem circulated a rumor that Mustafa planned to dethrone his father. That same year, Suleiman had Mustafa executed for treason. Some, including Mahidrevan, believed Roxelena conspired with Rustem to slander Mustafa.

Suleiman soon dismissed Rustem as his grand vizier and appointed Kara Ahmed. Two years later, Kara Ahmed was killed at Suleiman’s behest. People believed Roxelena wanted her son-in-law, Rustem, back in power as grand vizier.

Suleiman's Bedroom

Although the stories of Roxelena’s evil doings have survived over the centuries, none of them are substantiated by evidence. Rumors and gossip of the time and embellished authorial accounts paint Roxelena in a negative light. We will never know if she had anything to do with these executions or not. I suppose the fact that a female slave rising to such influential power in the Ottoman Empire of the sixteenth century was so uncommon it would give cause to the idea she did so by dubious means.

However, Roxelena’s legacy survives. She has inspired artists, authors, musicians, and dancers throughout history and throughout the world. She gives proof that anything can happen—even the most unlikely scenario, like a slave becoming a queen.

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Roxelena and Her Rise to Power – Witchcraft or Love? (Part One)

It is not common in history for a slave to become an empowered ruler, much less a female slave. But, that is what happened with Roxelena, who became one of the most powerful and influential women in Ottoman history. What is common is when a person does rise to power in any empire or kingdom, it is often fraught with controversy. This, too, holds true for Roxelena, as she influenced and changed the fate of women of the Ottoman empire’s harems and beyond.

In 2009, my father and I took a tour of some of the cities surrounding the Black Sea. In Istanbul, we visited Suleiman’s palace and took a tour of the rooms of his royal harem. It was then I first learned of Roxelena, an unlikely empowered woman—a slave girl–who came to incredible power in a land and at a time where women had no power at all.

Roxelena’s birth name is unknown, but some historians claim her birth name to be Aleksandra Lisovska, and she might have been born to an Orthodox priest and his wife, in 1502-1505. Her family lived in the town of Rohatyn, part the Polish Kingdom, now known as western Ukraine.

In the early 1520’s, Crimean Tatars raided young Aleksandra’s town and kidnapped her, as they often did with Christian girls. They took her to Istanbul to sell her into the slave trade. Hasfa Sultan, wife of Salim I, and mother of Suleiman the Magnificent purchased Aleksandra for her son’s growing harem. Aleksandra had to forsake her Christian religion and to convert to Islam. She was educated in the Arabic, Persian, and Turkish languages, and schooled in the art of lovemaking.

Historians agree Aleksandra was about fifteen years of age when she became Suleiman’s concubine, around the time he came into power as Sultan. Aleksandra then became known as Hurrem, or “cheerful one” for her sunny disposition and cheerful nature. The name Roxelena came later from the Europeans, in reference to her Ruthenian roots.

As one of Suleiman’s two hundred concubines, it might have taken a girl a long time to get noticed by the Sultan, but not Roxelena. She quickly became his favorite, and a life-long love affair began—much to the disappointment and resentment of the other concubines, particularly Mahidevran, the previous favorite. A rivalry developed between the two women.

Roxelena
(ko.wikipedia.org)

Ottoman Imperial custom dictated that when a concubine gave birth to a son, she was elevated in status, but removed from the Sultan’s bed. This prevented undue influence over the Sultan and also prevented future feuds between the concubines’ sons for the crown. But when Roxelena gave birth to her son, Mehmed, Sulieman kept her close to him, in direct defiance of Imperial custom. As his most favored concubine, not only did Roxelena remain in Sulieman’s bedroom, but she bore him four or five other children.

Suleiman’s subjects did not know what to make of this affront to a hundreds-year-old tradition, so they surmised it must be witchcraft on Roxelena’s part. Suleiman further mystified his subjects when he married Roxelena—something else a Sultan rarely did. Any son a sultan bore became an heir, so marriage was unnecessary, especially marriage to a slave. In marrying Roxelena, it meant she became a free woman.

Suleiman's Harem
Suleiman’s Harem

Roxelena and Suleiman had a marriage based on love and mutual respect. When separated by travel and the responsibilities of the Sultanate, they wrote many love letters and poems to one another. Suleiman also consulted with Roxelena on matters of state. She corresponded with the King of Poland and other important world leaders on the Sultan’s behalf. Having access to the Sultan’s riches, she used the money to build mosques, schools, baths, and a hospital.

Despite a happy marriage and the privilege of power, Roxelena also experienced her share of controversy. Not only did the Sultan’s subjects believe Roxelena had bewitched him, they also believed she was instrumental in the assassination of several rivals to the throne. The most prominent being Mustafa, the son of the Sultan’s former favorite, Mahidevran. (To be continued next week.)

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Nellie Bly – Mad, Committed or Both? (Part Two)

(Continued from 4/8/18 – Find Part One here.)

Bly remained at Blackwell’s Island for ten days. What she saw, she could never forget. Doctors seemed oblivious to their patients’ illnesses. Orderlies and nurses abused their charges. They served their patients spoiled food. There was no access to warm clothing or clean linens. In short, the place was a rat-infested hell-hole. Bly herself had to endure one of the “treatments” which consisted of buckets of freezing water poured over her head. She and the others had to sit for twelve to fourteen hours straight-backed benches, unable to talk or move. Many of the women there were foreigners, not insane. Their inability to communicate in English rendered them “crazy.”

When her ten days were up, Joseph Pulitzer sent an attorney for Nellie’s release.

Bly’s story, done in a series, rocked New York and the world at large. Her writings forced Blackwell’s and other asylums around the country to change the way they treated and provided for their patients. Bly herself became an overnight sensation as the world’s newest and most provocative “investigative journalist.” She later compiled the articles into a book called Ten Days in a Madhouse.

Nellie Bly
(Wikipedia)

In 1889, Bly would make the news again. She had just read the fictional book, Around the World in Eighty Days, by the French writer Jules Verne, and she wanted to see if she could make history again. She suggested to her editor at the New York World, that she try to beat the record set by Phileas Fogg, the possible inspiration for Verne’s novel. A year later, she boarded the steamship the Augusta Victoria, and Bly was on her way to complete the journey. She took with her the dress on her back, an overcoat, several changes of underwear and toiletry essentials.

The itinerary included England, France, Brindisi, the Suez canal, Ceylon, Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. She traveled by steamer and railway. While in France, she met Jules Verne, and while in China she visited a leper colony. In Singapore, she bought a monkey.

Despite occasional setbacks due to weather or other complications, Bly returned to New York seventy-two days later. She had beat the record. However, a few months later by a man named George Francis Train beat her record. He completed the journey in 67 days. Still, Bly’s accomplishment had been duly noted.

Bly married at 30 years of age. Never one for convention, she married a man 40 years her senior, a millionaire named Robert Seamen, the owner of a manufacturing company called the Iron Clad Manufacturing Company. Nellie joined her husband in running his business and retired from journalism. She then became one of the leading women industrialists in the United States. She herself invented and patented a unique milk can, and a stacking garbage can.

The couple had a happy marriage, but Seaman died in 1904 leaving Bly with control of his company. Bly continued her quest for social reform and installed fitness gyms and libraries at the company and provided health care for her employees. However, the cost of these additional perks took a toll and her inheritance dwindled. In her later years, Bly returned to her journalistic roots. She covered women’s issues in World War I and also wrote extensively about the suffragette movement.

At age 57, Bly died in 1922 from pneumonia. But her legacy lives on. Articles, books, television shows and movies have been made about the courageous woman who, committed to her causes and the plight of women around the world, had herself committed to an insane asylum to affect change in her own life and reformation around the globe.

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Nellie Bly – Mad, Committed, or Both? (Part One)

In fact, Nellie Bly was not mad. She was, however, “committed”–in more ways than one.

(TodayFoundOut.com)

Born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in 1864, Nellie, as she was known after she became a journalist, always had a deep sense of morality and a desire to help those who could not help themselves.

Perhaps this stemmed from her own hardships as a young girl. Nellie’s father, Michael Cochran, owned and ran a successful mill in Cochran, Pennsylvania. However, when he died six years after Nellie was born, the family could no longer make ends meet and her mother, Mary Jane, moved her children to Pittsburgh. Due to the family’s financial situation, young Elizabeth had to give up her education to help her mother run the boarding house she had purchased for her family’s survival.

Although she had to quit school as a youngster, Nellie had a gift for writing. Especially when something piqued her interest. At eighteen years old, after reading a column in the Pittsburgh Dispatch that insinuated a woman’s place is in the home, bearing children and keeping house, Elizabeth wrote a rebuttal under the name “The Lonely Orphan,” and sent it to the editor. To her surprise, the editor not only published the rebuttal but offered her a job as a columnist. It was then she took the pen name, Nellie Bly, after a popular Stephen Foster song.

Nellie wrote for the Pittsburgh Dispatch for several years. She wrote about the lives of working women, particularly women factory workers. However, the newspaper received complaints from factory owners and the editor reassigned her to cover fashion, society, and gardening. Frustrated with these assignments, Nellie left the Dispatch and traveled to Mexico to serve as a foreign correspondent. There, she wrote articles reporting on the customs of the Mexican people. When a fellow journalist wrote an article criticizing the Mexican government, he was thrown in jail. Nellie protested with her own writings and the Mexican authorities threatened her with arrest. She had to leave the country.

Bly moved to New York City in 1886. She took a while to find work, but in 1887, she submitted a story idea concerning the immigrant experience in the U.S. to the editor of the New York World, one of the countries leading newspapers, owned by Joseph Pulitzer. The editor turned down her idea but challenged her to go undercover for a different story. A story to expose the abusive treatment of mental patients on nearby Blackwell’s Island, an insane asylum for women.

Bly rose to the challenge.

But she had to be convincingly crazy. To do this, she stopped bathing and brushing her hair. She practiced looking like a lunatic in the mirror. She checked herself into a temporary boarding house for women under the name “Nellie Moreno” and immersed herself deeper into her role. For twenty-four hours, she yelled and screamed at the other tenants, she snarled, she pulled at her hair. She later wrote, “It was the greatest night of my life.”

As she’d hoped, the police took her away and soon she was declared hopelessly insane. Local newspapers wrote about the “mysterious waif with the wild, hunted look in her eyes.” After a few days at the Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric ward, Bly ended up at Blackwell’s Island. (To be continued)

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Henry and Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn – Did She or Didn’t She? (Part Two)

(Continued. For Part One, click here.)

Anne Boleyn
(Anne-Boleyn.com)

Catherine of Aragon and Henry had one child, Mary Tudor, who had now reached teenager-hood. While her mother was cast out of Henry’s court, Mary, also stripped of her title of princess and declared a bastard, had been allowed to remain. Until the birth of her baby sister, Elizabeth. Desiring the baby to be raised away from the proclivities of the court, and in the fresh air of the countryside, Anne sent Elizabeth to Hatfield House with a full staff of servants—including the bastard Mary.In 1534, to Henry’s delight, Anne became pregnant again. But when she miscarried a few months later, Henry began discussions with his advisors Archbishop Cranmer and Thomas Cromwell, to start divorce proceedings. Learning that Anne was again pregnant in late 1535, the King relented.

Anne lived with extravagance. She continued to have wild parties long into the morning, and spent incredible amounts of money, which caused further resentment among Henry’s subjects. But, Anne gave the matter little thought. After all, she had every hope to believe she carried a son for the King. She further rejoiced when she learned that Catherine of Aragon had died. Now, nothing stood in her way. Except for the fact that the King had developed a passion for someone else. The young and beautiful Jane Seymour.

In January 1936, while taking part in a jousting tournament, the King was struck from his horse and knocked unconscious. More bad luck ensued when Anne, five days later—the same day Catherine of Aragon was buried—miscarried again. Once the King recovered, he moved Jane Seymour into the royal household. He claimed Anne had seduced or bewitched him, and because of that, the marriage was not valid. He wanted Anne gone.

By April of that year, several men of the court were accused of adultery with the queen, plotting with her to kill the King, and thus, treason. The first, Mark Smeaton, a Flemish musician and a favorite of Anne’s. At first, he denied the charges, but then later confessed—some say under torture. Next, a nobleman and friend of the King, Henry Norris, who’d enjoyed himself at Anne’s many parties. She had been overheard discouraging him from paying her too much attention. He denied the charges and swore to the Queen’s innocence. Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton, and Sir Richard Page were also accused, as well as Sir Thomas Wyatt, a friend of the Boleyn family, and possible sweetheart of Anne in her youth.

The final blow to Anne was the accusation of her incestuous relationship with her brother George, on two different accounts.

Historians, authors, and movie-makers have had a field day with this historical information. Some believe and or portray the adultery as truth, and some do not. Either way, all the accused, accept Wyatt and Page, were executed, as was Anne in the summer of 1536. In her last speech before her death, she maintained her innocence and spoke nothing but praise of her “merciful prince.”

So, did she or didn’t she? Was Anne so empowered she felt she could have numerous affairs with all these men and not suffer the consequences? Was she so desperate to have a son that she slept with these men—including her brother—to give the King his desired heir? Or, did she suffer her fate because she fell out of favor with the King who had moved heaven and earth to wed her?

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Henry and Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn – Did She or Didn’t She? (Part One)

 

Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn
Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn in The Tudors

Anne Boleyn. Everyone knows her name. Countless books, movies, and documentary films have been written and made about the life of this fascinating woman in history, and her relationship with Henry VIII of England.

But, one of the mysteries surrounding her—which included witchcraft and plotting to kill the King—contributed to the tragic end of this young queen. Her alleged infidelity. Known throughout her life as an incurable flirt, did she betray King Henry by sleeping with other men? And, was she so desperate to give the King a son, that she slept with her own brother in the hopes of getting pregnant?

The actual birthdate of Anne Boleyn is not known. Historians speculate that she was born sometime between 1501 and 1507. Her sister Mary is reported to have been older and her brother George, a few years her junior. Born to Thomas Boleyn and Lady Elizabeth Howard, a couple of the highest nobility, Anne received the finest education and training.

In her youth, she lived in the Netherlands where she received the basic academic education of noble children as well as falconry, archery, dancing, and household management. Her parents then sent her to live in France to attend Queen Mary, Henry VIII’s older sister. While in France she continued her education and also became fluent in the art and study of literature, fashion, religion, flirtation, and courtly love.

In 1522, Sir Thomas brought his daughter home to marry her cousin James Butler, but the marriage did not go through. Anne, now a lady of the court, dazzled people with her brilliance, beauty, and charm. She soon became enamored with Henry Percy, the son of the Earl of Northumberland, and the two became secretly engaged. Henry’s father was not in favor of the match, so broke off the engagement, and Anne went to soothe her wounds at her family’s countryside estate.

After some period of time, she returned to court and entered into the service of Queen Catherine, the Spanish wife of Henry VIII. It didn’t take long for the King to notice the young woman who shined like a diamond in his court. Unlike many women of the court, including her older sister Mary, Anne did not give in to the King’s demands to become his mistress. She kept him enticed for seven years, supposedly not ever consummating the relationship, until their eventual marriage—or shortly before.

The seven years of their courtship proved agonizing for Henry. During that period, he attempted to receive an annulment from his marriage to Catherine of Aragon on the grounds that their marriage was illegitimate and an affront to God, due to their inability to have a son. Before Henry, Catherine had been married to his older brother Arthur. Shortly after they wed, Arthur died before they could consummate their nuptials. Henry didn’t have a problem with this when he married Catherine, it was only after he fell in love with the tantalizing Anne that he decided his marriage to Catherine was sinful, and that he was being punished by his inability to produce a male heir.

Anne, eager to be Queen, but cunning enough to hold Henry at bay until she had a crown, did all she could to intensify the situation. Henry gave her the power to grant petitions, receive important diplomats to her court, and proved to be instrumental in solidifying an alliance with France. She was Queen, albeit without the title, and Henry placed her above all the courtly peers and noblemen. Her father became the Earl of Wiltshire, and her Irish cousin, the Earl of Ormond. Her sister, Mary, one of Henry’s early conquests and mistresses, now a widow, received a generous pension. Mary’s son, reputed to be Henry’s son, received the finest education.

Finally, when they did not receive permission from Rome to have Henry’s marriage to Catherine annulled, Henry—determined to have Anne—broke with the church and declared himself head of the Church of England. They married in secret and Anne soon became pregnant. Four months later, Cranmer, the new Archbishop of Canterbury declared Henry and Catherine’s marriage null and void, and Henry’s marriage to Anne valid.

While popular in the English court when she was attending to Queen Catherine, Anne did not have the same luck with the King’s subjects who remained steadfast in Catherine’s corner. Catherine, stripped of her title and banished from court lived the rest of her days a sad and lonely woman. Although Henry gave Anne a magnificent coronation at Westminster Abbey, the English people showed no love for their new queen, and many referred to her as “the King’s whore.”

But, Anne took comfort in the fact that she carried the King’s child. Both Henry and Anne believed with all of their being that the child would be a boy. When Anne gave birth to a girl, Henry was devastated. He had the celebratory traditional joust and celebration he’d planned for the birth of his child canceled. The couple consoled themselves with the idea that Anne would be pregnant again soon, and this time it would be a boy… (to be continued)

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Empowered Women of the Southwest – Lozen, Apache Warrior Woman (Part One)

 

Lozen computer image
Lozen Computer Image
warriornation.ning.com

Horsewoman. Medicine Woman. Mystic. Military Strategist. Warrior. Empowered Woman.

These are just a few of the words used to describe one of the most impressive women in Southwest history and American History.

Born in 1840 Lozen, a Chihenne Chiricahua Apache, grew up in the Warm Springs area, or Ojo Caliente, New Mexico. Sister to the Apache chief Victorio, Lozen (although 15 years his junior) became his “right hand” and his most trusted advisor. For decades she counseled her brother and other Apache chiefs, including Nana and Geronimo, in matters of war, religion, and the livelihood of their people.

Lozen (an Apache nickname meaning expert horse thief—her birth name isn’t known ) grew up during one of the bloodiest eras of American History. Strife between her native people, the Mexican people, and the U.S. Government remained constant in her life, and although she and her people always strove to keep their lands and live in peace, they never achieved either.

It became obvious early in Lozen’s childhood that she had special gifts and talents including supernatural powers. Though she might have earned her nickname as a young woman, as a child, Lozen felt a great connection with horses and was an expert at taming, training, and riding them. She had no interest in marriage nor the domestic duties of the other girls and women of her tribe. With her superior athletic skill and prowess, Lozen preferred learning about martial arts and the ways of battle, which her brother was eager to teach her. In addition, she showed an aptitude for healing and medicine and often cared for the sick and injured of the tribe. She also became an expert midwife.

Her spiritual sensibilities were also more heightened than many of her tribe. At about the age of 12, after receiving the rites of puberty, Lozen climbed to the top of a mountain and became blessed with supernatural powers. This power gave her the ability to determine when and from where enemies of her tribe approached. Historical sources claim she would stand with her arms outstretched, singing a prayer song to Ussen, the Apache god of life or creation, and turn slowly in a circle. If her fingers tingled, or her palms turned a different color, she knew the enemy was near. Depending on the intensity of the sensations, she could calculate the distance. This made her invaluable to Victorio, and she often sat at his side in council meetings and participated in war ceremonies. Victorio said about his little sister, she is “strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.”

Victorio and Lozen fought many battles with the neighboring Mexicans, the U.S. Government, and the white settlers who had come to their lands. In 1869, Apache leaders, including Victorio and Lozen, met with the U.S. Government to secure peace and receive a promised land grant, or reservation, near Ojo Caliente. However, in time, the Chihenne were moved to the Mescalero Reservation near Tularosa and were later relocated to the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. The conditions at San Carlos, referred to as “Hell’s Forty Acres,” were harsh, and many Apache’s perished due to inadequate food, water, and healthcare.

(…to be continued)

Sources:

http://newmexicohistory.org

http://crestoneeagle.com

https://southernarizonaguide.com

 

historical mystery book Grace in the wings Kari Bovee

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Empowered Women of the West – Dr. Nellie MacKnight (Part Two)

Dr. Nellie MacKnight (continued) For Part One click here.

The day after Olive’s funeral, Nellie was sent to live with her father’s brother and his wife in New York. While she got on well with her Uncle, his wife resented Nellie’s presence and made the fact well known to her. After two years of suffering verbal abuse from her Uncle’s wife, Nellie opted to go live with her mother’s sister, Mary until her father finally sent for her to live with him in the community of Bishop in Owens Valley, CA. He’d given up on his dreams of gold and returned to his career as a surveyor. Nellie was 14 years old and had not seen her father in nearly ten years.

Although her father still possessed the same sternness she remembered as a small child, Smith made an effort to reacquaint himself with his daughter. He enrolled her at the Inyo Academy, a boarding school, and when he wasn’t traveling for work, came to visit Nellie often. He took her on weekend fishing trips and taught her about the outdoors and how to survive in the wilderness. Finally, Nellie had the father she’d so longed for, and all to herself—until he broke the news that he was to remarry.

When Smith and his new wife returned from their honeymoon, they moved into a house near Nellie’s school and she moved in with them. With his new marriage, it seemed that Smith’s previous sternness turned to suspicion and possessiveness, and he never let Nellie attend dances or any kind of social event. Any fears Nellie might have had about her new stepmother were quickly squelched as Nellie found her to be a refuge from her father’s controlling ways. The two got along famously.

Nellie loved school and again excelled at her studies. At the age of 17 she graduated as valedictorian of her class. Exceedingly proud of his daughter, Smith insisted that Nellie go to college. Nellie was thrilled at the prospect of pursuing her dreams of an education in literature. But, that was not to be. Her father would not pay for an education in anything but law or medicine. Nellie knew not to contradict her father. And, after thinking about it—and remembering her grandmother and uncle’s death from typhoid—decided that medicine might be the right path for her.

Accompanied by her father, Nellie left for San Francisco to attend school at Toland Hall Medical College. He got her settled and returned home. While leaving her father and stepmother behind caused Nellie some distress, she quickly realized that she would soon be free from her father’s restrictive discipline. However, the reception she received at Toland Hall was less than warm and inviting. As one of only three women in the school, Nellie faced prejudice and resentment from the other students and professors. One of her professors, Dr. R. Beverley Cole, believed “that there are six to eight ounces less brain matter in the female. Which shows how handicapped she is.”

But, Nellie rose above the discrimination and chauvinism and graduated with honors. She had her name printed on her diploma as “Helen M. MacKnight,” at the suggestion of the school Dean, whose respect Nellie finally earned. He advised her that using the name “Helen” would give her more credibility in the world than Nellie.

Nellie went on to intern at the Pacific Dispensary for Women and Children, a hospital founded by three female doctors. In 1893, she joined the staff and specialized in working with children. She also assisted with obstetrics, disease research, and surgeries, including amputation. Two years later, her stepmother fell ill and Nellie had to return home. Her stepmother recovered under Nellie’s constant care, and instead of returning to the dispensary, Nellie decided to set up her own practice in the front room of her parents’ home.

Women with horse and buggy 1895 (Vintage Everyday)

Dr. Helen MacKnight soon became lovingly referred to as “Dr. Nellie” as she made her rounds about town and in the nearby mining camps in her small buggy pulled by two sturdy horses. As her reputation and financial situation improved, she eventually moved her practice out of her parents’ home.

In 1898 Nellie met her husband, Dr. Guy Doyle, another physician in the area. Unlike the other male doctors Nellie encountered in school, Doyle treated Nellie with admiration and respect. They fell in love and decided to go into practice together. They treated patients in Owens County until World War I when Dr. Doyle answered the call to service. After the war, Nellie and Guy moved to the Berkeley Hills where Nellie practiced anesthesiology at the University of California Hospital. In 1934, Nellie realized her childhood dreams of becoming an author and published her autobiography titled A Child Went Forth. The book was later retitled, Dr. Nellie.

 

Roses of the West, by Anne Seagrave

Enss, Chriss. “Wild Women Wednesday: Dr. Nellie Mattie MacKnight.” Cowgirl Magazine. October 19, 2016, https://cowgirlmagazine.com/wild-women-wednesday-dr-nellie-mattie-macknight/

 

Margaret (Molly) Brown – Unsinkable and Much More

Margaret Tobin Brown, a woman  immortalized in numerous movies, documentaries, and the Broadway musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” never considered herself anything more than a good citizen. Made famous by her heroic efforts during the sinking of the RMS Titanic, Mrs. Brown used her fame and fortune to better the world. But, even as a young woman, Margaret Brown did what she could to serve humanity. Here are some less known facts about one of America’s most memorable heroines.

SHE WAS NEVER KNOWN AS “MOLLY” DURING HER LIFETIME

Born  in 1867, Margaret Brown, known as “Maggie,” by friends and family, came into this world in 1867 to Irish Catholic immigrants John Tobin and Johanna Tobin. She became known as “Molly” with the success of the 1960 Broadway musical, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” decades after her death.

SHE CAME FROM MODEST ROOTS

Maggie spent her early years in a small cottage on Denkler Ally in Hannibal, Missouri. She never attended school but took lessons with her siblings in the home of her mother’s sister, Mary O’Leary. At 13, Maggie helped support her family by working at a tobacco factory for sometimes 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. At 19, she set out with her sister to Leadville, Colorado to visit their older brother Daniel, who had settled there. Maggie decided to stay and kept house for her brother. She also worked as a waitress and as a sales clerk in a dry-goods store.

Margaret Brown as a young womanTHOUGH SET ON MARRYING A RICH MAN, SHE MARRIED FOR LOVE

Maggie is quoted to say, “I wanted a rich man, but I loved Jim Brown…I decided that I’d be better off with a poor man whom I loved than with a wealthy one whose money attracted me.”

In church one Sunday, Maggie laid eyes on the tall and handsome mining engineer, James Joseph (also known as J.J.) Brown, and fell in love. At 19 years of age, she married the Irishman who was more than 10 years her senior, and the two set up house in a two-room cabin outside of Leadville.

SHE CAME INTO WEALTH OVER-NIGHT

Both Maggie and J.J. worked hard during their young married life. Intelligent and innovative, J.J. Brown rose to  manager, then superintendent for the Ibex Mining company and made a decent living. His innovation proved instrumental in developing a technique which allowed for mines to be built deeper into the earth. One such mine, Little Jonny, hit gold in 1893, producing tons of gold ore, and making the Browns and many others at the Ibex Mining company, instant millionaires.

 SHE ALWAYS SAW THE IMPORTANCE OF A CAUSE

Even before she lived a life of immense wealth, Maggie always did what she could to help others. As a young wife and mother, she organized soup kitchens and helped other mining families less fortunate than hers. She became involved in politics and spent her efforts in that arena working for better schools and health care for mining families. After her good fortune, she joined many political and charitable organizations and even made a run for Congress— though she had to drop out of the race. Women in Colorado did not even have the right to vote yet, and her chances of winning seemed impossible. Regardless, Maggie continued to work for causes concerning children, public health, food production, education and libraries, women’s suffrage, and animal rights.

She also worked to help establish a juvenile court system in Denver so that children and teens who committed crimes did not have to serve time in the adult population. She helped to establish the Denver Women’s Club, an organization devoted to providing art education in schools, and the development of school libraries.

Margaret Brown and Captain Rostron of the RMS Titanic
Maggie and Captain Rostron of the RMS Titanic

Having lived a lifetime of helping others, Maggie continued to do so even when her own life was at stake with the sinking of the Titanic. Once aboard Life Boat Six, Maggie, having put on several layers of clothing to shield herself from the frigid temperatures, shared her coat and more with those who had to escape with little to wear. Once they were safely aboard the Carpathia, the ship sent out to retrieve survivors, Maggie worked tirelessly to help her fellow passengers. She paid for telegrams to be sent to survivors’ friends and family, and she organized a ‘survivors fund’ for medical expenses and temporary lodging for those in need. She raised $10,000 before they reached the shores of New York.

FAME DID NOT CHANGE HER

Now famous for her magnanimous spirit and courage, Maggie continued to help with causes close to her heart. In 1913 coal miners in Ludlow, CO went on strike, resulting in a deadly skirmish between the National Guard and the miners. Nineteen people, including eleven children were killed in what became known as the Ludlow Massacre. Maggie sent first aid supplies, food, and clothing to the surviving miners. She sent funds to help settle the strike and investigate the massacre.

During the first world war, Maggie traveled to France with an American relief committee. There, she also worked with the Red Cross. When she returned to New York, Maggie devoted time and resources to help soldiers who’d been injured in the war. Her efforts resulted in France bestowing her with their most esteemed award, the French Legion of Honor.

SHE NEVER ATTENDED SCHOOL, BUT WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED STUDENT

As a young mother, Maggie saw to the education of her children, and herself. After completing her daily chores, she studied literature, piano, and took voice lessons. Later, she hired tutors to help her improve her grammar and writing skills. She traveled to New York to study literature, drama and foreign languages at the Carnegie Institute. She became proficient in five different languages which proved instrumental in helping the International survivors of the Titanic. More of Maggie’s interests included acting, yodeling, classical guitar and the Ukelele.

SHE NEVER CONSIDERED HERSELF A HEROINE

After the Titanic disaster, stories filled newspapers at home and abroad about the heroic efforts of Margaret Brown, but she did not want to be known as a heroine. “I did only the natural thing and not the heroic.” And that is how this amazing, strong and empowered woman, who set an example for everyone, lived her entire life.

Sources:

Wikipedia

Bold Women in Colorado History by Phyllis J. Perry

Young Mabel

Empowered Women of Southwest History – Mabel Dodge Luhan

Some people find empowerment through their passion. Other people find empowerment through what they do for mankind. Still others find empowerment through their search of self and belonging. Such is the case for Mabel Dodge Luhan, self-proclaimed Muse of the Arts.

Mabel at 18 years old
Mabel at 18
(Buffaloah.com)

As an only child, Mabel Dodge Luhan grew up with wealth and privilege; two things many people strive their whole lives to achieve. But what she never had, until later in her adulthood, were things that many people take for granted; love, attention, and feeling of belonging.

Mabel’s father, Charles Ganson, inherited his wealth from his powerful banking family. Charles went to school and trained to be a lawyer, but his nervous disposition and volatile temper impeded his success. During Mabel’s growing up years, Charles spent time with his dogs, or in his study not doing much of anything. According to an article at Enclyclopedia.com, Mabel states that, to her father she “…was something that made noise sometimes in the house, and had to be told to get out of the way.”

Sara, Mabel’s mother, often the victim of Charles’ temper, grew indifferent to him and had little interest in her only child. While Sara entertained herself with the society of New York, Mabel spent most of her time in the care of a nanny, and then later school mistresses at Saint Margaret’s Episcopal School for Girls, and Miss Graham’s School in New York City. At 16, Mabel toured Europe and then attended the affluent Chevy Chase Finishing School in the Washington, D.C./Maryland area.

Educated in the arts of an upper crust domestic wife, Mabel, at 21 years old, married Karl Evans, another silver spoon youth. Her father did not approve of the match, and her mother remained indifferent.

The young couple soon had a child, a boy they named John. Perhaps because of her own upbringing, Mabel struggled with the confines of marriage and child rearing. After only two years of matrimony, Karl died in a hunting accident, adding to Mabel’s emotion duress. A single mother, now facing life alone, Mabel suffered a nervous breakdown. When she recovered, she took her young son and moved to Europe. In Paris, she met Edwin Dodge, an architect from Boston. He pressed his suit, and eager for a father for John, and security for herself, Mabel agreed to marry Dodge in 1904.

Mabel and her son John
Mabel and her son John
(mabeldodgeluhan.com)

The couple moved to Florence, Italy where they settled in a lovely villa they called Villa Curonia, a famous estate originally built for the powerful Italian Medici family. But, happiness still eluded Mabel. Trapped in a loveless marriage, and unable to escape the depression that would reoccur throughout her lifetime, Mabel needed a diversion. She embarked on her quest to become a muse of the arts, or as she states in her autobiography, Intimate Memories, “a mythological figure…in my own lifetime.”

For eight years, often dressed in Renaissance costume, Mabel entertained the famous and noteworthy of International society, including novelists, artists, photographers and art critics. Her Italian “salon” became a place of philosophical, political, and artistic enlightenment.

Still discontented with married life, Mabel left Dodge and moved back to New York where she established another salon for the artistic intelligentsia. From 1913 to 1916, she entertained those interested in unconventional attitudes of the era. Freudism, free-love, anarchy, and modern art were popular avant-guard topics discussed at Mabel’s house. Inspired by the conversation, Mabel embarked on a writing career and wrote for literary and art magazines, including Alfred Stieglitz’s publication, Camera Work. Stieglitz and his mistress at the time, Georgia O’Keeffe, frequented Mabel’s home along with mutual friends Leo and Gertrude Stein.

Between 1914 and 1916, she met and married artist Maurice Stern. Even though Mabel had created a world of her own, she still could not find happiness. In 1917 she and Stern traveled to New Mexico, a provincial and wild place she’d learned about from her friends the Steins. She arrived in Santa Fe, and was entertained by other wealthy, female east-coast transplants like Alice Corbin and Natalie Curtis Burlin, who had already established themselves in the town.

Eager to put her mark on a new and nearly undiscovered place, Mabel found Santa Fe too confining. In her book Ladies of the Canyons, Lesley Poling-Kempes asserts that “for Mabel, the real problem with Santa Fe was its population, however small, of erudite, creative, and audacious New Women who were already making their mark on the place. Mabel needed her own space to make her mark . . .”

Mabel moved to the nearby village of Taos to start her own literary society. There she met and befriended Tony Luhan, a Pueblo Indian. Mabel asserts that before arriving in Taos, she had a dream where she saw her husband Maurice’s face turn into that of an Indian. Mabel believed Tony to be that man. Tony encouraged Mabel to buy property, a 12-acre parcel of land, complete with a tiny dwelling. Tony helped the Stern’s remodel and rebuild the four-room adobe house. He set up a teepee on the Stern’s front lawn, and proceeded to woo Mabel. It worked. She sent Maurice packing and married Luhan in 1923.

Mabel and Tony
Mabel and Tony
(KUNM)

The colorful landscape and rich culture of Taos gave Mabel the life and love she craved. Finally, happy and at peace, Mabel, with her fourth and final husband, Tony Luhan, entertained some of the most famous literary and artistic minds of their time, including Ansel Adams, Willa Cather, Aldous Huxley, and D.H. Lawrence. Georgia O’Keeffe, while visiting Mabel, decided that she, too, could find infinite inspiration from the enchanted landscape of New Mexico, and also settled there.

The Luhans eventually expanded their home to 17 rooms, and continued to provide literary and artistic inspiration for others, as well as forging Mabel’s own talents as a writer.

Never known for her warmth or sunny personality, Mabel, regardless, indeed made her mark on New Mexico and American history. She promoted Native American culture and art, as well as other important artists, writers, and abstract thinkers of her time. She found empowerment through her continual quest to get her life just right, and become the person she aspired to be.

Her vision, her promotion of others and herself, helped make Mabel Dodge Luhan an institution in Southwestern history.