July 2013


July 31, 2013

I have a soft spot for historical characters who push society’s boundaries and make them bend.* People who sit where they aren’t supposed to sit, speak up when the world wants them to be quiet, and study things people tell them they can’t study. ** People who find their voice or kick open doors. People […]

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Erasmus Darwin Is Tracking Me Down

July 26, 2013

One of the weird facts about historical research (or maybe just about life in general) is that once a person or idea has come to your attention you find references to him/it/them everywhere. In a footnote. As a tangential character is a study of something else. The subject of a new book sitting on the […]

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Words With a Past: Strike While The Iron Is Hot

July 23, 2013

I’ve always assumed that the phrase “strike while the iron is hot” was simply a term derived from blacksmithing. I recently learned that the phrase has a history beyond the making of horseshoes and sword blades. Who would have thought it was linked to marriage? Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1754 changed the laws governing […]

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The Ancient Order of Free and Accepted Masons

July 19, 2013

If you spend much time hanging out in the eighteenth century, you are forced to consider the question of Freemasonry. * Everywhere you turn, you find a major historical figure up to his Whig in Masonic craft. Today Masonic lodges don’t look that different from the various fraternal orders that appeared in America’s Gilded Age […]

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Bites of Art and History: 82nd & Fifth

July 16, 2013

I get hundreds of e-mails everyday: business letters, personal notes, notices of FB updates, newsletters, “opportunities”. Some I read immediately. Some go straight to the trash. Many I let slide until a someday that never quite comes. But every Wednesday since the first of the year I’ve jumped on the e-mail titled 82nd and Fifth. […]

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Madeleine Caulier Goes to War

July 12, 2013

I’ve been fascinated for a long time by real-life stories of women who disguised themselves as men and went to war at times when women didn’t go to war. * About ten years ago, I began to collect examples, thinking I could write a book, or at least an article, about the subject. I quickly […]

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The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England

July 10, 2013

My junior high school library had a series of books called Everyday Life in [fill in the historical period]. They had line drawings of period clothing, architectural drawings of buildings (common houses as well as castles), and details about food, games, school, etc. I suspect they were written in the 1920s or 1930s; they have […]

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Happy Fourth of July!

July 4, 2013

4th of July picnic in Rogers, Arkansas, ca 1904 Take a moment in your celebrations to remember what we’re celebrating: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” […]

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History on Display: Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

July 2, 2013

Last week, my writing pal Amy Sue Nathan and I headed off to the Art Institute of Chicago to see the hot new exhibit, Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity. * It wasn’t quite what I expected. I was looking for what the museum describes as “a la mode as the harbinger of la modernité“. I wanted […]

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