Article Round-Up

I was hoping to have a full post this week but work’s just been too much and I don’t want to do anything when I get home.  If you’re interested though, you can see a few of the things I’ve created for my job here, then clicking on Civil Liberties or Women in Ohio and finding Frances Dana Gage, Women in Ohio for Annette Cronise Lutes, and African Americans for the Gist Settlements.  These are all educational resources I helped create and are vaguely like what I do here.  It’s a really good resource for a quick overview on any number of topics.  (As of this writing I see that Frances Dana Gage’s name is spelled wrong and I’ll be letting them know right now!)

When history and science meet (Katherine Johnson
was featured on an episode of Timeless!)

The Petticoat Revolution in Oregon

A short biography of Queen Victoria (I’m reading

We Two by Gillian Gill right now, about Victoria and Albert.)

New information about Anne Frank

“A Victorian Lady’s Christmas Gift Guide”

Looking lovely in red in the Victorian era

I shared this on Facebook the other day, but it bears sharing here too.
This is a really fascinating case, looking at the different ways different
people can interpret history and how that can lead to misinformation.  Make
sure to click through to see the original piece from the New York Times,
as well as the response by Monica Green.  It’s really interesting.

I will be gone for the majority of the next week, so there won’t be a new post next Monday.  I’m not sure yet if there will be on the 2nd, or if it will have to wait until the 9th.  But at any rate, I hope you have a wonderful whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of year, and have a very happy new year!


Repeal Day and Books

Happy repeal day!

Something a bit different today, though I know there are three Mondays left in the year (wow, that went fast…).  If you use Goodreads, you might know about the reading challenges they run each year. At the beginning of the year you pick a number of books you’d like to read that year (I picked 50 this year; it’s been more or less in past years) and then just keep track of the date you finished them for them to be counted for the year.  This year I hit my goal by the end of November, so anything I finish this month is gravy.

Goodreads, or probably any book-ish website like it, is great for keeping track of what you’re reading in so many ways.  You can create your own shelves in addition to the three they start you with.  You can cross-reference those shelves to see your stats for a year.  For example, I have shelves for books read by year (so I have handy how many I read in addition to the reading challenge), as well as for author- if it’s written by a man or a woman.  So doing that I can see that out of the 50 books I’ve finished so far this year, 29 were by men and 21 by women (I’ll have to try and read more women next year; a few series this year really cranked up the male numbers!).  I can also see that I read 15 books I classified as non-fiction; I also have three non-fiction in my currently reading shelf as well.  Basically this has all been a really long-winded way to tell you about some (I won’t get into all 15) of the non-fiction books I read this year.

Going from most recent to oldest…

A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup.  This was really interesting!  This is subtitled “The Poisons of Agatha Christie” and it’s really excellent.  I love Agatha Christie’s books and tv adaptations.  I’ve been interested in crime and poison for years, and I think that’s why I like mystery books so much.  This was the perfect blend.  There are fourteen chapters, each titled like “A is for Arsenic”.  The chapter then tells a bit about a story where Christie used the poison, as well as about true crime cases that may have inspired or been inspired by Christie (mostly the former).  Harkup goes into the science behind how each poison kills as well and how well Christie did portraying that.  As you might remember from my post on Christie, she was a trained pharmacist and knew her poisons, so it’s no surprise that she portrays them accurately in her novels.

The Greater Journey by David McCullough.  I really enjoyed this.  I started it once before and abandoned it, but used the audiobook this time and had no issue.  (Seriously, I can’t recommend audiobooks highly enough.  I don’t always have one going – sometimes there are podcasts I’d rather listen to – but I usually do and they really help with books I’ve struggled with before.)  This is about Americans in Paris in the 19th century.  McCullough discusses artists, writers, politicians, inventors, you name it really.  I learned that Samuel Morse started out as a painter before he worked on telegraph and invented Morse Code.  There were parts about John Singer Sargent too, which well supplemented Strapless by Deborah Davis which I read in 2015.  I really liked the parts about Augustus Saint-Gaudens and James Fenimore Cooper too.

The Clockwork Universe by Edward Dolnick.  This one I’ll mention because I didn’t really care for it and I think it’s important to discuss those sorts of books as well.  This sounded really good – subtitled “Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World” – but it didn’t live up to expectations, so you may enjoy it.  I felt like this was too much of a pop-science book and didn’t really discuss anything in depth.  It was written almost conversationally and made reference to The DaVinci Code and posters you hang on your wall, which just lost me a bit.  This is another one I listened to the audiobook for, and it’s totally possible that some of my issue was the narrator and not always the book.  (The The DaVinci Code reference is still in the book though, so…)

Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon. This was wonderful.  A dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, Gordon interwove their lives and stories really well.  Chapters would alternate from mother to daughter, highlighting some of the parallels in their lives.  I’d read a little about Shelley before – The Monsters by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler – but nothing about Wollstonecraft.  It was fascinating.

How to be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman.  This one took me a while to get through, but I really enjoyed it over all.  Goodman takes you through a day of a Victorian.  The chapters go from waking up to bathing to breakfast to work to play or school for children and so on.  The chapters on clothing and other relatively superficial things were probably my favorites, while I slowed down with the chapters on work and school and games.  Overall it was really interesting and could be a really good resource if you’re writing about the era.  Goodman also has other books on Victorian life as well as How to be a Tudor and how to live in other eras.

The Bronte Cabinet by Deborah Lutz.  I loved everything about this book.  It’s set up to act like a sort of curio cabinet of the Brontes lives, hence the title, and so each chapter is about one of those items and how it relates to them.  I didn’t know a lot about the Brontes going into this, and I’ve only read Jane Eyre, but I just find them really interesting and this book was a great beginning biography.  Lutz uses items like the miniature books the children created, walking sticks, a dog’s collar, and writing desks, to really illuminate the lives of Emily, Charlotte, and Anne, as well as bits of Branwell and their father.

In addition to the books I’ve finished this year, I’m technically currently reading six books (oops!), three of which are non-fiction: The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff; Fracture: Life and Culture in the West, 1918-1938 by Philipp Blom; and When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning.  Of these, I’m only actively reading the last, and it’s really interesting.  It’s about the Armed Services Editions that were published during WWII to help with soldiers’ morale, and also pulled some books out of obscurity; did you know The Great Gatsby had fallen from popularity before it was chosen as an ASE?  (The others… I might be a little Salem-d out lately, and with Fracture, once I passed the years I’m interested in, my reading really dropped off…)

I will try and have a real post before the end of the year, but I hope you enjoyed this about books I’ve read this year!

Article Round-Up

Sorry for the silence for the last few weeks.  The election took a lot out of me and I did nothing for a little while but go to work.  I’ve been in a funk since then, knitting less, reading a bit more, still watching too much TV.  But we’ve passed Thanksgiving and are nearly into December, so I figured it’s a good time to get back to this, and ease into it with an article round-up.

If you’re anything like me, you binged The Crown when it premiered on Netflix.One episode addressed the Great Smog of London of 1952.  Chinese researchers maybe cracking what happened in London, while researching their own issue.

Weird Wikipedia pages, including past subject Stedhal syndrome, the related Paris syndrome, and some other interesting sounding pages.  (The poisonous plants one reminds meof A is for Arsenic, which I’d recommend reading if that sort of thing interests you.)

Faberge Eggs!

“Remembering Wounded Knee at Standing Rock”

“The Moscone-Milk Anniversary – and Legacy”,
8-years old but important

All the American Experience films you can watch online.  I still
need to watch the new one on Tesla!

Article Round-Up

Happy almost Election Day!  I can’t wait for this joke to be over…  If I can find something in my closet, I plan on wearing some white tomorrow (#wearwhitetovote), if not I’ll wear green and purple.  I cast my vote early a couple weeks ago and have just been sitting back waiting for election day since then.

I have a lot of links for you today.  I tried to find interesting stuff about Presidents and candidates and voting, but then I also have non-political links that are just neat.

Today we have Hillary, but in the 1870s we had Victoria Woodhull.
(I really recommend The Scarlet Sisters about Victoria and her sister.)

Presidential sex scandals are basically as old as the presidency.

Introverted Presidents?

While we’re all concerned with Donald Trump’s health and what Hillary Clinton’scough really signifies, let’s all just remember Grover Cleveland.

Back in September a confusing mammoth skull was found…

The Gilded Age is known for excess, but just look at these gardens!

“Block Printed Cottons in the Georgian Era”

World War I in real time, 100 years later

Now, go vote tomorrow!

Happy Halloween!

I was planning on doing a Halloween related post today but came up short.  None of the ideas I had seemed right, though, and I didn’t want to do a topic that had been done to death.  I finally settled on trick-or-treating, but even with that, I realized there wasn’t different enough information anywhere to warrant me doing a new post of my own.  Instead I’m doing another article post, but with some of the fun Halloween-y stuff I’ve found in the last week or so.  Happy Halloween!

“Why are pumpkins used at Halloween?”

Halloween used to include way more games, and weirder ones at that.

Bobbing for apples was originally romantic and had way more symbolism.

“The New Woman meets the old witch”

Historical Horror Films

“Why Can’t Ghosts Let Go of the Victorian Era?”

Disney’s 1929 Halloween Skeleton-Dance short

Article Round-Up

Halloween is next week and I’m still trying to think of something appropriately Halloween-y to talk about without just doing witches or something like that.  We’ll see what I come up with… In the mean time, here’s some things I’ve found interesting recently, including information about Halloween in the Gilded Age.  Another link discusses Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who I recently read some about in David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, which I’d really recommend.

Cléo de Mérode

Well, I’m getting away from Icelandic topics now.  I may get back to some, we’ll see, but I keep finding subjects that interest me and I want to learn more about and share with someone, so we’re moving on.  I follow a lot of historical pages or just interesting pages on facebook, and a lot of times there are brief articles about things that sound interesting, so I save them to remember for later, possibly for a post of my own.  Today’s topic was found in that way.  I don’t remember exactly where I saw something about Cléo de Mérode (maybe 5-minute History?), but she sounded interesting and has a unique look, so here we are.

800px-cleo20aCléo de Mérode, called Lulu by her parents, was born Cléopatra Diane de Mérode on September 27, 1875, probably in Paris, but maybe in Biarritz or Bordeaux.  Her father, Carl (or Karl), was an Austrian landscape painter, and “styled himself Freiherr von Merode (Baron Merode) and claimed descent from the old and noble Belgian family of de Merode” and “Her mother was a former Viennese actress” (1).

When Cléo was eight, she was sent away to study dance.  She made her professional debut at age eleven, and by age sixteen she was famous – but not necessarily for her dance.  Cléo became famous for her hairstyle.  In the late 1880s and early 1890s, women wore their hair piled on top of their heads, maybe with the front portion parted, maybe with bangs, but all up mostly away from their face.  Cléo wore her hair low in back, and parted right down the middle, hair covering her ears (this led to a rumor at one point that she didn’t even have ears).  This different hairstyle made her famous and was adopted by admirers.

Cléo had her image on postcards, playing cards, you name it.  She was featured in “Behind the Scenes at the Opera” at the Musée Grévin, even though she was only a member of the coryphee! (2)  (I had to look up what the coryphee is, as I don’t know dance.  A member of the coryphee is “a member of a ballet company who dances usually as part of a small group and who ranks below the soloists” [3].)


Cléo by Vazquez, and the sculpture, La Danseuse

Alexandre Falguière used Cléo’s likeness in his sculpture La Danseuse (The Dancer) (now at the Musée d’Orsay).  He claimed, or at least there were rumors, that the sculpture was modeled from her body, but “facing a public scandal, she claim[ed] she only lent her features to the sculpture’s face” (4).  In addition to this sculpture, Cléo had her portrait done by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Charles Puyo, Alfredo Muller, and Giovanni Boldini.  She was photographed by Felix Nadar and other “illustrious photographers of the day” (5).

In 1896, King Léopold II of Belgium went to the ballet in Paris and saw Cléo perform.  He became completely enchanted with her, leading to gossip that she was his mistress.  The king already had two children with a rumored prostitute, so this association with the king damaged Cléo’s reputation.  Despite this, or maybe because of it in a way, Cléo was still able to become an international star.

In 1897 Cléo travelled to the United States, appearing for a month at Koster and Blat’s in New York.  Her appearance was heavily anticipated, but her performance was disappointing.  “The press was unkind in reviewing her performances, praising her beauty but saying that she could not dance or act” (6).  Despite the letdown, Cléo still made over forty times her regular monthly Parisian salary.

cleo_de_merode_three_posesCléo continued her tour, continuing to various countries around the globe.  She danced for King Chulalenghorn of Siam, doing a Siamese style dance with Parisian highlights.  She became popular in Austria and Germany, so much so that a character in the German movie Frauen der Leidenschaft was based on her.  In Vienna, Austria, she caught the attention of Gustav Klimt (this relationship is fictionalized for the 2006 movie, Klimt).  Back in Paris, Cléo took a risk and performed at the Folies Bergère, earning her a whole new following.  In 1902, she went to England for the first time, performing various national dances at the Alhambra.  In 1904 she toured Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.

a1-giovanni-boldini-cleo-de-merode-1901Cléo kept dancing until her early fifties.  She retired to Biarritz, where she gave dance lessons until she was in her eighties.  Through this time, as she was growing older, she sculpted small figurines of her own, and sold them.  In 1955, she published her autobiography, Le Ballet de ma vie (The Dance of my Life).

Also in 1955, Cléo took Simone de Beauvoir to court and won.  Cléo sued her for “wrongly describing Cleo in public as a prostitute who had taken an aristocratic-sounding stage name as self-promotion.  Cleo’s defence was that she was a professional dancer and member of the old, noble, and distinguished de Merode family” (7).  While Cléo did win, she only won one franc in damages because “the judge found that Cleo had permitted the rumors during the course of her career for their publicity value” (8).  The judge did also order that Cléo’s name would be struck from all future editions of de Beauvoir’s The Third Sex.

Cléo never married and never had any children.  There were rumors of her engagement to various famous and/or rich men throughout her life, but none were true.  She did have two romances in her life, but both ended tragically; one when her lover died from typhoid, and the other left her for another woman.

Cléo de Mérode died in 1966.  She is buried in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, with her mother.  (She lived with her mother until 1899, when her mother died.)  There is a likeness of Cléo in mourning over the joint tomb.

1, 2, 6, 8 – Cleo de Merode (1875-1966)

3 – coryphée

4 – Cléo de Mérode (1875-1966)

5 – Cléo de Mérode

7 – Cleo de Merode La Belle Epoque’s Beauty