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.
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/
What woman could inspire four of Dodge City’s legendary lawmen to come together to find a killer? A beautiful songbird named Dora Hand.
Born between 1840 and 1844, Dora Hand came from a prominent Boston family. She is said to have studied music in Europe and had once performed opera in New York City. She married a musician named Ted Hand, but the relationship did not last.
Suffering from tuberculosis, Dora moved west for the dry air. She settled in Dodge City, Kansas, and the town was instantly smitten. Described as beautiful and gifted, legend has it that attentions for her favor caused more gunfights than any other woman in the west.
One of her most ardent admirers was James Kelley, also known as Dog Kelley, the mayor of Dodge and part-owner of the Alhambra Saloon and Gambling House. Dora sang every night at the Alhambra, and also sang at the Lady Gay Dance Hall and Saloon. She earned upwards of $75 per week.
Sweet natured and generous, Dora gave much back to the community through charity and good works. But, despite her benevolence, she still encountered her fair share of jealous and ill-meaning followers. Some thought her an angel, and others thought her a whore.
A Reverend Mr. Wright, a local pastor, both confounded and delighted his flock when he invited Dora to sing weekly at his Sunday evening services. Like her or not, every Sunday night the church was packed to hear the lovely Dora sing.
One of Dora’s admirers was Spike Kennedy, the son of a wealthy Texas cattle rancher. Spoiled and not adhering to his father’s Quaker sensibilities, or his mother’s Catholic devotion, Spike was, in short, a hell-raiser who loved drinking, gambling and whoring, and who felt he was above the law because of Daddy’s money—which, ultimately he was.
One night, after much drinking at the Alhambra, Spike turned his attention to Dora. Dog Kelley threw him out on his ear. Humiliated, Spike would have his revenge. On an early October morning, Spike fired two shots into the thin walls of Kelley’s cabin. Little did he know, the mayor had gone to nearby Fort Dodge to visit a doctor for a stomach ailment. Sleeping in a bed in the back room of the cabin, was Dora. The second bullet zinged through the door, then the interior wall, and hit Dora in the side, killing her instantly.
Dodge’s renown lawmen, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Charlie Bassett and Bill Tilghman set out to find Spike. They did, but he didn’t hang. His father somehow bought him an acquittal, and the court cited “lack of evidence.”
Dora’s funeral drew one of the biggest turnouts Dodge City had ever seen. It was said the town shut down for her funeral and 400 men rode behind the wagon carrying Dora’s body up Boot Hill for burial.
If you love tales of the old west, you might enjoy my Annie Oakley Mystery Series. You can find the books on Amazon.
It is so fun for me to take the spark of an idea and grow it into full-length book of mystery and intrigue, usually in a historical setting. I love to create historical novels based on historical figures. The spark for my historical fiction books often comes from something or someone in history that moves me or makes me think about how people in the past might have thought about or reacted to a mystery in their life.
I love to write about empowered women in history, horses, unconventional characters, and real-life historical events. I want readers to experience the joy of an escape from their everyday lives into a mystery from the past.
As a reader, I’m drawn to novels with the same sort of writing. Here are a few of my favorite historical novels based on historical figures:
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
France, 1939 – In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France … but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.
Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can … completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.
The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory
When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of the handsome and charming Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family’s ambitious plots as the king’s interest begins to wane, and soon she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. With her own destiny suddenly unknown, Mary realizes that she must defy her family and take fate into her own hands.
With more than one million copies in print and adapted for the big screen, The Other Boleyn Girl is a riveting historical drama. It brings to light a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most exciting and glamorous court in Europe, and survived a treacherous political landscape by following her heart.
Fifteen-year-old Annie Oakley is the sole supporter of her widowed mother and two younger siblings. An expert markswoman and independent spirit, she hunts game to sell to the local mercantile to make ends meet instead of accepting a marriage proposal that could solve all her problems, including the impending foreclosure of her family’s farm.
After a stunning performance in a shooting contest against famous sharpshooter Frank Butler, Annie is offered a position in the renowned Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Finally, she has a chance to save her family’s farm–and make her dreams come true. But after her catapult to fame, a series of crimes takes place in the Wild West Show, including the death of Annie’s Indian Assistant. The coroner claims the death was due to natural causes, but Annie is unconvinced. Then her prized horse, Buck–a major part of her act–is stolen, and she realizes that someone is out to get her.
With the help of a sassy, blue-blooded reporter, Annie sets out to find her horse, solve the crimes, and clear her good name–before everything she’s worked for is destroyed.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
Into the ‘autobiography’ of Clau-Clau-Claudius, the pitiful stammerer who was destined to become Emperor in spite of himself, Graves packs the everlasting intrigues, the depravity, the bloody purges and mounting cruelty of the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, soon to culminate in the deified insanity of Caligula.
Girl with a Pearl Earring
Tracy Chevalier transports readers to a bygone time and place in this richly-imagined portrait of the young woman who inspired one of Vermeer’s most celebrated paintings.
History and fiction merge seamlessly in this luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening. Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of sixteen-year-old Griet, whose life is transformed by her brief encounter with genius . . . even as she herself is immortalized in canvas and oil.
The Alienist by Caleb Carr
The year is 1896. The city is New York. Newspaper reporter John Schuyler Moore is summoned by his friend Dr. Laszlo Kreizler—a psychologist, or “alienist”—to view the horribly mutilated body of an adolescent boy abandoned on the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge. From there the two embark on a revolutionary effort in criminology: creating a psychological profile of the perpetrator based on the details of his crimes. Their dangerous quest takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who will kill again before their hunt is over.
The Last Day of Night by Graham Moore
New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history—and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?
The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society—the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing him is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal—private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown lawyer shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it?
The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman
Born into the treacherous courts of fifteenth-century England, in the midst of what history has called The War of the Roses, Richard was raised in the shadow of his charismatic brother, King Edward IV. Loyal to his friends and passionately in love with the one woman who was denied him, Richard emerges as a gifted man far more sinned against than sinning.
With revisions throughout and a new author’s preface discussing the astonishing discovery of Richard’s remains five centuries after his death, Sharon Kay Penman’s brilliant classic is more powerful and glorious than ever.
Check out more historical novels based on historical figures HERE!
Historical mystery combines historical fiction and mystery fiction. Enjoy the best of both worlds in these historical mystery hidden gems! Give yourself the gift of these “whodunits” or impress your friends with these suggestions at your next bookclub meeting!
In 1999, art dealer Alex Cayton stumbles across a lost portrait of Molly Dean, an artist’s muse brutally slain in Melbourne in 1930. Alex buys the painting and sets out to uncover more details, but finds there are strange inconsistencies: Molly’s mother seemed unconcerned by her daughter’s violent death, the main suspect was never brought to trial despite compelling evidence, and vital records are missing. Alex enlists the help of her close friend, art conservator John Porter, and together they sift through the clues and deceptions that swirl around the last days of Molly Dean.
As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” Charlotte Holmes has solved murders and found missing individuals. But she has never stolen a priceless artwork – or rather, made away with the secrets hidden behind a much-coveted canvas.
But Mrs. Watson is desperate to help her old friend recover those secrets and Charlotte finds herself involved in a fever-paced scheme to infiltrate a glamorous Yuletide ball where the painting is one handshake away from being sold and the secrets a bare breath from exposure.
Her dear friend Lord Ingram, her sister Livia, Livia’s admirer Stephen Marbleton – everyone pitches in to help and everyone has a grand time. But nothing about this adventure is what it seems and disaster is biding time on the grounds of a glittering French chateau, waiting only for Charlotte to make a single mistake…
It’s 1887, and Annie and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show are invited to Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebration in London, England. But their long journey across the Atlantic takes a turn for the worst when the queen’s royal servant ends up dead and Annie’s husband, Frank Butler, falls suspiciously ill. Annie soon discovers that the two events are connected―and may possibly be precursors to an assassination attempt on the queen.
In London, it becomes clear there is rampant unrest in the queen’s kingdom―the Irish Fenian Brotherhood, as well as embittered English subjects, are teeming in the streets. But amid the chaos, even while she prepares for the show, Annie is determined to find the truth. With the help of a friend and reporter, Emma Wilson, the renowned poet Oscar Wilde, and the famous socialite Lillie Langtry, Annie sets out to hunt down the queen’s enemies―and find out why they want to kill England’s most beloved monarch.
Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author’s tale of gothic strangeness—featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.
Living amid the cultural flowering, religious strife, and political storms of Tudor England, Bess Ellyott is an herbalist, a widow, and a hunted woman. She fled London after her husband was brutally murdered, but the bucolic town in the countryside where she lands will offer her no solace. She still doesn’t know who killed her husband, but she knows one thing: The murderer is still out there. This becomes all too clear when Bess’s brother-in-law, a prosperous merchant, is himself found dead—dangling from a tree, an apparent suicide.
But Bess doesn’t believe that for a moment, and nor do her neighbors. Competition is cutthroat in the 17th century, and word around the town holds that the dead man is a victim of rival merchants scheming to corner the wool market. Bess, though, is convinced the killer is out to destroy her family.
Town constable Christopher Harwoode will cross members of his own family to help Bess find the killer—whose next target may very well be Queen Elizabeth I—in this unshakably gripping, devilishly unpredictable series debut that will delight fans of Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory.
Maine, 1846. Gabriel Stone is desperate to escape the ghosts that haunt him in Massachusetts after his wife’s death, so he moves to Maine, taking a position as a minister in the remote village of Pale Harbor.
But not all is as it seems in the sleepy town. Strange, unsettling things have been happening, and the townspeople claim that only one person can be responsible: Sophronia Carver, a reclusive widow who lives with a spinster maid in the eerie Castle Carver. Sophronia must be a witch, and she almost certainly killed her husband.
As the incidents escalate, one thing becomes clear: they are the work of a twisted person inspired by the wildly popular stories of Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. And Gabriel must find answers, or Pale Harbor will suffer a fate worthy of Poe’s darkest tales.
1914. Joanna Blalock’s keen mind and incredible insight lead her to become a highly-skilled nurse, one of the few professions that allow her to use her finely-tuned brain. But when she and her ten-year-old son witness a man fall to his death, apparently by suicide, they are visited by the elderly Dr. John Watson and his charming, handsome son, Dr. John Watson Jr. Impressed by her forensic skills, they invite her to become the third member of their investigative team.
Caught up in a Holmesian mystery that spans from hidden treasure to the Second Afghan War of 1878-1880, Joanna and her companions must devise an ingenious plan to catch a murderer in the act while dodging familiar culprits, Scotland Yard, and members of the British aristocracy. Unbeknownst to her, Joanna harbors a mystery of her own. The product of a one-time assignation between the now dead Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, the only woman to ever outwit the famous detective, Joanna has unwittingly inherited her parents’ deductive genius.
Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister’s estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes.
Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage—a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. While Gage is clearly more competent than she first assumed, Kiera isn’t about to let her guard down as accusations and rumors swirl.
When Kiera and Gage’s search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim…
Born to William Edward and Frances Nightingale in 1920, Florence, and her older sister were both named after the cities of their birth. While on an extended honeymoon that lasted a few years, the couple gave birth to Frances Parthenope while they toured Parthenope, Italy, a Greek settlement which is now part of Naples, Italy. Shortly thereafter, they welcomed their second daughter into the world, whom we know now as the mother of modern nursing, Florence, while in Florence, Italy.
She came from inherited wealth
Florence’s father came into the world as William Edward Shore. In 1815, upon his great-uncle’s death, he inherited the family estate and changed his name to Nightingale. The family split their time between two grand homes in Embley, Hampshire and Lea Hurst, Derbyshire. They also spent the social season in London. As most wealthy girls in Victorian England, Florence was expected to marry a man of equal or greater wealth, live a luxurious life, produce children, and run the household. Florence knew early on her destiny lay elsewhere.
She was highly educated
Precocious as a child, Florence excelled in mathematics and languages. At a young age, she became fluent in French, German, Italian, Greek and Latin. Not only could she speak the languages, she could also read and write in these languages. Florence’s father took delight in his daughter’s intellect and encourage her education. He supported her in all of her studies including history, philosophy, and literature.
She felt “called” to her profession
As a young girl, Florence felt called by God to help people. She often took care of the sick and injured wherever the family lived.
Like many wealthy, educated, upper-class young adults, Florence embarked on several tours to finish out her education. While on these tours, she wrote about her experiences. She traveled to Greece and Egypt where she wrote of “spiritual grandeur,” and of being called to “do good for him [God] alone and without reputation.”
She became a published writer at 30 years of age
In 1950 she traveled to Germany where she visited a Lutheran community. The trip proved life-changing for her. She witnessed Pastor Theodor Fliedner and his assistant deaconesses serving the sick and deprived. In 1851 she wrote The Institution of Kaiserswerth on the Rhine for the Practical Training of Deaconesses and published it anonymously.
Her most famous literary contribution is her Notes on Nursing, What It Is and What It Is Not. It has been in continuous publication worldwide since 1859.
She rejected an exemplary marriage proposal after a 9-year courtship
As a wealthy, attractive, and charming young woman, Florence had the makings of a beneficial wife. She had several suitors, but the most ardent of them was Richard Monckton Milnes who pursued her for nine years. While she might have had mutual feelings for the politician who also had a romantic side and was an accomplished poet, Florence rejected him. She felt marriage and childbearing would interfere with her calling to nursing.
She knew influential people and was well connected
While traveling in Rome, Florence met Sidney Herbert, the former Secretary of War for the British government, while on his honeymoon. Nightingale, Herbert, and his wife became lifelong friends. Her friendship with Herbert would change her life and put her in the history books. She would later serve as his key advisor throughout the rest of his political career. She also became friendly with the influential theologian Benjamin Jowett who was Master of Balliol College at Oxford University
She Said Yes to Her Calling
Although Florence’s family had reservations about her calling to nursing, they eventually accepted it. Florence enrolled at the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses at Kaiserswerth in Germany. There she learned hospital administration and basic nursing skills. Later she became the superintendent of the Institution for Sick Gentlewomen in Distressed Services in London. There she honed her skills as an administrator. She realized she had a talent for organization and leadership and intended to apply for the superintendent of nurses position at King’s College Hospital in London. Instead, she received another call. (Continued next week!)
Are you a historical fiction fan? Do you love the Roaring Twenties and a strong female lead? Check out my latest novel, Grace in the Wings!
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?
While Isabella of Castile became one of the most powerful female monarchs the world would ever know, her daughter, Juana, could not seem to find empowerment at any time in her life, even when she became Queen of Castile. Suffering from bouts of ill temper, melancholia, jealous rages and utter despair, Juana was proclaimed “mad” early into her marriage and she never successfully alluded the title.
Both never intended for the throne, Isabella and her daughter Juana came to their prospective reigns through the untimely death of siblings, and also through powerful alliances in marriage. Both raised at court, they received the finest education a princess could receive, but their lives, and any hope at happiness in their younger years, came at the mercy of their male superiors and overbearing mothers. Isabella’s mother, known as Isabella the Mad, often flew into paranoid rants about ghosts or people wanting to kill her or her beloved.
Raised under the reign of her half-brother Henry IV, Isabella endured several betrothals and refused one or two before she married the man she had first been intended for, Ferdinand of Aragon. Knowing her half-brother wanted an alliance with Alfonso of Portugal, Isabela fled from her brother’s court to Valladolid, and married her second cousin, Ferdinand.
From that point on, Isabella and Ferdinand embarked on a quest to make Castile and Leon (now Spain) a pure nation. With Isabella at the helm, they reorganized the government and saved the kingdom from the overwhelming debt her brother Henry left behind. Isabella and Ferdinand became known as the “Catholic Kings,” after they ruthlessly resurrected the Reconquista by taking Grenada from the Muslims, and exiled Jewish subjects in the Spanish Inquisition. Isabella established Spain as a world power that lasted for more than a century with her support of Christopher Columbus’ 1492 voyage to the “new world.”
Although having given birth to five children, Isabella had little time to raise them. Juana, the third child, an extremely beautiful, intelligent and sensitive girl, started exhibiting strange behaviors when her mother became ill, or traveled away from court. The young princess often locked herself away and refuse to eat or sleep.
In 1496, Isabella sent Juana, aged 16, accompanied by a fleet of over 100 ships, to Flanders to marry Phillip the Fair, or Phillip the Handsome, the heir to the Austrian empire. The alliance would strengthen Spain’s presence against the power of France, and align it with Flanders, the top producer of Iberian wool. After the setback of a tremendous storm delayed the arrival of the princess, the two teenagers finally met, and fell in love at first sight. With the wedding set for the next day, the two decided they could not wait, and had a priest marry them immediately.
But the passionate luster soon wore off for Phillip, known to love his wine and his women. When Phillip misbehaved, Juana flew into long, drawn-out jealous rages, or took to her rooms, refusing food or drink for days.
Despite their marital troubles while living in Flanders, Juana became pregnant. She first gave birth to a daughter, Eleanor, in 1498, and then Charles in 1500. During this span of time, Juana’s elder brother John and her sister Isabella both died, leaving Juana heir to the throne of Spain. In order to keep an eye on Juana, who’s public displays of ill-temper had become renown in Flanders, and Phillip who’d become too lenient with France, Isabella and Ferdinand encouraged the couple to move to Spain. If they were to inherit the realm, they needed to be schooled for their eventual accession to power.
Finally, in 1502, Juana and Phillip arrived in Spain where Juana was recognized as Isabella’s successor and Phillip her consort. Feeling like a fish out of water, Phillip soon returned to Flanders, but Isabella would not allow Juana to leave with him.
Desperate without her husband, Juana resorted to her melancholic state and refused to eat or drink. Phillip wanted Juana back in Flanders as badly as Juana wanted to be there, but for different reasons. He wanted his wife out of Spain’s control. Isabella feared that Spain would revolt should Juana try to rule from Flanders, so the tug of war continued until 1504, when fearing for her daughter’s mental stability, Isabella let Juana return to Flanders.
But love and life did not improve for Juana. Phillip continued his affairs and Juana continued her embarrassing public outbursts. These public displays of outrage and then overt affection toward Phillip only made Phillip despise his wife more. He had her locked away in her rooms.
More sad news would reach Juana a few months later when she learned that her mother, Isabella, had died. Her father, Ferdinand, in order to keep control from Phillip, claimed Juana incompetent to rule, and he intended to rule as regent until his grandson Charles became of age.
To thwart her father’s plan, Juana and Phillip sailed for Castile in the hopes that powerful nobles who opposed Ferdinand would side with Juana. They did. Ferdinand then remarried hoping to beget another son to take the throne from Juana’s control.
In 1506, perhaps tired of working around Juana, Ferdinand and Phillip made an alliance. Without Juana’s knowledge, the two men met and declared Juana unfit to rule. Ferdinand turned Castile over to Phillip and Juana in a monetary exchange, knowing that Phillip would wrest control from Juana, but also that Spain would likely not accept a foreign ruler.
To everyone’s surprise, in late 1506, Phillip fell ill with fever (some say poison.) Juana nursed him around the clock for six days until he finally succumbed. Bereft, Juana, according to chroniclers of the time, had her husband’s coffin reopened on several occasions so she could caress his face and look upon him.
These claims were probably exaggerated by Ferdinand and then later, Juana’s son Charles, to discredit her and thwart any hope of her rising to power, again. To Ferdinand’s relief, Juana had no interest in ruling, and in 1507 she turned the government over to him. In return, he had her imprisoned in Tordesillas castle, where she continued her bouts of refusing to eat or sleep.
When Charles finally came into power after the death of Ferdinand, he did not treat his mother much better than Phillip or Ferdinand had. But, the people loved her, and often rallied to her cause, but Charles clamped down even harder on his mother because of her popularity. She finally enjoyed about 8 months of freedom before she died.
Was Juana actually mad, or did she possess a tender heart and have a sensitive nature? Did she suffer from bi-polar disease, or did she pose too much of a threat to the men in her life who wanted power above all else? We may never know. I wonder if Isabella had lived longer, would she have come to the defense of her daughter, or would she have treated her as ruthlessly as she did the others she deemed weak? I would hope the former, but then, I’m an eternal optimist.
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Eleanor of Aquitaine, the most sought after daughter in medieval Europe, became the most wealthy and powerful woman during the 12th and 13th centuries. At 12-13 years of age, Eleanor inherited the Duchy of Aquitaine when her father, William X, died. Orphaned, Eleanor came under the guardianship of King Louis VI of France. Three months later, she married the King’s son, Louis VII. Shortly after the two teenagers wed, the King, known as Louis the Fat, died of dysentery leaving Louis the Younger and Eleanor the Kingdom.
As with most women of power, many of Eleanor’s critics claim she came by that power, and possibly held onto that power, through dubious and immoral methods–meaning, she used her feminine wiles and uncontrolled sexual passion to gain the upper hand. One of the most popular rumors about Eleanor is her alleged incestuous affair with her uncle, Raymond of Poitiers.
Historians agree that Eleanor, reputed to be beautiful, intelligent, and wise beyond her years, enchanted her husband Louis with her wit and charm. Despite his intense love for her, the couple’s 8-year relationship slowly disintegrated as they could produce no male heir. Of course, as with most infertile royal couples of the time, the fault lay with Eleanor, despite the fact she gave birth to a daughter, Marie in 1145.
When Pope Eugene III requested Louis lead a second crusade to the Middle East to rescue the Frankish Kingdoms from the Muslims, Eleanor encouraged her husband to rise to the occasion. She also requested to accompany him. It is debated whether Louis agreed to allow his beautiful, flirtatious bride to join him to keep her under close watch, or he simply desired her company. Eleanor, along with her royal ladies-in-waiting and 300 of her courtiers boarded the ships to Antioch for the campaign.
When the royal couple arrived, they accepted the hospitality of Eleanor’s handsome uncle Raymond, Prince of Antioch. Raymond and Eleanor spent constant time in each others company. It didn’t take long for rumors to spread that the two engaged in an incestuous affair. Louis, appalled and affronted with the rumors, pulled up stakes left after only two weeks in Antioch.
Eleanor implored her husband to let her stay under the protection of her uncle, but he refused her plea, and bade she accompany him on the rest of the crusade. When they returned to France, the rumors of Eleanor’s infidelity with her uncle further alienated her from Louis, and she asked Pope Eugene for an annulment. She claimed to want the annulment on the grounds of consanguinity—the close familial relation to her husband, her fourth cousin. The Pope refused and tried to reconcile the royal couple.
In 1150, Eleanor gave birth to another daughter—another disappointment that further alienated Eleanor from her husband. The Pope finally relented, and in 1152 gave Eleanor the annulment on grounds of consanguinity, but gave custody of her daughters to Louis.
The second famous rumor about Eleanor concerns the mystery of her Court of Love. After her annulment, noblemen and Kings lined up to win Eleanor’s hand. Still the most powerful woman in Europe, she again became a most sought-after bride. Even if it meant kidnapping her. Eleanor got wind of at least two of these plots, and sent word to Henry, her third cousin, the Duke of Normandy and future King of England, imploring him to marry her. He didn’t refuse.
Eight weeks after her annulment to Louis, Henry and Eleanor married. Although they had 8 children together over 15 years of marriage, the two often bickered and fought. Henry spent much time away from England, and also with other women. During this time, Eleanor returned to her castle in Poitiers, France, where she is said to have started the Court of Love.
Discouraged by her own two marriages, Eleanor set out to educate men in the areas of romance, love, and chivalry. Noblemen brought their relationship problems to a jury of nearly 60 women, (the Court of Love) including Eleanor and her daughter Marie, Countess of Champagne, in search of answers. The women directed the love-lorn men how to dress, speak, and act with their women, including writing poetry, playing music, and taking an interest in the arts–a far cry from manly behavior of the middle ages.
Many historians deny the existence of Eleanor’s Court of Love, but others say it contributed to the literature, music, and arts of the time, and into the future. The art of courtly love also grew in popularity from this period on.
Henry and Eleanor’s marriage would see greater decline when their son, Henry the Younger, led a revolt against his father for the crown of England. Eleanor sided with her son, and for this, Henry imprisoned her for the next 16 years. At the death of her husband, her third son, Richard, became King. One of his first acts as King of England? To free his mother from prison.
Though her critics, and her husbands, tried to discredit her time and time again, Eleanor proved to be a woman empowered, and a woman who found a way to survive and prevail. She lived into her early eighties. The mere fact that she obtained an annulment from a King who still ruled, is unfathomable—considering that a woman in the 12th Century, even a ruling woman, only existed as a means to an end—to better the lives of men.
We may never solve the mystery of Eleanor’s relationship with her uncle, or her reported infidelities in the French court, or whether or not she developed a “Court of Love” in Poitiers. We can only go by the records that exist in history, and no one knows whether all the records are true or not. Sometimes, it is up to us to decide. Despite the claims of her critics, Eleanor still remains one of the most beloved, and most empowered women in history.