Amsterdam Book Haul

A scenic view of a canal in Amsterdam.

My husband and I took a trip to Amsterdam over Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend. I’ve never been to Amsterdam before and didn’t know what to expect. Amsterdam was a very pleasant surprise. The city was beautiful, friendly and had wonderful museums and restaurants. Plus, bookstores galore. Win-win.

I visited countless bookstores and bought two books from two places, Waterstones (I was pleasantly surprised and so happy to find a Waterstones in Amsterdam) and The Book Exchange (an English bookstore with three floors of used books). We also explored the many scenic canals.

And visited the flower market.

Sadly, I didn’t bring any tulip bulbs home. Next time.

I did bring home The Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett from Waterstones. It’s a detective/mystery novel that features Queen Elizabeth II solving crimes. A very plausible scenario, in my opinion.

I purchased Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte by Kate Williams from The Book Exchange. I’d like to think that I know quite a bit about Josephine, but that’s probably not the case. Kate Williams is a British historian, writer and tv presenter. This will be my first time reading her and I’m looking forward to diving in when I’m done with Victober reading.

Thank you for stopping by my blog today. Have a great day!

xoxo, Jane

Paris Book Haul

Just a quick post to share with you my recent Paris book purchases from two fabulous bookstores.

Smith & Son: I purchased Lotharingia: A Personal History of France, Germany and the Countries In Between by Simon Winder. This is the book I’m currently reading. My goal is to finish it before September ends so I can start on my Victober 2021 planning and reading. Smith & Son is a British bookseller with an excellent tea room. If you are in Paris and have the time, I’d recommend you pay them a visit. Smith & Son is right across from the Louvre and the Tuileries Garden at 248 Rue de Rivoli. You can stop by for refreshments after your sightseeing excursions. They are open Monday through Sunday, but the tea room is closed on Mondays.

Galignani: Just a couple blocks further away at 224 Rue de Rivoli, you’ll find Galignani. A bookseller known for their excellent selection of decorative and fine arts books, they have been selling English fiction and nonfiction books since 1801. While browsing, I discovered Freya Stark‘s travel memoir, The Valleys of the Assassins. Freya Stark was one of the first Europeans to travel throughout the region known today as the Middle East. What a brave and interesting woman she must have been. I am so looking forward to reading her memoir. I also purchased Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation by Roderick Beaton. Roderick Beaton is not Greek, but he devoted his career to studying and understanding Greece. I’m looking forward to reading it as there are not many well-written books about modern Greece. It’s a fairly recent book; published in 2019.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day!

xoxo, Jane

PS. I’m on Instagram where I post about books and tea. Stop by and say hi.

Paintings of Women Writing

A Lady Writing a Letter by Johannes Vermeer.

A year into the pandemic and we still can’t visit museums or other venues. At least we can enjoy art online. A number of my favorite museums are hosting virtual lectures and tours. You can even take 360° tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And the National Museum of Women in the Arts has an online exhibition you might like, The Book as Art: Books in Disguise.

Last week we looked at paintings of women reading. Today, let’s take a look at women writing.

I don’t know how I feel about this painting by Vermeer. The subject in the painting must be upper class because her coat is lined with ermine. Also, is she wearing large pearl earrings? She must be very rich indeed. How do you feel about this painting?

Young Woman Writing by Giovanni Boldini

The first thing that popped into my mind about this painting is that the subject doesn’t look very comfortable. But maybe that doesn’t matter since she seems focused on the letter she’s writing. Maybe she’s writing a love letter to a suitor…

Phillis Wheatley writing.

This is an etching of Phillis Wheatley. She was an enslaved woman who secured her own freedom. Phillis became a literary prodigy and visited London in 1773 to promote her poetry. I hope you want to learn more about Phillis. If you do, you can learn more about her on this podcast by The History Chicks.

Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid by Johannes Vermeer 

I don’t know Vermeer well, but I am catching on that he enjoyed painting vivid scenes of women while they were writing. The detail in this painting is incredible. Did you notice the sealing wax on the floor? There is even a painting in the painting!

What’s your favorite painting of women?

xoxo, Jane

Podcasts for Royal History Lovers

Via Wikimedia Commons. Empress Joséphine in her coronation regalia painted by François Gérard, 1807-1808.

If you like reading about royal history, then you may enjoy listening to podcasts about royals. There are a number of excellent podcasts I subscribe to that I think you might find of interest.

The Exploress Podcast is incredibly well-researched and a fun way to learn about ancient historical women. The recreations of historical dialogue are entertaining and a must-listen. Though there are many episodes on historic noble women, some of the women featured are commoners. It’s still an entertaining resource and I highly recommend the outstanding four-part series on Cleopatra. Plus, the website has a page devoted to book recommendations. Enjoy!

Noble Blood is a podcast about the footnotes of royal men and women; the stories we don’t learn in school. It’s well-researched and told in a narrative style, as if a good friend is sitting near you and whispering a gossipy tale. The episodes are about tyrannical royals, murdered royals and tragic princesses. Very entertaining. I can’t recommend it enough.

The History Chicks is run by two very good friends who enjoy talking about historical women. They began the podcast ten years ago because they couldn’t find any podcasts devoted entirely to women. Though a good number of royals are featured, they are not the main focus of this podcast. However, it’s worth perusing their catalog since it features many episodes of interest to royal history fans. I recommend their episodes on Gilded Age HeiressesCatherine the Great and Empress Sisi of Austria

The Art of Monarchy is no longer updated, but the past episodes about decorative arts of The Royal Collection are a must-listen for royal history lovers.

Last but not least, if you enjoy royal fashion, then you may enjoy listening to Dressed. The two hosts are experts in fashion and textiles and are a joy to listen to. Their well-researched episodes feature everything from the history of haute couture to Oscars fashion and feature a good amount of interviews with experts.

xoxo, Jane

(This article is also posted at my other blog, The Royal Archivist.)

Mad & Bad: Real Heroines of the Regency by Bea Koch

Mad & Bad: Real Heroines of the Regency by Bea Koch is a tidy compilation of women’s roles during the Regency era. Bea Koch, a bookseller and bookstore owner, wrote this book to shed light and truth to the forgotten women who ruled the short era that is Regency England.

The women in the book, much like real life, come from varied backgrounds and of different religions. Bea Koch focuses on the women who made strides in astrology as much as on the Jewish women who dedicated their lives to education. It’s a fun and fascinating read, especially if you are interested in a diverse representation of women’s history. And if you love reading Regency romance novels then you’ll love reading this book.

All of the women featured are interesting, but the woman that touched my heart the most is Mary Seacole. A nurse just as good, if not better, as Florence Nightingale, she was ill-treated because of the color of her skin. She was refused a nursing position in the Crimea so she funded her own travels to help with the war effort. However, once there, she was rebuffed by Florence Nightingale. Nevertheless, she operated a hotel in Crimea for wounded soldiers and continued on with her nursing duties. Much like the women who came before and after her, she persevered through the racism.

What I love:

  • Each chapter ends with a conclusion and a list of recommended reading.
  • The book is timely because it’s about how history attempts to erase contributions of non-Whites. Something that continues to this day.
  • The men are blobbed out of the famous painting on the cover.
  • I can’t think of another book that compiles into one slim volume the important women of the Regency.

While the book has a few grammatical errors and some sentences seem overly chunky or stilted, I was able to overlook them enough to allow myself to get lost in Regency England.

Have you read Mad & Bad?

xoxo, Jane

The Indignities Of Being A Woman by Merrill Markoe and Megan Koester

I subscribe to Audible, Amazon’s audiobook platform. They recently made a huge chunk of their catalog (Audible Plus Catalog) available to the monthly subscribers. This means that I don’t have to spend my credit on anything in the Audible Plus Catalog and can listen to as many books as I want. Sort of like a Netflix for audiobooks. I still have my monthly credit which I’ll use for those books that aren’t part of Audible Plus. Ok, all this to say that one of the free listens was The Indignities of Being a Woman by Merrill Markoe and Megan Koester. I am so glad I listened to this history book.

The Indignities of Being a Woman is a comedic walk through women’s history. The writers, who are comedians, broach serious subjects relating to women such as Inequality, Beauty, Religion, Fashion and Politics (and much, much more) but in a comedic way. You’ll definitely laugh. But you’ll probably get angry too. During Europe’s witch-burning years, many of those put on trial and burned as witches were married women without children because not having children as a married woman signified witchcraft. I would have been put to death for sure if I lived during that era. And since women’s history is generally not good, you may even cry a little. For example, marital rape in all fifty U.S. states was not illegal until 1993. (!!!)

What did I learn after listening to this book? I learned that I would have been killed in previous eras (or put in a sanitarium during the Victorian era). Basically, in the past, a woman who wanted to use her brain risked jail or death. I kid you not.

My favorite thing about The Indignities of Being a Woman is the two writers. They were funny, supportive of each other and had a lovely rapport. I felt like I was eavesdropping on two best friends chatting and laughing away. I didn’t know it was possible to make awful subjects funny, but they somehow succeeded. I should also warn you that a personal rape experience is discussed in this audiobook and it comes up several times.

Should you listen to this audiobook? If you are a feminist, interested in learning more about women’s history and want to support two female comedians/writers/creators then yes, you should listen to this audiobook.

Who should not listen to this audiobook? If you love Donald Trump, if you love to hate women and if you hate that women have rights, then this amazing, well-written, and funny audiobook is definitely not for you. But this begs the question, what the heck are you even doing reading my blog?

xoxo, Jane

Women in History – Eloise Randolph Page, the Iron Butterfly

close up of a sign against white background

Women (and their accomplishments) are often left out of history. This is nothing new and we are well aware of it. It’s not right and it’s not fair. I’m going to do my part to write about women in history (especially in the Cold War era). Please join me as we kick off this new series with Miss Eloise Randolph Page.

Eloise Page began her career as a secretary in the OSS (the precursor to the CIA) in 1947. What’s remarkable about her is that she moved up through the ranks to become the CIA’s first Chief of Station in an era where women in intelligence were simply not promoted.

Miss Page was born in Richmond, Virginia. Emphasis on the Miss. She did not like being referred to as Ms. Miss Page never married or had children. Instead, she chose to break the glass ceiling in the intelligence community, steadily climbing through the ranks and eventually earning the nickname “the Iron Butterfly.” She retired in 1987 as one of the highest ranking female officer.

Miss Page is not mentioned in my Encyclopedia of the Cold War which I find to be a grave oversight. She is, however, mentioned in Spy Sites of Washington, D.C. which is how she came to my attention. 

I tip my hat to this incredible woman who paved the way for other women to lead in intelligence. 

 

(Image via Pexels.com)