Name: Angelina Weld Grimké
Born: February 27, 1880/Boston, Massachusetts
Died: June 10, 1958/New York City, New York
Occupation: Educator, journalist, poet, playwright
What Makes Her Bitchin’: A member of the Harlem Renaissance, Angelina was one of the first African-American women to have a play performed publicly. Premiering in 1916, Rachel was also one of the first theatrical productions to protest racially-motivated violence against Black-Americans.
Betcha’ Didn’t Know: Examining her personal correspondence and published prose, numerous modern literary critics believe that Angelina was either bisexual or a lesbian. This would make her our first LGBT History Bitch!
For more about this literary luminary, check-out:
Angelina Weld Grimkè (Black History Now)
Angelina Weld Grimkè (All Poetry)
Name: Eunice Hunton Carter
Born: July 16, 1899/Atlanta, Georgia
Died: January 25, 1970/New York City, New York
Occupation: Lawyer, women’s rights and anti-racism activist
What Makes Her Bitchin’: She was the first African-American women to earn a law degree from Fordham University, one of New York's first black female lawyers, and one of the United States’ first district attorneys of color. Oh yeah, AND she helped take down mobster Lucky Luciano. Basically, Eunice Carter was a BOSS!
Betcha’ Didn't Know: Besides wielding manila folders of evidence like Thor’s hammer, Eunice was on numerous United Nations that championed women’s rights, and served on the Executive Committee of the International Council of Women.
For more about this kick-ass crime-fighting heroine, check-out:
Eunice Hunton Carter, Mob Buster
Women Of Black History: 5 Things To Know About Pioneering Lawyer Eunice Carter
Eunice Carter (The Mob Museum)
Name: Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones
Nickname/Alias/ Nom de guerre: Sissieretta Jones, "The Black Patti" (a reference to celebrated 19th-century Italian soprano Adelina Patti), Madame Jones
Born: January 5, 1868 or 1869/ Portsmouth, Virginia
Died: June 24, 1933/Providence, Rhode Island
Occupation: Opera star
What Makes Her Bitchin’: Though largely forgotten today, this once world-famous soprano was the first African-American to perform at what is now Carnegie Hall. Similarly bitchin’, throughout her singing career, Sissieretta’s vocal stylings were showcased at the White House during the administrations of four consecutive U.S. (Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt). Oh, and she performed the British royal family, too (NBD).
Betcha’ Didn't Know: Around 1896, Sissieretta established Black Patti’s Troubadours. One singer/dancer to perform with the group early in their career was “History Bitches” podcast subject, Aida Overton-Walker.
For more, check-out:
Name: Nina Mae McKinney
Nickname/Alias/ Nom de guerre: "The Black Garbo" (a reference to international movie star/ icon Greta Garbo)
Born: June 13, 1912/Lancaster, South Carolina
Died: May 3, 1967/New York City, New York
What Makes Her Bitchin’: Dubbed “The Black Garbo” for her smoldering good looks, Nina got her start on Broadway before heading to Hollywood. Recruited by MGM, she became the first African-American actress cast in a leading role in a mainstream motion picture, and the first black movie star to sign a long-term contract with a major studio.
Betcha’ Didn't Know: Later, during the 1930s and post-war era, she performed internationally in theatre, film, and television. In Great Britain, Nina became one of the first African-Americans to appear on T.V.
To watch Nina struttin’ her stuff, check-out:
Name: Mary Fields
Nickname/Alias/ Nom de guerre: “Stagecoach” Mary
Born: c. 1832/ Tennessee
Died: 1914/ Cascade, Montana
Occupation: Entrepreneur and stagecoach driver
What Makes Her Bitchin’: She’s described in the African American Registry as a “gun-totin' female in the American Wild West who was six feet tall, heavy, tough, short-tempered, two-fisted, powerful, and…carried a pair of six-shooters and an eight or ten-gauge shotgun.” At roughly 60 years old, Mary became a mail-coach driver, the first African-American woman to hold the position in the United States. She earned the nickname “Stagecoach” for her deathly serious commitment to delivering letters and packages regardless of treacherous weather or unforgiving terrain.
Betcha’ Didn’t Know: Mary spent roughly the first thirty years of her life as a slave. After gaining her freedom, she headed first to Toledo, Ohio, then Cascade, Montana, working for a group of Ursuline nuns at St. Peter's Mission. Mary was ultimately let go because, as Ben Thompson of Badass of the Week explained, she literally popped a cap in someone’s ass.
To learn more about this hard-drinkin’, no guff takin’ bad-ass, check-out:
Stagecoach Mary: The rifle-toting former slave had many admirers
STAGECOACH MARY: A gun-toting black woman delivered the U.S. mail in Montana
Badass of the Week: Stagecoach Mary
February is Black History Month, and to celebrate, I'm writing a series of blogposts spotlighting 10 African-American heroines whose triumphs and legacies are less widely recognized today. First up, is a hard drinkin’, gun totin,’ nun lovin’ (wait, what?) bad-ass chick who made history after becoming the first African-American woman mail coach driver employed by the U.S. government! Check-out her profile and those for 9 other history-making bitches throughout February. Happy Black History Month!
Since tonight is the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics, I thought I’d kick-off History Bitches’ Black History Month series with a blog-post on Alice Coachman, the first African-American woman to earn an Olympic gold medal. Considering the overwhelming obstacles black and female athletes were forced to overcome, Alice’s victory was truly remarkable.
Born November 9, 1923, in Albany, Georgia, Alice Coachman exhibited her proclivity toward and natural aptitude for athletics. Though her parents were reproachful of their young daughter’s predilection for traditionally masculine pursuits, her most formidable barrier was Jim Crow. As a Black-American in the Deep South, she was prohibited from participating in organized sports competitions, and could not practice at community training facilities. Undeterred, Alice ran and jumped barefoot in fields, on dirt roads, and at playgrounds.
While attending Madison High School, Alice joined the track team. Mentored by the boy’s track coach, Harry Lash, her gifts were refined and nurtured. At age 16, she won a scholarship to Alabama’s celebrated Tuskegee Institute. Before the start of her first semester, Alice competed in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) high jump championship. She broke the high school and college women’s high jump records…barefoot!
In 1936, Jesse Owen became the first African-American man to compete in the modern Olympics. Frustratingly, Alice had to wait until 1948 to run in the footsteps of her pioneering forbearer. During what many postulate was her athletic peak, the 1940 and 1944 Olympic Games were canceled because the Allies were busy killin’ Nazis. She consoled herself by winning the AAU’s indoor high jump finals nine years consecutively and the indoor high jump three times. She also won national track and field finals championships in the 50- and 100-meter dashes, 4 × 100-meter relay, and running high jumps. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, she also played guard for Tuskegee’s basketball team and lead them to three back-to-back conference tournaments. Thanks for making us all seem like a horde of talentless, lazy assholes, Alice!
Though she'd previously experienced a back injury, Alice easily made the cut for London’s 1948 Olympics. Her qualifying jump of 5’4” even surpassed the former standing record (5’3 1/4”). Competing in the Olympic high jump finals, Alice soared 5’6 1/8” on her first attempt. Subsequently, she became the first African-American woman, and that year’s only female competitor, to earn an Olympic gold medal. She was presented her medal by Great Britain’s King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II’s father. The record Alice set at the 1948 games wasn't broken until two Olympics later.
Returning to America, Alice retired from competing in sports, but continued to be dynamic presence in athletics. Coca-Cola recruited her to be a spokeswoman in 1952, making Alice the first African-American to procure a commercial endorsement. Later, she built the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation to foster budding athletes and support Olympic veterans. Alice was honored at the 1996 summer games in Atlanta as one of the 100 greatest Olympians. She presently resides in Tuskegee, Alabama.
This short video from Team USA’s YouTube channel, does a terrific job of putting Alice’s groundbreaking achievement in context, and explaining its yet-reverberating impact on future generations of Black-American and female Olympians:
Eight hundred thousand-that’s roughly the number of condolence letters former first lady Jackie Kennedy amassed in the two months following her husband’s murder. By the two-year anniversary of his death, the quantity had swollen beyond 1.5 million. Incapable of responding to every communication personally, Jackie made certain each was nevertheless granted acknowledgement.
Happy Rosa Parks Day, friends! On December 1, 1955, Rosa was detained in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up a seat in her bus’s colored section for a white passenger. Though she wasn't the first black commuter to rebel against discrimination, her act of defiance signaled a decisive turning-point in the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa has subsequently earned the designations “First Lady of Civil Rights” and “Mother of the Freedom Movement.”
For more about Rosa Parks' bold defiance, check-out:
For more about Rosa Parks' bold defiance, check-out:
What If Rosa Parks Didn't Move to the Back of the Bus - The Henry Ford
Document Deep Dive: Rosa Parks’ Arrest Records
Last week, on November 22, 2013, Americans commemorated the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Fifty years ago today, his traumatized widow Jackie, beckoned Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Theodore White to the family’s Hyannis Port compound for an exclusive interview. Following her husband’s murder, the erstwhile first lady intended to retreat from the public eye. Yet, before she withdrew, Jackie needed to speak to America one final time. She designated White, considered Kennedy-friendly, to be her mouthpiece.
After Jackie’s telephone call, White high-tailed it up north. Anticipating the exposé, his editors at LIFE kept the presses open; it cost $30,000/hour. As The New York Post remarked, to do this for a story that wasn't composed, based on an interview that hadn’t transpired was unheard of. Nevertheless, a heart-to-heart with the slain president’s spouse was the of news story a lifetime!
Last Sunday, meandering back from lunch with George, he and I took a short-cut through Meridian Hill Park. As we caught-up, I paused to get a photograph of Meridian Hill’s Joan of Arc statue, the lone female equestrian sculpture in Washington, D.C. Paul Dubois’ life-size bronze figure depicts Joan, decked-out in complete body armor, gazing towards the heavens as she urges her charger ahead. Held aloft in her left hand there’s a sword. Taken in 1978, Joan's sword wasn't restored until three decades later in 2011.
Gifted by Le Lyceum Société des Femmes de France to the women of the United States of America, the effigy is a reproduction of a bronze located outside Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral. An engraving on the pedestal reads:
AUX FEMMES D'AMERIQUE
LES FEMMES DE FRANCE
A NEW YORK
LE 6 January 1922
Dedicated January 6, 1922, guests at the ceremony included First Lady Florence Harding and Mme. Elise Richards Jusserand, the American-born wife of France’s ambassador to the U.S.
To read more about Joan of Arc (Dubois), check-out:
Joan of Arc (Dubois)
Places-Meridian Hill Park (U.S. National Park Service)
Then and Now: Joan of Arc Statue in Meridian Hill Park
President, Mrs Harding and Secretary of War, Weeks attend the unveiling of a statue of Jeanne d'Arc at Meridian Hill Park
Considering today marks the death of Mary Jane Kelly, Jack the Ripper’s presumed 5th and last victim, I thought it'd be the perfect time for a quick blogpost about the crime's female suspects, a.k.a. Jill the Ripper or The Mad Midwife.
The hypothesis Jack the Ripper was in fact Jill the Ripper was first postulated by Detective Inspector Frederick Abberline of the London Metropolitan Police. His conjecture stemmed from testimony by Mrs. Caroline Maxwell. Mrs. Maxwell claimed she'd seen Mary Jane Kelly twice after doctors presumed she was murdered. The D.I. speculated the woman she'd observed the second time was actually the killer. The suspect might have disguised herself in Mary’s clothing after disposing of her own blood-soaked garments. Though Mary was discovered partially undressed, her clothing was left at the crime scene, folded neatly on a chair. Consequently, this premise doesn’t hold-up.
Before Abe connived to murder her lover, Kichizo Ishida theirs was just your run of the mill “married supervisor embarks on love affair with comely employee” story. Roughly two months after meeting, the couple absconded for a prolonged tryst. The money ran out two weeks later. Kichizo returned home; Abe stayed with friends. During the separation, Abe became noticeably agitated. After seeing a play during which a geisha attacks her lover using a knife, she hatched a plan.
Looks like someone just splashed-out $100,000 to purchase four photos capturing the last moments and hanging deaths of the Lincoln conspirators. The shots which include Mary Surratt, the 1st woman executed by the U.S., are named “Arrival on Scaffold,” “Reading the Death Warrant,” “Adjusting the Ropes,” and “Thus It Be Ever With Assassins.” Taken by Scottish photographer Alexander Gardner in Washington DC on July 7, 1865, the prints were thought to fetch somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000. They were sold by Swann Galleries, a New York City auction house.
Remembered primarily as the lover of Simón Bolívar, celebrated leader of South America's crusade for independence, Manuela Sáenz was a revolutionary in her own right. Born December 27, 1797 (maybe), in Quito, Ecuador, Manuela participated in the liberation movement before meeting Simón. They met in 1822, after she left her husband in Lima, and returned to Quito. Theirs wasn't just a romantic partnership. She joined him on campaigns, delivering food, medicine, and partaking in combat. She fought in conflicts at Pichincha, Junín, and Ayacucho; at the recommendation of Simón’s second in command, she was presented the rank of colonel. Manuela demonstrated her fidelity again when she prevented Simón’s murder by launching herself at assassins, granting him the chance to escape. Consequently, she was bestowed the nickname, “The Liberator of the Liberator.”
She’s commonly extolled as Latin America’s first noteworthy poet, and first published feminist of the New World. Born November 12, 1651 near Mexico City, Juana Inés de la Cruz revealed her devotion to and immense capacity for learning early on. She was reading and solving equations before five; at eight years old she’d composed her first poem. By the time she reached adolescence, she was conversant in Greek logic, and could speak, read, and write in both Latin and the Aztec language Nahuatl. Actually, her dedication to scholarship was so fanatical, every time she made an error in Latin she chopped-off her hair.
Since Juana’s gender prohibited her from entering university, she concocted a ruse to disguise herself as male. Though her ploy was fruitfulness, Juana’s education continued under the direction of Leonor Carreto, wife of Viceroy Marquis de Mancera. A year later, the viceroy staged an exhibition to demonstrate her scholastic virtuosities. The congregation of academics, theorists, and ecclesiastics were thunderstruck. News of Juana’s cerebral dexterity spread; she became a celebrity at her benefactors’ court and throughout New Spain.
Poetess Gabriela Mistral was Latin America’s first (and thus far only) woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in Vicuña, Chile on April 7, 1889, her given name was Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga. At 15 years old, she became a schoolteacher and began composing poetry; several of her early poems concerned the suicide of her lover. Gabriela continued publishing verse as she taught elementary and secondary students in Chile, the United States, and Mexico.
Las Hermanas Mirabal-Patria (b. February 27, 1924), Dedé (b. March 1, 1925), Minerva (b. March 12, 1926), and María Teresa (b. October 15, 1935)-are celebrated, national heroines in their home-country of the Dominican Republic. They challenged dictator Rafael Trujillo’s ruthless autocracy by helping launch the 14th of June Movement. As participants, the women (nicknamed Las Mariposas or The Butterflies) distributed anti-Trujillo pamphlets, ran covert protest meetings, and recruited regime members and/or their families to defect. Consequently, the siblings, and their similarly activist husbands, were incarcerated and tortured on multiple occasions.
Confession time; caught-up in graduate school applications, I neglected to remember September 15th-October 15th was National Hispanic Heritage Month. So, this week I'm going to be posting about some bitchin’ Latina revolutionaries, poetess-scholars, and legislators. I'll be posting fun tidbits about history-making Latinas on Facebook, too. If you've got a favorite history bitch that I've overlooked, please contact me via the comments section or Facebook! And no, I didn’t forget this month is Native American Heritage Month; I'm on it.
Yesterday, the boys at Stuff You Should Know released a podcast covering revisionist history. A basic definition of historical revisionism is: the reconsidering of traditional historical narratives in light of new material, the rejection of false or subjective information, or the inclusion of forgotten/ marginalized perspectives. Listening to Josh and Chuck, I wondered how this subject affected women’s history. During a quick Google search, one issue that popped-up again and again was comfort women. I had a nebulous comprehension of the problem, and remembered glimpsing the occasional pertinent news story, but that was it. Researching the matter and its connection to revisionist history, I came to understand how it mutually exemplifies the contentious and imperative nature of reinterpreting conventional history.
For my Halloween podcast and blog series, I've chronicled Lavinia Fisher-legendary highway-robber, Amelia Dyer-Victorian child murderess, and three pairs of sinister siblings. Accordingly, I had just sat down to write a post on Elizabeth Báthory, “The Blood Countess,” who supposedly bathed in her victims’ blood, when I stumbled over something even more disturbing. I've got three words for you, bitches: Nazi Bride School!
Earlier this month, researchers combing through Germany’s Federal Archive unearthed documents concerning the Reichsbräuteschule, or Reich Bride Schools. Though scholars knew of their existence, these matrimonial preparatory schools were (and remain largely still) shrouded in mystery. The recent discovery of a rulebook and certificate of completion, give historians further understanding of this shadowy facet of Hitler’s Third Reich. And y’all, it’s just as creepy as it sounds…
The History Bitch
Podcaster, tea aficionado, Anglophile, 'Game of Thrones' enthusiast.