SWHM Guest: Cathy Pegau on Nellie Bly

Hi friends! So, more fun/not fun with hosting and I’m just losing my mind – beyond the time cost there have been actual monetary ~losses on my part and I’ve just sat there wondering if I should scrap this whole thing. For now, however, we’re holding strong, and Smithsonian Women’s History Month marches on! In fact, we’ve got Cathy Pegau visiting with us again today. This time, she’s talking about one of her favorite female historical figures. I want to say all of us who are stateside know of Nellie Bly – possibly friends overseas as well, but I remember learning about her in elementary school. <3

NELLIE BLY: JOURNALIST, ADVENTURER, SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR

Nellie BlyMy awareness, and subsequent appreciation, for the woman known as Nellie Bly came while doing research for a book I was writing. I’d found Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World* and later several websites** dedicated to the intrepid journalist, giving me great insight into the era I was interested in. By the time I finished reading, however, I’d received more than a history lesson.

Two things about Nellie Bly immediately captivated me. First, she was a journalist living in a challenging time for women (though seriously, what era isn’t?). The main character in my new series is a journalist in 1919, when women were pushing hard for the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to allow women the vote. Second, I saw a lot of things in Nellie’s passion, spirit, and determination that I wanted to have in my character, Charlotte.

Elizabeth Jane “Pink” Cochran was born in May 1864 or 1865 (Nellie Bly was the professional name she used later) and grew up in Pennsylvania coal country. The death of her father, and later the divorce of her mother and abusive step-father, were events that stayed with Pink throughout her life, making her keenly aware of the situations women—particularly poor women—had to face.

An “ah ha” moment came at age twenty, as Pink was trying to decide what sort of job she wanted. After reading an article called “What Girls are Good For” in The Pittsburgh Dispatch that basically told girls they had no reason to bother with getting an education or having a career, she wrote a scathing letter to the editor. Impressed, the editor invited her to pen a rebuttal. She did, and the editor was again bowled over by her voice and passion, if not her command of spelling and grammar. He offered her a job at the paper. She wrote under the name Nellie Bly, taking a pen name as many women journalists of the time did to protect their identities.

Nellie started with a bang at The Dispatch. One of her first series of articles revealed the conditions for the poor female workers in a local bottle factory. Another piece focused on the corruption of the Mexican government she had seen while visiting there for five months. She had started to write about it while in Mexico, but the authorities threatened to arrest her. She left Mexico one month sooner than planned so she could have the piece published in the U.S. But when Nellie’s investigative reporting started to irritate local companies, who threatened to pull advertising, she was assigned a gardening piece, more typical fare for a woman in journalism. Nellie turned in the article and her resignation and went to New York.

In 1887 New York, Nellie found it quite difficult to get a job as a news reporter. To make a living, she worked as a freelance writer of pieces on the only topics that papers would buy from her: women’s fashion and the like. She wasn’t alone in her frustrations.

In the 1880 census, 12,308 Americans listed their jobs as journalist. Of those, 288 (~2%) were women. The majority of those were writing for the “women’s pages” of newspapers on things like fashion, shopping, cooking, high society doings, and the home. Few women in the profession were allowed to prove they were as smart, as tough, and as determined as the men. Women reporters and journalists such as Flora McDonald, Jane Grey Swisshelm, and one known only as J.L.H., often criticized the treatment they received. From their being “paid in compliments” rather than cash, like the men, to being told women were too delicate and distractible to be serious writers, to sexual harassment, they overcame all manner of obstacles to be in the news portion of the newspaper.

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the WorldNellie eventually met the editor of The World, John Cockerill, and proposed going to Europe and returning via the steerage class in order to describe to readers the conditions poor immigrants faced on their crossing to America. Cockerill and The World publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, didn’t think a lone women should take on such a journey. (Later, Pulitzer encouraged the ‘round the world race, but that’s another story : ) They did propose she do a story of more local interest. Pulitzer had been told the staff of Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum was mistreating its female patients. If Nellie could get in and get the inside information on what was going on there, she could change the lives of the women remanded to the facility. This was the sort of story Nellie loved, something that would expose corruption or shed light on the situation of those who had no voice.

In September of 1887, feigning symptoms such as constant headache and tiredness, and not understanding English well (she pretended to be from Cuba, using the Spanish she learned while in Mexico), Nellie was committed to Blackwell’s Island. For ten days, she experienced the ice cold baths, poor food, abuse, mistreatment, and deplorable conditions typical of the asylum. Some of the women there were not suffering from mental health issues at all, but were immigrants who spoke little to no English. All were treated no better than animals.

Luckily, Nellie was retrieved by a lawyer hired by The World, and she felt terrible leaving the other women behind. But her series of reports led to an investigation by the state and a court case in which Nellie gave testimony. Conditions at Blackwell’s Island improved, though more likely due to threats from the courts than out of any sort of desire to change on the part of the staff.

Throughout her life, and practically until the day she passed away in 1922, Nellie was a constant champion for poor women, children, and anyone in need or who was being taken advantage of. She wrote about swindlers and animal cruelty, crooked politicians and the plight of the homeless, over-crowded conditions of New York’s tenements and women’s suffrage. Anyone who wasn’t on the up-and-up headed for the nearest escape route if they knew Nellie Bly was outside their door.

But she was also game to go anywhere or do anything or talk to anyone she felt would grab the readers’ attention, from entertainers to public figures. She trained with boxer John L. Sullivan, interviewed Helen Keller, and performed with the chorus line of a stage show.

Nellie used her adventurous spirit and way with words to draw readers in and make them see what was really happening right under their noses. If she were alive today, I could easily see her all over television or on social media calling for justice and fair treatment.

Reading about Nellie Bly not only gave me better insight about my suffragette character Charlotte Brody, who is also someone to stand up for others (though not as daring as Nellie), it made me think about all the women who have come before us, striving to make the world a better place in whatever way they could. And all the women who are now making history by speaking up and acting for the benefit of all. While I will never go undercover in an asylum or factory, I hope I can somehow channel Nellie’s spirit and sense of justice in my own way.

*In Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman, there is, of course a second interesting young woman, Elizabeth Bisland. Elizabeth was a journalist as well, writing literary review for The Cosmopolitan when she was tapped to partake in the race (though she never called it a race). She didn’t have the adventurer’s spirit that Nellie had, but she deserves a lot of credit for taking on what had to be a daunting task.

**There are a good number of websites dedicated to Nellie Bly, but http://NellieBlyOnline.com is a pretty good source.

About Cathy Pegau: Cathy lives in Alaska with her family and a house full of critters. She writes speculative fiction and has a historical mystery series coming out in November 2015 from Kensington Publishing, starting with Murder on the Last Frontier. She has an addendum to one of her favorite quotes: “Well-behaved women seldom make history…or the future.”
Find her online or say hello on Twitter @CathyPegau

Thanks so much for sharing about Nellie Bly, Cathy! I’d forgotten some of the amazing things she had done. <3 Do any of you have a favorite Nellie Bly story? Or another favorite female reporter?

SWHM Guest: Sandra Schwab on Lady Holland

We’re winding down on Smithsonian Women’s History Month! But we’re not done yet! In fact we’ve got Sandra Schwab here today to tell us about Lady Holland! When trying to plan for March I was like “my gosh what do I do?” So I put out a call on social media, contacted some people, and looked up other awesome historical women I wanted to feature. I think it’s gone okay so far, right? ;)

Sandra has everything covered really, with a really great and informative post, so I’ll just let her take it from here!

A Most Remarkable Woman: Lady Holland

Lady HollandSome fourteen or fifteen years ago, I stumbled across a mention of Lady Holland, one of the great Whig hostesses of the early nineteenth century, and the Holland House Circle. What I read was intriguing enough to dig a little deeper when I was doing research for my first historical romance. I read many contemporary and later accounts as well as diaries and detailed descriptions of the house and its environs. What slowly emerged was the story of a most remarkable woman.

Lady Holland was born in 1771 as Elizabeth Vassal, the daughter of a rich merchant family. Barely fifteen, she was forced to marry Sir Godfrey Webster, who was more than 20 years her senior. As can be expected she was deeply unhappy in her marriage, especially when it became obvious that their interests were wide apart. She loved travelling and was interested in the arts. He was not. Even worse: he was becoming increasingly abusive.

In 1793, during a journey through Italy with her husband, Elizabeth wrote in her journal:

“In all the collections much escapes me, as I am always accompanied by one whose impetuosity compels me to hasten from objects I would willingly contemplate, and whose violence of temper throws me into agitations that prevent me distinguishing the objects when they are before me. Much as I endure now, yet it is infinitely more bearable than formerly; experience and a better knowledge of the world makes me laugh at menaces that used to terrify me out of my senses. These threats […] follow the slightest difference of opinion between us. / The present reigning grievance is the being from home, and my determined love for being abroad.”

Sir Godfrey became so violent, that friends and acquaintances were worried for Elizabeth’s safety and advised her never to travel alone with her husband, but always in large groups. It is no wonder then that Elizabeth did try to avoid the company of her husband as much as possible. In the winter of 1793/ 1794 she was travelling alone around the continent (despite the war that had broken out!), and once again went to Italy, where she met Henry Richard Fox, 3rd Lord Holland — and they seemed to have hit if off right from the start. In early February 1794 Elizabeth wrote in her diary:

“Ld. G. Leveson-Gower and Ld. Holland came here the day before yesterday. The first I knew at Dresden. He is remarkably handsome and winning […]. Ld. Holland is not in the least handsome; he has, on the contrary, many personal defects, but his pleasingness of manner and liveliness of conversation get over them speedily. He is just returned from Spain, and his complexion partakes of the Morescoe hue. He is now in better health. He has a very complex disorder, called an ossification of the muscles in his left leg. […] They dined with us […] Ld. Holland quite delightful; his gaiety beyond anything I ever knew, full of good stories.”

Holland HouseAnd so, it did not take long before Elizabeth was head over heels in love with Lord Holland. She started an affair with him and soon was pregnant with his child. This acted as the cue for her husband to start divorce proceedings in England — at that time, a very messy affair. The marriage was eventually annulled in 1797, eight months after Elizabeth had given birth to a son, Charles Fox Vassall — and surely this was meant to be Sir Godfrey’s revenge: he went to parliament for an annulment so late that this child was born illegitimate and could not inherit Lord Holland’s title. Two days after the annulment, Elizabeth married her Lord Holland.

“I was married at Rickmansworth Church by Rev. Mr. Morris to Lord Holland, on July 6th, 1797. […] I was twenty-six years old. Ld. H. was twenty-three. The difference in age is, alas! two years and eight months—a horrid disparity,” Elizabeth writes, tongue-in-cheek. And Lady Bessborough, who was present at the wedding, wrote to Lord Leveson-Gower: “I never saw creatures so happy. Such perfect happiness as theirs scarcely ever was instanc’d before.”

Yet of course, this happiness didn’t come without a price. The divorce from Sir Godfrey was the scandal of the year, and in fact, would never be quite forgotten for the rest of Lady Holland’s life. The first years of her marriage must have been the most difficult for her, one can guess, for she would have been followed by giggles and whispers wherever she went, and some ladies wouldn’t receive her at all. Even several decades later, sticklers for propriety would either leave their wives at home when coming to Holland House, or said wives wouldn’t attend a social event if they knew Lady Holland would be present.

But Lady Holland was in many ways a force of nature and overcame these difficulties to become one of the most famous hostesses of the early 19th century. Indeed, she managed to make Holland House in Kensington a glittering social, political and cultural center. Regular guests at Holland House included Sir Walter Scott; Byron, who sent presentation copies of his works to Lady Holland; John Kemble, the famous actor; Henry Luttrell, one of the most famous wits of the Regency and a protégé of the Duchess of Devonshire; the ladies’ man Palmerston, who was known as “Cupid” at Almack’s, but more importantly was Secretary at War for nearly 20 years (1809-1830), Foreign Secretary for another twenty, and later Prime Minister under Queen Victoria; the Italian poet Ugo Foscolo and the Spanish-Irish poet José Maria Blanco White, who acted as tutor for Lord Holland’s heir Henry for a while. And then, of course, there was John Allen, who lived at Holland House and combined the positions of librarian, steward and loyal friend.

Holland Dining RoomDinners at Holland House were notorious both for Lady Holland’s sharp tongue and for the overcrowded dinner table. Sometimes 16 people dined at a table for 9, and people were given exact instructions where to sit, or were ordered to vacate their chairs for some more favored guests. On one occasion, when Lady Holland ordered Luttrell to make room, he answered, “It will have to be made, for it does not exist.” On the other hand, this tight squeeze at her dinner table, even though it was somewhat disagreeable, still resulted in a feeling of good-fellowship and resembled the general scramble of a picnic.

At her dinner table, in particular, and in her own home in general, Lady Holland was the supreme leader. She was famous for her extreme frankness, which bordered on rudeness, and this character trait sparked lots of anecdotes, for example, she once told Samuel Rogers, “Your poetry is bad enough, so pray be sparing of your prose.” (Ouch!)

Yet despite all her faults, Lady Holland’s friends seemed to have really liked her, for while she could be extremely rude, she was also very kind. Sir Henry Holland, who was not a relative, but one of the most sought-after physicians of his time, wrote of her, “In my long and intimate knowledge of Lady Holland, I never knew her desert an old friend, whatever his condition might be.” She was also very kind to servants, and when Edgar, one of her pages, fell ill, she made fuss of Edgar, whom she called a “little creature” even though he was a tall, hulking lad of 20. She ordered her guests to sit by his bedside and entertain him. It takes little imagination to see how this would have greatly embarrassed both sides. But even though, Edgar remained in the Hollands’ service and was still there when Lord Holland died 16 years later in 1845.

~~~~

Award-winning author Sandra Schwab started writing her first novel when she was seven years old. Thirty-odd years later, telling stories is still her greatest passion, even though by now she has exchanged her pink fountain pen of old for a black computer keyboard. Since the release of her debut novel The Lily Band in 2005, she has enchanted readers worldwide with her unusual historical romances.

She lives in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, with a sketchbook, a sewing machine, and an ever-expanding library.

Find her online, or catch up with her on Facebook, Twitter, or perhaps you would like to accompany her characters to one of Lady Holland’s dinner parties? Sign up for Sandra’s newsletter, so you won’t miss the re-release of The Lily Band this spring!

Teaser Tuesday Exclusive Excerpt: The Virgin’s Night Out by Shiloh Walker

Hi Guys! I have to admit, a little bit of me wants to cry. I’ve been having so much trouble with this site and been talking to technical support from my hosting company so much it’s just … overwhelming. In a bad way. So … bear with me. This is especially why posts are going up at all sorts of odd (and late) times, and the site is or isn’t blocked, and it’s just … well not literally, but figuratively ruining my life. It in fact took me all day to even be able to access my own damn site.

Sorry. And that’s a horrible introduction to Shiloh Walker’s excerpt, but I’m hoping she’ll forgive me. (And that she’ll get it.) Anyway, Shiloh Walker is of course an author, and I like her as an author and as person. And for people-hating me, that’s saying something, right? ;) So here is Shiloh with an excerpt of The Virgin’s Night Out.

The Virgin's Night OutSloane Redding is the shy one, the timid one. The morning of her wedding, she’s dumped by the man she’d thought she’d spend the rest of her life with. Humiliated, she turns tail and runs, leaving Nowhere, Alabama for a job in the city. Sloane sets out to remake herself. She succeeds…on the outside. On the inside? Different story. She still the shy Redding. Still quiet, still more interested in standing on the standlines. But all of that is about to change.

The night before her brother’s wedding, she strolls in the lone bar in Nowhere wearing wicked red and she’s got one goal in mind: to show her ex-fiance just what he lost.

The night before his best friend’s wedding, D.B. “Boone” Cassidy walks into the lone bar in Nowhere, Alabama with one goal in mind. Get wasted. Former military, he’s spent the past few years as a security specialist and all around troubleshooter. It should have been easy to spot the trouble that night…a sexy woman in wicked red. It should have been easy. Yeah, right.

One thing leads to another and his plans to get wasted turn into a night with the sexy woman in red . Boone gets the shock of his life the next day when he shows up at his friend’s wedding to find out he’d just spent the night wrapped around his best friend’s little sister…and that isn’t the only surprise.

Warning screamed through his brain.

Boone needed to break this off—now—and get the hell out of dodge. Lock himself in his room, maybe in the shower and turn the water on—screw a cold shower. He’d skip straight to ice. If he was smart, that was what he’d do.

He told himself he’d do just that.

But her mouth…

It was soft. Soft and hesitant, brushing against his so quick and light, it could have been the touch of a butterfly wing. If she’d left it right there, maybe, just maybe, he could have finished this torturously slow parody of dance, gotten away from the soft elegance of her body and ended the night with a cold shower.

Except she did it again and the kiss was a little firmer this time.

He was in trouble.

Without even realizing it, he’d maneuvered them to the far edge of the dance floor and if there was any privacy in the place at all, it was here. The doors opened onto a deck and just as she would have kissed him a second time, he pulled away.

He registered the dazed look in her eyes even as he caught her hand. She had started to turn away but when he pulled her through the doors out onto the deck, she followed.

The part of his brain that was still sane wanted to yell at her. She’d just followed a man she didn’t know outside, just followed a man she didn’t know into the darkness where only a few other couples were lingering, and they were doing the same thing he was getting ready to do—take advantage of the dim light and the solitude.

But the part of his brain that was dying for a real taste of her was in control and he led her to the farthest, darkest corner and tugged her back up against him. A startled breath escaped her—he caught it with his mouth and then, because it had been driving him crazy, he tugged at her upper lip with his teeth. She had a top heavy mouth, the upper lip just slightly fuller than the lower one and he should have known he’d end up kissing her at least once tonight.

Her mouth parted under his and he pulled her tighter against him, not even bothering to keep up with the pretense of dancing anymore. He had the presence of mind to guide her hands up to his neck, to keep them from the gun he’d tucked into a custom holster tucked under his left arm, hidden by the flannel he wore half buttoned over a white shirt. He’d guided her hands the same way when they danced, but if this kept up…

Fuck it. He took advantage of her parted lips and stole inside, the taste of her hitting his system with explosive force.

Groaning, he backed her up against the fence surrounding the deck. He kept his left arm secure around waist, forcing her to keep her right arm where it was, around his neck while her other hand fisted in the front of his flannel shirt.

It wasn’t enough—Boone wanted to feel her hands on him, skin to skin. Would her hands be as soft and smooth as she was everywhere else? He was dying to find out.

And because he all but seeing himself stripping his shirt open, guiding her hand down to his chest…lower, he broke the kiss off.

Sloane’s head was spinning.

Her skin felt hot, tight and so sensitive, even the light brush of air of her bare skin and shoulders seemed erotic.

When he lifted his head, she didn’t know whether she wanted drag him back to her or shove him away and take off running. What she did was press her head to his chest and suck in much needed air.

“We need to stop,” he said, his voice starting as a rumble deep down in his chest.

She went to nod.

But the feel of his fingers playing along the length of her spine distracted her and she just shuddered instead.

“I’m already tempted to drag you to the hotel as it is.”

The gruff tone of his voice had her shivering—and his words made her knees week.

Calm, rational Sloane Redding knew the right thing to do was exactly what he’d suggested. Stop. She didn’t do this—dance with strangers, kiss them in dark, shadowy corners or make out with them where almost anybody could see.

Smoothing a hand down his chest, she felt the muscles of his stomach bunch under her hand.

His hand went to her hip, gripping tight. “Sugar, we need to…”

She turned her head into his neck and pressed a kiss there.

He swore and tangled a fist in her hair, dragging her head back as he kissed her, hard and fast, shoving one knee between her thighs. It forced her already short skirt up into indecent territory and she didn’t care. Sensation blistered through her at the feel of his denim-clad thigh rubbing against her bare ones and then, the hand on her hip dragged her closer, closer—her silky panties dragged against her.

Every muscle inside her tightened and she clutched at him, near desperation fueling her.

“Fuck.” It was a harsh growl against her lips and then she was standing on wobbling legs and he was two feet away from her.

He held out a hand. “This is insane. I’m at the hotel across the street. Do you want to leave?”

The words were delivered in a calm, level voice, as though he was asking her the time of day, or if she knew if it would rain tomorrow. And his eyes were glittering, harsh flags of color riding on his cheekbones.

Calm, rational Sloane was shouting up at her. Say no! Say no! Go inside. Right now!

She put her hand in his and told calm, rational Sloane to go to hell.

So, what’d you think? :D You can read another excerpt here or pre-order a copy here.

SWHM Guest & Birthday Girl: Shelli Stevens

Hey guys, so I have been having so many site and hosting issues I think I might start bleeding from the eyes and ears from stress and rage. (Sorry – graphic, but it’s how I feel. In fact I am chatting to tech support right now as I type this. So … site issues.) REGARDLESS we’re finally into spring! That shit is amazing! Fingers crossed for no more snow, and all bright happiness and NOT too many fucking pollen counts. >.>

Erm, new paragraph for happier things. Spring! Birthdays! Shelli Stevens! Well, Shelli hasn’t been to ALBTALBS in some time, but we’re always happy to have her. Especially on her birthday! This is what she had to say. :D

Bessie SmithLime invited me to come do a birthday blog post, and of course I said yes! Especially knowing it’s women’s history month and I can chat about another love in my life. Music! So I was a big choir geek in high school and college. For awhile I considered becoming a music teacher. One genre I really loved, and performed in, was jazz (blues, swing, etc). I listened to just about every jazz song I could find and discovered so many favorites songs/artists. One singer in particular I want to share with you today.

Her name was Bessie Smith, and she was a super fascinating and mega talented gal. If you haven’t heard of her, she was a legendary blues singer of the 20th century, also known as the “Empress of the Blues”. Born in Tennessee in 1894, she rose from a life of poverty to become one of the highest paid black entertainers in the world, popular with both the African American community and Caucasian. She was controversial with her drinking binges, temper, and having scandalous affairs with women while being married. Sadly, she was killed in a car accident in 1937 (which had all kinds of rumors swirling around it!) but her music lived on and influenced future jazz and rock musicians such as Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin (Joplin helped buy Bessie a headstone for her unmarked grave in 1970).

Just take a moment and listen to her sing in the video below. I would’ve loved to hear her live back in the 20s!

Wow, thanks so much for sharing, Shelli! I’d never heard of Bessie Smith before, but I really enjoyed listening to I’m Wild About That Thing. I agree, hearing her live must have been something really special. So do you guys have a favorite influential artist?

And happy birthday to you, Shelli! I hope you’re having a lovely day and that it includes cake, cupcakes, and cocktails! :D Everyone remember to wish Shelli a happy happy birthday!

And you know – even though you shouldn’t … If you do need incentive… ;) Shelli is generously offering someone an e-copy of her (or his) choice from her backlist!

SWHM Guest: Piper Huguley on Maria W. Stewart

My friends, today we have Piper Huguley visiting with us again! You might remember that she’s been a guest at ALBTALBS once before, with an absolutely lovely post about Laura Ingalls Wilder. Today she’s here to discuss a really important part of history with us – the female speakers who were trailblazers for right.

Maria W. Stewart, America's First Black Woman Political WriterThe right for women to vote in the United States is only 95 years old. And it might have never happened if women had not found their voices on another issue that was seen reflect the nation’s morality in the early part of the nineteenth century: Slavery. It was in the cause of freeing the slaves that many women were able to find their public voices and be heard. This development of women into abolitionists, helped other women realize they had a right to contribute to the public discourse.

The outcry over the immorality of slavery can be said to be rooted in two things. First of all, there was a widespread belief and knowledge of the Bible. Using the enslaved to generate an income was seen by many as thwarting the intention of Genesis 3:19. The promise of the United States meant for many, including Abraham Lincoln, that people were supposed to earn their own bread through by their own sweat. Taking on slaves meant that others were used to do to make this money, thus breaking a covenant with God’s law.

Secondly, as the moral authority for their families, women were a large part of the outcry over slavery. They began to be drawn to the issue because of the unspoken use of the enslaved woman’s body as breeding grounds for increasing the unearned wealth of those who owned the enslaved population. The problem was that in the 1830’s women were supposed to only oversee the private sphere of the home. So, this aspect of enslavement did not receive public attention until an African-American widow, Maria (pronounced Mariah) Stewart began to speak up about it. In fact, Stewart was the first woman to speak to a promiscuous (meaning mixed in gender) audience about the evils of slavery. Women found their voices through several means, but it all began in the early 1830’s with her. She was willing to let people know of the suffering the enslaved endured. Yet, she used of her faith of Christianity as a cloak when she would say:

Methinks I heard a spiritual interrogation–‘Who shall go

forward, and take off the reproach that is cast upon the people

of color? Shall it be a woman?’ And my heart made this reply–

‘If it is thy will, be it even so, Lord Jesus!’

Life as a public speaker was rough going for her. She only gave her lectures for two years, then compiled the lectures into a book that William Lloyd Garrison published. Then, she stepped down from speaking publicly for the rest of her life. She later said: “It was the nature of man to crush his fellow.” Ouch.

The Great Silent Army of AbolitionismOther women who followed Stewart had bad experiences as well. According to The Great Silent Army of Abolitionism, Julie Roy Jeffrey says of other women, “The Grimke sisters speaking tour occasioned a major clerical rebuke, while Abby Kelley was branded as a Jezebel during her tour of Connecticut….Ellen Smith, who lectured in a church in Main in 1843, left a vivid account of her hostile audience…Boys sitting in the church’s galleries threw hymn books at her, and she was lucky to escape without injury.”

Still someone had to be first. So in this women’s history month, we owe a debt of gratitude to Maria Stewart and her insistence to make the first public step for women and their public voices.

Stewart, Maria. “Lecture at Franklin Hall.” Maria W. Stewart: America’s First Black Woman Political Writer, ed. Marilyn Richardson. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987

Thank you so much, Piper! I don’t think I’d ever heard of Maria Stewart or these other women before. Or, if I had, they were grouped together as a collective in history books. Definitely we should be hearing more about such wonderful women.

Have you guys heard of these female speakers before? Is there anyone you want to give a shout out to?

SWHM Guest: Megan Reel

ST. PATRICK’S DAAAAAYYYY!!! Hi everyone! I feel like I should be turning everything green. But … you know. I didn’t, so I guess “me speaking” being green will have to suffice today. 

There. :D Good enough right? So it’s definitely still Women’s History Month. The Mary of the Gael aka St. Brigid of Ireland aka Saint Brigit of Kildare is also one of the patron saints of Ireland. Did you guys know that? We’re not talking about that though – because I’m handing it over to Megan Reel now!

Hi [Everyone],

Thanks for inviting me to the blog. It’s exciting to begin a new branch to my professional writing career as an independent author, and writing erotica is a lot of fun. I love world building. I had always wanted to try my hand at a novel that has more of a fantasy feel because fantasy gives me the tools to explore social constructs without the constraints of real history or culture. I can shape the history and culture to explore themes that I find interesting. I also have the leeway to create a culture that is steeped in sex, which is too entertaining for me as a writer.

As I created Alendra, my young queen coming of age in a very matriarchal and sex-positive culture, I couldn’t help thinking about how women’s power and sexuality have always intersected through history. Thinking back on three of the most powerful, and most ambitious female rulers of olden times, I find it both fascinating and disturbing that their sexuality is intrinsically linked with their mythos.

Elizabeth I reigned over England during a golden age of art and exploration. She chose to position herself as “The Virgin Queen,” and refused to marry, knowing that any political union she chose would result in a loss of her personal power. Instead she used her image to consolidate her power both with the political powers of the time and also with the church. Yet, in spite of her carefully crafted image, popular culture hardly ever portrays Elizabeth without also referring to the lovers rumored to have graced her bed.

Cleopatra was a master of political manipulation. She knew very well her position as pharaoh was threatened by the powers of Rome. While her brother is hardly ever mentioned, Cleopatra has inspired great art and drama, but always in her role as the Egyptian seductress. She was the one who rolled herself up in a carpet to seduce Julius Caesar, and she was the one who became Marc Antony’s lover in his bid to throw Octavian from power. I’m not sure it is fair to reduce her political savvy in such turbulent times. She played a delicate hand in a dangerous game of cards and she used everything in her arsenal at the time. It seems reductive to think of her power as coming solely from her love affairs.

Finally there’s Catherine the Great. Married to a man she could not stand, who seemed to wish to defect to Germany instead of actually ruling Russia, she took command of an empire. Now what is she remembered for? Horses. In her case, her ambition to rise to power, and her affection for much younger men, was seen as so unnatural, her name can’t be separated from rumors of bestiality.

I’m glad I can use fantasy to give Alendra more freedom to grow into her power as queen of her people, and use her growing sexuality as a symbol for her blossoming strength as a leader of her people. Sexuality should be seen as our strength, not a weapon to be used against us. Fantasy lets us do just that.

I hope you enjoy Alendra and her six champions. They each have something to teach her both about her sexuality, and about her power as queen. She has a lot to learn, and I’m very glad, because things get rather hot when she does.

Happy reading everyone,

Megan Reel

Bio: Megan Reel loves to spend her time outdoors. When she is not working in her garden or taking care of her horse, she’s exploring the gorgeous and sensual worlds she creates through her writing. Currently she lives on the east coast and enjoys watching the fireflies at night from her deck while drinking a glass of wine. Follow her on Twitter @meganreel. Website, Kindle, iTunes, Kobo, Nook.

The QueenSix lovers. Six ways to seduction. Which one will she choose?

The feast of Rahnis means blazing fires. Sweat-slicked skin. Throbbing drumbeats that drive erotic dances and incite orgasmic pleasure. As the ruler of a country driven by sexual ritual and elaborate ceremonial orgies, young Queen Alendra has presided over countless rites but remains untouched…until now.

Alendra can’t control the intoxicating siren song of her body discovering physical pleasure, but for as much as she wishes to feed her sensuality, she fears losing control and facing the unknown. To make matters worse, the one man she would trust with her awakening is someone she can never have, and now ritual has forced her hand.

It is time for the virgin queen, a deity in human form, to conceive an heir.

Six champions have been chosen. Perfection in male form, they have sworn to satisfy her every desire. Alendra must never know their true identities. Instead she knows them only by the mask they wear, Stag, Bull, Hawk, Serpent, Leopard, and Fox.

The feast is about to begin…

Really interesting subject, and famous figures, yes? Do you have someone who comes to mind that fits the “mold” that Megan mentioned?”

 

TBR Challenge Review: Rock Hard by Nalini Singh

Rock Hard by Nalini Singh
Contemporary romance released by Nalini Singh/TKA Distribution on March 10, 2015

Rock HardPassion ignites between a gorgeous, sinfully sexy man who built himself up from nothing and a shy woman who has a terrible secret in her past…

Wealthy businessman Gabriel Bishop rules the boardroom with the same determination and ruthlessness that made him a rock star on the rugby field. He knows what he wants, and he’ll go after it no-holds-barred.

And what he wants is Charlotte Baird.

Charlotte knows she’s a mouse. Emotionally scarred and painfully shy, she just wants to do her job and remain as invisible as possible. But the new CEO—a brilliant, broad-shouldered T-Rex of a man who growls and storms through the office, leaving carnage in his wake—clearly has other plans. Plans that may be equal parts business and bedroom.

If Charlotte intends to survive this battle of wits and hearts, the mouse will have to learn to wrangle the T-Rex. Game on.

​You guys, I miss football. I miss it a lot. So … I guess I’ve been filling the void with rugby heroes? XD It’s kinda funny though, because Gabe isn’t even a rugby hero, so much as an uber tycoon. Semantics – there’s a rugby ball on the cover. Good enough. Also, I really like Nalini Singh’s writing. I’ve been reading her books since her Silhouette Desires. Which was also right around the time of the first Psy/Changeling stories I believe… Anyway I first heard about her new contemporaries at RT last year. So here we are! Book Two of the Rock Kiss series!

Charlie-Mouse. What a name. Charlotte is a mouse in some ways, but it’s because she hasn’t entirely recovered from her brutal attack yet. Who could blame her? I love that almost from the start Charlotte is able to be herself around Gabe. Sure, she’s scared of him at first, but not physically. More professionally, and that ends quickly. You can see Charlie overcoming a number of her issues with love, care, protection, and space. It makes sense that Charlie had to take this time to just survive and take each day as it is. With her new boss and someone seeing her and appreciating her – her intelligence, drive, humor, and looks, well it might sound like a cliche, but Charlotte blossoms. She needed someone new to give her a push, and of course still has the support of Molly, who has been there with her for years. Even though Charlie didn’t have a wide support system she still has people at her back, and I liked that Ms. Singh didn’t write her into a vacuum. She’s complex because Charlie knows she has issues that she accepts, but it also frustrates her because she wants to do and be more.

T-Rex. Gabriel Bishop. You guys, Gabe is about as far from a T-Rex as it gets. At least, in the terms of his romance and relationship with Charlotte. He’s a giant marshmallow. Sure, if you’re his colleague, employee, or business opponent, you better bring your A game. And even so, you might get crushed. But when it comes to love? Gabriel has a giant soft fuzzy underbelly. It’s beyond adorable. I really liked that Gabe had such a great family, and that he gets on with them so well. He’s a warm, loving, and supportive to those he cares about. Gabe protects what he considers as his, and he does so intensely. He’s an alpha hero in that he’s a leader and protector. He’s also possessive, and I love the [basically one time] he acts jealously. He’s not an asshole about it, and doesn’t overstep his bounds. Gabe knows when his issues are something that he needs to deal with and not take out on someone else. And in my opinion all the sexual tension Gabe has to experience is good for his personal growth. ;)

I love that it’s Gabe that suggests (additional) therapy for Charlotte. Our big, bad, T-Rex takes no prisoners tycoon understand psychological and emotional care. Also that things weren’t magically suddenly resolved, e.g. Charlie and Gabe sleeping together. And yes, I mean actually sleeping. There are setbacks and problems, and the relationship develops so realistically. Both Charlie and Gabe know they have to work at the relationship. Not just because of the myriad issues each has, but that it’s a natural thing for people to have to make an effort to establish a connection.

What I appreciated is that although most of Rock Hard focuses on Charlotte’s issues and her overcoming them, she’s not the only one who is a mess. Gabriel is far from perfect, and he has to change as well for them to truly move forward. Not him getting in touch with his emotional side or anything, but true deep seated personal baggage to let go of. It all comes full circle that Charlie is confident enough to not only call Gabe on his shit, but demand that he change – not just for them, but for himself.

You’ll have to read it … so I’ll mention that I also adore the bracelet. I knew when Gabe made Charlie pick it out that he was going to give it to her. Ms. Singh is tricksies though and leaves it until you’ve almost forgotten about it. I’ve also decided Ms. Singh is something of a closet sadist, because she seems to love ripping your heart out. And then when you think it’s safe and we’re on an even keel, with the characters experiencing something fun and lighthearted, she’ll jab her little finger straight into your heart again. Rock Hard is an easy read, but it’s also an emotional one. You’ll want to devour it in a day, but maybe keep some chocolates, possibly a tissue or two handy.

I can’t wait to read more from the Rock Kiss series, and the spinoff with Gabe’s brothers as well. More rock stars and rugby stars for all!

Grade: B+

You can read an excerpt here and buy a copy here.