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

Pairing books with tea (Square Haunting)

Just for fun, we are changing things up today. Instead of tea, today’s book is paired with a cup of coffee. I am pairing a cup of my husband’s dark roast blend with Square Haunting by Francesca Wade. I’ve talked about this book before and how much the women mentioned in the pages of Square Haunting and their struggles touched me.

I can imagine any of the five women (H.D., Dorothy L. Sayers, Jane Ellen Harrison, Eileen Power and Virginia Wolf) fueling up on many cups of coffee as they pen their works. After all, coffee and writing go hand in hand.

How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for eve with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Which beverage would you pair with Square Haunting?

xoxo, Jane

Square Haunting by Francesca Wade

IMG_2374

Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London Between The Wars tells the story of five important women during a time when they lived on the same street in Bloomsbury, London. They didn’t necessarily know each other, nor did they all live on Mecklenburgh Square during the same time. However, their lives, struggles and the street they lived on bind them together. This is the foundation that Francesca Wade builds on in her debut book about Hilda Doolitle (H.D.), Dorothy L. Sayers, Jane Ellen Harrison, Eileen Power and Virginia Woolf.

It took me almost two months to finish Square Haunting. Partly because it’s dense, academic reading and partly because I wanted to savor it. I loved reading this book and I learned so much, such as that H.D. was an American. How could I have not known that?

Francesca Wade took years to research and write this book. Her scholarly work shows through in the five sections devoted to the lives and scholarly pursuits of each woman.

“I like this London life in early summer – the street sauntering & square haunting.” Virginia Woolf, diary entry April 20, 1925

All five women were born during the Victorian era. An era when women had few options and weren’t allowed to think for themselves. The way the men in their lives treated them left me drained. All five of these ladies had to unlearn the social norms of Victorian society so they could flourish in their professions.

Even within the home, women were deterred from living a life of their choosing. To borrow Virginia Woolf’s famous words, a woman did not have a room of her own. For example, Francesca Wade highlights the difference between the study and the drawing room. A study was for a man. A woman was not allowed in the study, at least not without the man’s permission. The drawing room is a room reserved for the woman, but it is not her private room. Anyone can enter at any time, especially visitors. This resonated deeply with me; long after I finished reading the last page I am still thinking about the difference between these two rooms.

“The drawing room, Harrison wrote, was designated the wife’s territory, yet remained a public space, as ‘the room into which “visitors are shown” – a room in which you can’t possibly settle down to think, because anyone may come in at any moment.’ The husband’s study, by contrast, was ‘a place inviolate, guarded by immemorial taboos’, where the man of the house ‘thinks, and learns, and knows’; there were, Harrison noted, ‘rarely two chairs’ in the room.”

If you know even a little about Virginia Woolf, then you know how her life ends and Square Haunting does not gloss over it. World War II brought a great depression over her spirit. With airplane bombers flying over her house, and the bombings of London and the English countryside, it appeared to Woolf that there was no end in sight. After writing farewell notes for her husband and her sister, she walked into a river and drowned herself. Do you know what I wish? I wish I could invent a Time Machine and travel back in time to tell Woolf to hang on for just a few more years. That Churchill, and the Allies, would bring the war to a victorious end. I wish I could have told Woolf that not only would we win the war, but that future generations would come to admire, study and seek inspiration from the stand that Britain would make against Nazi Germany.

The current global pandemic is probably the worst event my generation has experienced. I must remind myself that for pre-Baby Boomers, life was generally awful: famine, the flu pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression, the two World Wars… I could go on. Yet, these five ladies persevered through hardships and fought to make a living from their desired professions.

The women that dominate the pages of Square Haunting left me feeling inspired to continue working on my book and writing projects.

I’m glad I spent two months with these ladies. I thought about them as I went about my day. I thought about Sayers writing her detective fiction as I plotted my own fiction. I thought about Woolf worrying about the war as I pondered about our own economic and political troubles. And when I finished the book, even though I had tears streaming down my face, I felt a relief wash over me. Relieved that I honored them by reading about their lives and keeping their memories alive, but I also felt sad turning the last page because I was saying goodbye to my five ladies (as I privately began to call them).

Have you read Square Haunting or any of the published works of these five women?

xoxo, Jane

Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War by Hal Vaughan

IMG_0428.jpeg

Reading good books with interesting historical plots makes me want to know more about the real life history. The Queen of Paris is no exception. Reading it just made me want to learn more about Coco Chanel, especially about her collaboration with the Nazis. What really led her down that awful path? Did she regret it? Is that why she fled to Switzerland after Paris was liberated?

The author of The Queen of Paris, Pamela Binnings Ewen, said she used Sleeping with the Enemy by Hal Vaughan as part of her research, which inspired me to buy this book.

I am hoping my questions will be answered in Sleeping With the Enemy. Mr. Vaughan’s findings from his investigation into Coco’s life during Nazi-occupied Paris are revealed for the first time in this book.  It was published in 2011 and since then other books about her Nazi past have been written, but this is the book that started it all.

Also, Mr. Vaughan’s book dedication gave me the chills: “This book is dedicated to those French men and women who, though bent by the Nazi yoke, refused to to collaborate. And as always, for Phuong.” 

I look forward to reading this book and learning more, even if it will be unpleasant.

What’s on your nightstand?

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)

Thursday Reading Links #37 (Jane Austen edition)

Embed from Getty Images

In honor of Jane Austen’s birthday next week (December 16, 1775), today’s reading links are all about the lady herself. Make a cup of tea and stay awhile.

Romance and Reality in Jane Austen’s World.

The History Chicks Episode #38 is all about Jane Austen.

Read more about Jane Austen’s writing desk.

Three Pamphlets on the Leigh-Perrot Trial: Why Austen Sent Susan to Crosby.

Tea, Jane Austen Style.

three books stacked
Image via Pexels.com.

‘It’s an escape’: the Americans who want to live like Jane Austen.

The Fashion of Jane Austen’s Novels.

This Jane Austen Letter Highlights the Horrors of 19th-Century Dentistry.

Jane Austen and the Making of the Modern Marriage.

Embed from Getty Images

Bath, England

This is my Jane Austen mug. I love it!

Speaking of mugs, 8 Jane Austen Mugs You Will Fall Ardently In Love With.

20 Jane Austen Gifts for the Most Ardent Fan.

2020 Jane Austen quotes calendar.

Jane Austen’s 6 novels defy rankings. Here’s what each one does best.

48319983_1964610420509504_2960332549802426368_n.jpg
Photo via The Jane Austen Centre in Bath.

The Jane Austen Centre in Bath sells this exclusive regency teacup set. I think Jane Austen would approve.

Jane Austen and social judgement.

This gorgeous clothbound book is my copy of Persuasion.

A literary Christmas.

The Real Reason Jane Austen Never Married.

And one more, a review of the Pride and Prejudice musical.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s reading links edition.

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #32

photo of cat lying on bed

Well, it may be fall but it feels like winter in my neck of the woods. Stay warm and cozy, wherever you may be. 

Libraries to boycott publisher’s e-book policy

My recent quarterly reading wrap-up can be found here and here.

This is so dear. Fake chimneys for birds that need vertical hollows to rest.

Marie Antoinette’s Favorite Things You Can Still Buy Today.

Did you know that Danielle Steel has a blog? And she updates regularly.

Cute To Go Tea Mug

In praise of having a “boring” wardrobe. (This is from The Telegraph and there may be a log-in required if you exceeded your free articles per month.)

The best pore-cleansing toners and the best new face washes

On this day in 1916, Jeannette Rankin from Montana became the first woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She was one of the few suffragists elected to Congress, and the only Member of Congress to vote against U.S. participation in both World War I and World War II. 

It never ceases to amaze me that we have such incredible art right here in my city of Washington, D.C., such as this historic painting of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David. The National Gallery of Art published a wonderful publication about French paintings of the 19th century and can be read here for free. 

November babies, I guess life is more interesting as a Scorpio

xoxo, Jane

Image via Pexels.com

 

Thursday Reading Links (on a Saturday) #31

close up of a woman s hand holding dried leaves

Halloween is over, it’s November. This means the most wonderful time of the year is right around the corner.

If you’re in the USA, don’t forget to change the clocks this weekend.

Fall Favorites.

Sylvia Plath was a Google doodle earlier this week. The Independent wrote an article about her, for those who aren’t too familiar with her work.

I published two book reviews this week, here and here.

Why don’t I have any famous paintings sitting around my house? A Random Painting in a Woman’s House Sold for $26.8 Million.

How true could this worry really be? We’ll probably never know. Prince Charles Staff Nervous About The Crown’s New Season.

To-do lists are a curse of your own making.

I like these bow and pearl drop earrings, but the price tag of $100.00 is silly.

person wearing black leather boots

Oooh, I like this idea. This Fall, Pair Your Candles For Maximum Coziness.

Little Red Dresses.

Zac Possen no more. I feel bad for the employees. They are out of a job overnight and it’s not fair to them. I don’t think CEOs and other corporate leaders really think of the employees when the going gets tough.

Quiz: What Holiday Romance Should You Read? My answer was The Matchmaker’s Mistletoe Mission by Jaci Burton.

The 2019 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books.

Some of The Deadliest Samurai Were Women, But History Forgot. History seems to always forget about the women.

xoxo, Jane

Images via Pexels.com

Thursday Reading Links #18

This week’s reading links for your amusement and enjoyment are brought to you by my procrastination, delayed metro commutes and Visa (just kidding on that last one!).

background beam beautiful close up
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

bright daylight environment forest
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Have a great weekend! xoxo, Jane

Podcasts Update Part V

Podcasts-2

I have a new podcast that I love! I just wish I had ten extra hours in a day. There are so many podcasts to enjoy and so little free time.

Anyway, this podcast is called Queens and it’s about women (queens, empresses, consorts, princesses…) in history.

The two hosts are funny with a wonderful rapport and hilarious banter. They make history fun. I do have to warn you, this podcast uses a lot of foul language. If you don’t mind the language, then you are in for a treat. Personally for me, the foul language makes it more relatable and fun to listen to. I feel like I’m gossiping with two friends. Plus I can’t judge, I have a big potty mouth!!

Currently the podcast is covering Elizabeth of Austria (Sisi) but previous women covered are Olga of Kiev, Zenobia, Matilda of Flanders and Empress Wu. All fascinating women, none I ever learned about in school!

What’s your podcast of choice these days? xoxo, Jane

(Previous updates: I, II, III and IV.)

Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

e6318f_aa2e8bedb8e64115bdeec30816484bce.jpg

Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie is a fun, nonfiction read about real-life princesses who didn’t have the perfect fairy-tale ending we read (or dream) about.

Description:

You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, and you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But real princesses didn’t always get happy endings. Sure, plenty were graceful and benevolent leaders, but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their majestic closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elisabeth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev slaughtered her way to sainthood. And Princess Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield with her toddler strapped to her back.

The book is organized in sections by type of princess. The sections are Warriors, Usurpers, Schemers, Survivors, Partiers, Floozies and Madwoman.

As an aside, I find it interesting that some of the women featured weren’t princesses, rather noblewomen or fake princesses (Anastasia, anyone?).

There were a number of princesses I was familiar with, such as Sophia Dorothea (Survivors), Roxolana (Schemers), Pauline Bonaparte (Floozies), Sisi, Elizabeth of Austria (Madwoman, ouch. A bit harsh?), and Charlotte of Belgium (Madwoman).

But I learned about new-to-me women such as Pingyang (Warriors), Wu Zetian (Usurper), Sofka Dolgorouky (Survivors) and Caraboo (Partiers). The biographies were not very long. Each princess had a few pages devoted to her, but they were long enough to give me a good grasp of the life and history of the featured princess.

brown castle under a starry sky
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

What I love

Everything! It’s a really neat concept with bite-sized chunks of history about real-life women. I love reading women’s history and, in my opinion, there are never enough books on this subject.

The book features special inserts about historical eras or other tidbits, such as “Death and the Victorian Age” and “Seven Warrior Queens of Antiquity.” This is a nice touch because I think it helps place the princess in history. I also love the (few) illustrations.

The tidbits I learned were incredible. I didn’t know that Stephanie von Hohenlohe was part of Hitler’s inner circle. Bad Stephanie!! I think the author really dug deep into the archives to research and write this book.

What I don’t love

Sometimes the author inserted her opinion into the narrative which jarred me out of my reading. Otherwise, it was a completely fun and enjoyable read. History made super-duper fun!

As always, thank you for reading!!! xoxo, Jane

Amazon US Amazon UK

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links, but it’s also ok if you don’t use the links. I’m just grateful you are here and reading my blog. xoxo, Jane