Biographies of Theodosia Burr
Frustratingly, there are few sources which focus on Theodosia’s life exclusively. The majority of information about her life is from books about her father, 3rd U.S. Vice President, Aaron Burr. Here are some of the texts I used when researching the podcast:
Theodosia Burr Alston: Portrait of a Prodigy
By Richard N. Côté
Theodosia, the First Gentlewoman of Her Time
By C.M. Clark
Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 1 (entry for Burr, Theodosia)
Encyclopedia of Women in American History (entry for Alston, Theodosia Burr)
Biographies of Aaron Burr
Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr
By Nancy Isenberg
American Emperor: Aaron Burr's Challenge to Jefferson's America
By David O. Stewart
Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Future of America
By Thomas J. Fleming
For further information regarding Theodosia’s family:
This website provides a treasure-trove of information about the Burr-Hamilton duel and the Burr Conspiracy:
The American Experience: The Duel
Further information regarding Theodosia’s parents from the Hermitage Museum:
Theodosia Prevost and Aaron Burr
For more information about Theodosia’s disappearance and purported sitings of her ghost, check-out:
History: Disappearance of Theodosia Burr a source of speculation for 200 years (article from Coastal Observer newspaper)
Photographs of the Alston family memorial
Information concerning the Nag’s Head portrait and other paintings of Theodosia:
Portrait of Nag’s Head (article from Antique Trader magazine)
Old Painting Gives Clews to the Fate of Theodosia Burr Alston (article from San Francisco Call, June 1906)
Gibbes Museum’s entry for 1811 portrait of Theodosia
Blogpost of John Wesley Jarvis’ portrait of Theodosia
Theodosia’s has also been featured in historical fiction novels and, most recently, a broadway musical:
My Theodosia, by Anya Seton
Burr, by Gore Vidal
Hamilton (links to the cast recording for the broadway musical)
For the second in a two-part series, we discuss bodies, stays, and busk points. For visual reference, Sarah has provided the following pictures:
For more about historical women's fashion, visit Sarah's blog.
Sarah has also written a piece on the history of corset for the Powerhouse Museum. Check it out here:
From Bodies to Corsets: A Brief Overview of the Corset
For the first in a two-part series, we discuss the farthingale, a structural garment worn under the skirt to increase its diameter. For visual reference, Sarah has provided the following pictures:
During the year 1820, roughly 5,000 Britons descended on what is today the Republic of South Africa to seize land and spread their ‘civilizing’ influence to the Xhosa natives. Among these early settlers were numerous daughters, mothers, and wives. What function did these oft-overlooked women play in the British colonizing scheme?
Rarely in examinations of Great Britain and colonization is the role of women as colonial agents acknowledged. One postgraduate World History & Cultures student at King’s College London has endeavored to rectify this through her research on women and the white settler identity. On this episode of History, Bitches I chat with my classmate Becca about how white South African women helped cultivate and disseminate ideas of cultural and racial superiority.
You can read Becca’s paper here:
Settler Women and the White Colonial Identity on the Cape Colony’s Eastern Frontier, 1820-1870
During her research Becca used primary sources like memoirs. Check-out British settler Martha Jane Kirk’s memoir’s here:
Memoirs of Grannie (Kirk) Blake 1823 to 1906, as told to her Granddaughter, Helen Rosa Moroney (nee Kirk)
For further reading, Becca recommends Alan Lester’s ‘Imperial Networks: Creating Identities in Nineteenth-Century South Africa and Britain’
She parachuted out airplanes, bicycled 500 km. through opposition-held territory, and killed Nazis using just her bare hands! But, before Nancy Wake, nicknamed “The White House,” became landed on the Gestapo’s most wanted list, she was a spunky girl from a broken home, growing-up in New Zealand.
Nancy Grace Augusta Wake was born August 30, 1912 in Roseneath, Wellington, New Zealand. After the collapse of her parents’ marriage, and a childhood lacking maternal affection, she ran-away to explore the globe. Residing in London, Nancy smooth-talked a newspaper executive into employing her, and was dispatched to Paris as a roving correspondent.
A reporter by day, and bon vivant by night, Nancy met, and married, French playboy-industrialist Henri Fiocca. Following the onset of the Second World War, and the Nazis’ invasion of Paris, she and her husband joined the French Resistance. She became a courier, secreting communications and food to opposition groups in Southern France, and aided refugees, run-away POWs, and downed Allied pilots escape France.
Eventually, the Nazis wised-up to her clandestine activities, and Nancy was put on the Gestapo’s most wanted list, with a 5-million franc bounty on her head. They dubbed her “The White Mouse,” for her ability to elude capture. Ultimately, Nancy fled to England, joining Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE). There, her continued leadership, intelligence, and general bad-assery led her Nancy to become one of the Allies’ most decorated servicewoman.
To read more about Nancy’s exploits as a British agent, check-out these History, Bitches approved sources:
From disenchanted, favorite child she escaped to become a hopeful, teenage bride. From business-savvy show woman and courtesan she fell to become a convicted spy. From birth to death, Mata Hari’s life was defined by transformation.
Born Margaretha Zelle in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, her girlhood was characterized by wealth and extravagance, until her spendthrift father went bankrupt, throwing the family into poverty. She was pawned-off to relatives following her parents’ divorce and mother’s death, and trained to become a kindergarten teacher. But, after her first brush with scandal, she was again sent packing.
Now residing in the Hague, Margaretha met Rudolph MacLeod, her future husband. Engaged after just 6 days, the pair became acquainted via a matrimonial advertisement he’d taken out in a newspaper. Yet, despite his aristocratic pedigree, Rudolph was no gentleman. His drinking and womanizing, and Margaretha’s free-spending, overtaxed the marriage, and they eventually divorced.
Margaretha took-off to Paris, where she became the toast of the town, having transformed herself into the performer Mata Hari. Here, she became ensnared in a web of deception and treachery which ultimately caused her destruction. Was Mata Hari a double-agent, working for Germany while deceiving France? Or just a superficial woman that accepted money from the wrong men?
To learn more about Mata Hari’s supposed espionage activities, check-out these History, Bitches approved biographies:
Congratulations, Michelle Janine Howard, the U.S. Navy’s 1st female four star admiral, the service’s highest rank! Likewise, this makes her the 1st African-American woman to earn a four-star ranking in the history of the U.S. military. Michelle is also notable for being the 1st African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy vessel. For more, check-out:
Female four-star admiral: Adm. Michelle Janine Howard makes Navy history (The Christian Science Monitor)
Michelle Howard Becomes 1st Female 4-Star Officer in the Navy (The Root)
You've probably heard of Phillis Wheatley, but chances are you’re not quite sure who she is, or why she’s famous. If you’re nodding your head, keep reading…
Phillis Wheatley, the first African-American to publish a book of poetry, was probably born in 1753 or 1754, somewhere in western Africa. At roughly 7 years old, captured by slave-traders.
Considered too sickly for hard labor plantations in the Caribbean or Southern U.S. colonies, she became a domestic servant for the Wheatley family in Boston. Though they kept slaves, the Wheatley’s were relatively progressive; after witnessing Phillis copying the alphabet in chalk, instead of punishing her, they decided to cultivate her academic interests. During a period when some states outlawed teaching slaves to read, Phillis was studying Alexander Pope and John Milton. Actually, the education she received from the Wheatley’s was superior even to most Caucasian males’.
At roughly 12 or 13 years old, her first poem appeared in Newport Rhode Island’s Mercury newspaper; later, her poetry was printed in throughout New England. Still, Phillis couldn't locate funding for a complete volume of poetry in the U.S., and had to seek patrons across the pond. Her book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was distributed in 1773 by a London published. Subsequently, Phillis became the 1st African-American, male or female, enslaved or free, to publish a book of poetry. Shortly thereafter, she gained her freedom, but, like many free African-American, she encountered severe economic hardship. Phillis never found a sponsor for a second book, and passed-away, destitute, at roughly 31 years old.
To learn more about Phillis’ remarkable early life, rise to literary prominence, and tragic descent into poverty, check-out these resources:
Entry for Phillis Wheatley at Poetry Foundation, article written by Sondra A. O'Neale, Emory University
The Hand of America's First Black Female Poet, news story from NPR
The Phillis Wheatley Monument, article from Black Art Depot Today
Bitches, let’s rap. We need to discuss a subject that’s a bit…well, serious. Sit down. Do you now, or have you ever, felt anxious, short-tempered, or emotional? Have you perhaps experienced insomnia or a loss of appetite? Do you have a general “tendency to cause trouble?” I suspected you might. Ladies, it’s time you learned about a rampant “disease” that’s been plaguing women for thousands of years, Female Hysteria (or as George said, “More like her-steria!” High-five, buddy!). Don’t be afraid; I'm here to answer each and every one some of your questions. First up…
What is Hysteria?
Female Hysteria is a serious medical condition which, as the name implies, predominantly affects women. Nevertheless, men are occasionally diagnosed with Hysteria, and for a brief period of time during the Edwardian era, it was deemed fashionable and a mark of sophistication and enlightenment for men to be diagnosed as hysterical.
Some historical mysteries, regardless of how persistently we might try, can never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. As morning dawned on July 17, 1918, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, and their five children, Alexei, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, were executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries. Just two years later, a woman calling herself Anna Anderson turned-up in Berlin claiming to be Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, the youngest of the tsar and tsarina’s daughters. She professed that she had escaped from the basement where her family was slaughtered with help from two brothers named Tchiakovsky, and fled to Romania. She perpetrated this fraud until 1991, when the previously lost remains of the royal family were unearthed. Posthumous DNA testing proved Anna was not a member of the Romanov dynasty. Some have postulated that she was actually a Polish factory worked named Franziska Schanzkowska who had a history of mental illness.
Searching for possible images for my series of Black History Month blog-posts, I came across some pictures from “Because of Them, We Can.” Their mission is to share/celebrate African-American’s “rich history and promising future through images that would refute stereotypes and build the esteem of our children.”
To hear more about creator Eunique Jones Gibson’s inspiration and aspirations for the campaign, check-out the video below:
Name: Charlotte E. Ray
Born: January 13, 1850/New York City, New York
Died: January 04, 1911/Woodside, New York
Occupation: Lawyer, educator, African-American civil and women’s rights activist
What Makes Her Bitchin’: In 1872, Charlotte E. Ray graduated from the Howard University School of Law, subsequently becoming the first African-American female lawyer. The first woman admitted to the District of Columbia Bar, Charlotte struggled against persistent discrimination due to her gender and race. Unable to draw a steady stream of clients, she practiced law for only a couple of years. Charlotte eventually relocated to New York City where she became a teacher.
Betcha’ Didn’t Know: Charlotte was the first woman permitted to argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
For more about this litigating lady, check-out :
Charlotte E. Ray (biography.com)
Charlotte E. Ray: A Black Woman Lawyer (PDF)
Name: Zelda Wynn Valdes
Born: June 28, 1905
Died: September 26, 2001
Occupation: Fashion designer and costumer
What Makes Her Bitchin’: A designer and costumer, Zelda created the original Playboy Bunny outfits and costumes for the Dance Theater of Harlem. Among her superstar clientele were entertainers like Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, and Joyce Bryant. Reflecting on her decades of success, Zelda summed up her career thusly, “I just had a God-given talent for making people beautiful.”
Betcha’ Didn’t Know: Zelda became the first African-American to own a store on Broadway in New York City when she opened her boutique, "Chez Zelda," in 1948.
For more about black fashion’s fairy godmother, check-out :
Fashionable Game-Changer: Zelda Wynn Valdes
Zelda Wynn Valdes: Black Fashion Designer Who Created The Playboy Bunny Outfit
Name: Harriet E. Wilson
Born: March 15, 1825/Milford, New Hampshire
Died: June 28, 1900/ Quincy, Massachusetts
Occupation: Novelist, Spiritualist
What Makes Her Bitchin’: Considered the 1st African-American female novelist, Harriet was also the 1st Black-American, woman or man, to publish a book in North America. Though, in 1859, Harriet’s work, Our Nig, or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black was published anonymously in Boston, Massachusetts, it was not widely distributed. Over a century later, it was rediscovered by the scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in 1982.
Betcha’ Didn’t Know: Harriet was also part of the Spiritualist tradition, popular in America during later 19th and early 20th centuries, and was recognized in Spiritualist circles as “the colored medium.” In the Boston Spiritualist newspaper, Banner of Light, she advertised herself as a trance reader and lecturer.
For more about this novel novelist, check-out:
The Harriet Wilson Project
Harriet E. Wilson Became The First Black Person To Publish A Novel On This Date In 1859
Name: Joyce Bryant
Born: October 14, 1928/Oakland, California,
Occupation: Singer, actress
Nickname/Alias/ Nom de guerre: The Bronze Blonde Bombshell”, “the black Marilyn Monroe,” “The Belter,” and “The Voice You'll Always Remember”
What Makes Her Bitchin’: One of the earliest African-American sex-symbols, Joyce became famous during the late 1940s and early 1950s performing at theaters and nightclubs. Besides her sterling silver hair and body-hugging mermaid dresses, she became noteworthy for crooning the popular standards “Love for Sale” and “Drunk with Love.” Both were prohibited from radio because of their provocative lyrics.
Betcha’ Didn’t Know: Joyce left show business at the zenith of her career, choosing instead to dedicate her life to spirituality. She re-emerged a decade late, becoming a vocal coach for entertainers like Jennifer Holliday and Raquel Welch.
Hear “The Voice You'll Always Remember” sing “Love for Sale”:
Name: Willa Brown
Born: January 22, 1906/Glasgow, Kentucky
Died: July 18, 1992/Chicago, Illinois
Occupation: Pilot, African-American civil rights activist, educator
What Makes Her Bitchin’: Maybe you've heard of Bessie Coleman, but do you know about Willa Brown? She was the first African-American woman to receive her commercial pilot’s license in America AND the first black female to become an officer in the U.S. Civil Air Patrol. She also earned her MBA from Northwestern, and co-founded the Coffey School of Aeronautics to help train African-American pilots. What have you done lately? Yep, that's what I thought...
Betcha’ Didn’t Know: Willa successfully lobbied the U.S. government to integrate African-American pilots into the “separate-but-equal” Army Air Corps and the federal Civilian Pilot Training Program. Having cultivated a taste for politics, she later ran unsuccessfully for Congress.
For more about this audacious aviatrix, check-out:
The History Bitch
Podcaster, tea aficionado, Anglophile, 'Game of Thrones' enthusiast.