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Showing posts from March, 2009

Mixing Fact and Fiction: The Devil's Whore

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Last night I watched a miniseries set in the English Civil War that was broadcast by Britain's Channel 4 last November. I picked up a copy of the DVD in the airport while waiting for my plane back to New York. I'm fortunate to have a region-free DVD player which means that I can play English DVD's as well as American (for some reason Europe has a different system than we do). I had planned to write about the miniseries as part of my reviewing of fictional Scandalous Women but instead I've decided to write about mixing historical fact and fiction, something that crops up a lot while watching movies and TV films based on historical scandalous women. The story revolves Angelica Fanshawe (who is fictitious) in the years 1623 when she is born until the restoration of Charles II. When Angelica is small, her mother who is Catholic decides to go to France to become a nun, leaving Angelica to the care of her cousin's family. As the boat is leaving, Angelica declares that s

Hedda Gabler - Fiend or Heroine?

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Last night I went to see the Roundabout Theater's production of Hedda Gabler starring Mary Louise Parker at the American Airlines theater here in New York. As I was watching the play (before I walked out during the interval), I started thinking about the fictional scandalous women, women whose stories shocked the reading public at the time. Women like Madame Bovary , Forever Amber , Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, and Fanny Hill . This blog has been mainly about the real life Scandalous Women in history, but I thought I would start a new feature, tackling some of these fictional women and why their stories were so outrageous to readers at the time. I have long had a love/hate relationship with the play Hedda Gabler . I have seen many productions of this play and I still can't get around the fact that I hate this character. Last night, I started wondering what it was about this fictional woman that pushed my buttons. And was it the same for audience members in the late 19t

Empress of Numbers: The Life of Augusta Ada Byron King

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My daughter! with they name this song begun My daughter! with they name thus much shall end I see thee not, - I hear thee not, - but none Can be so wrapt in thee; thou art the friend To whom the shadows of far years extend: Albeit my brow thou never should'st behold, My voice shall with thy future visions blend, And reach into they heart, - when mine is cold, - A token and a tone, even from thy father's mould. George, Lord Byron March 24, 2009 is Ada, Countess of Lovelace Day. So to celebrate, over 1,000 people will be blogging about Ada today. Below is my little contribution to the effort. From childhood, Augusta Ada Byron's mother tried her damndest to make sure that her only child was nothing like her father, Lord Byron. Ada would be brought up to revere science, mathematics and reason. Any poetic impulses would be squashed out of her, but despite her mother's best efforts, Ada Bryon King, Countess of Lovelace grew up to be more like her father than her mother eve

The Bolter - The Racy Life of Idina Sackville

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Imagine picking up the newspaper and reading about the scandalous doings of an upper-class wife in Happy Valley, Kenya and finding out that the woman in the article was your great-grandmother! That is what happened to writer Frances Osborne in her teens. She happened to be reading an article about the book White Mischief, a new book about the murder of Josslyn Hay, the Earl of Errol. The article mentioned his first wife, Lady Idina Sackville and the outrageous life of a group of English settlers in Kenya. Too her surprise, her mother told her that Lady Idina was her great grandmother, a skeleton in the family closet, that had never been revealed. Intrigued, Frances kept digging for information. As she researched, she must have been reminded of that old adage, that one should be prepared when researching the family tree, that you might not always like what you find. Happily for those of us who love reading about Scandalous Women, she kept on researching. The result is a book called Th

Scandalous Movie Review: Iron Jawed Angels

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Directed by Katia von Garnier Starring: Hilary Swank .......Alice Paul Anjelica Huston..... Carrie Chapman Catt Frances O'Connor.....Lucy Burns Molly Parker......Emily Leighton (fictional character; a senator's wife) Laura Fraser.......Doris Stevens Lois Smith........Rev. Anna Howard Shaw Vera Farmiga......Ruza Wenclawska, also known as Rose Winslow Brooke Smith........Mabel Vernon Patrick Dempsey........Ben Weissman (fictional character) Julia Ormond........Inez Milholland In February 2004, Iron-Jawed Angels premiered on HBO. It is the story of Alice Paul (1885-1977) and her friend Lucy Burns, and the last 8 years of the women's suffrage movement in the United States. The film opens with Alice and Lucy arriving at a meeting with Carrie Chapman Catt and the Reverand Anna Howard Shaw, two stalwart's of the women's right's movement. Both Paul and Burns had been actively involved in the suffrage movement while studying in England. As the duo becomes more activ

Goodness Had Nothing to do with it: The Scandalous Life of Mae West

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“Come up and see sometime!” “I used to be Snow White… but I drifted.” “Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” “When I’m good, I’m very good. But when I’m bad, I’m better.” These are just a few of the gems that Mae West, sex goddess and comedienne, was responsible for during her long career in vaudeville, theater, movies and Las Vegas. A playwright as well as an actress, Mae West scandalized theater goers with her 1926 play simply entitled Sex, starting off a long battle against censorship that lasted her whole career. She was a feminist icon who showed the world that sex was a natural thing and not something dirty to be hidden. Her costumes and look have been duplicated by drag queens the world over. Mae West entered the world as Mary Ann West on August 17th 1893 in Brooklyn, New York when it was still a separate city. Her father had been a prizefighter known as ‘Battlin’ Jack West’ before settling down to various careers including owning a detective a

Scandalous Book Review: Pauline Bonaparte

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"I have no ambition, except for a comfortable existence, a small number of good friends, and freedom of action." Pauline Bonaparte In the year and a half since I started Scandalous Women , I have written about many women across the centuries. Some have haunted me more than others, and left me hungering for more information about them. Pauline Bonaparte (1780-1825) is one of them. The general consensus from most of the books that I read while preparing my post was that Pauline was a flighty nymphomaniac who finally expired from the excesses of her life. Somehow I knew there had to be more to the life of Napoleon's favorite sister. Thankfully Flora Fraser has written a new biography about Pauline that was just published last week. As far as I know this is the first major biography about Pauline in English I think ever. On the surface, Pauline doesn't seem like an excellent candidate for a full length biography. Pauline Bonaparte led no salons like Madame de Stael,

Friendliness Award for Scandalous Women

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The lovely Lucy of Enchanted by Josephine nominated me for a blog award yesterday. With this award, I must nominate others to share the prize and they, in turn, are supposed to nominate others in the same spirit of blogging friendship. "This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY-nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award." My eight bloggers are: Kwana Writes - Kwana is one of the loveliest people that I know Megan Frampton - Another wonderful writer and friend History Undressed - A wonderful blog by Eliza Knight Edwardian Promenade Hope Tarr

March Madness

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Welcome to March Madness here on Scandalous Women! Since it's women's history month, Scandalous Women will be featuring some of history's most fascinating women. In the following weeks, the blog will feature: Movie review of Iron-Jawed Angels: starring Hilary Swank as suffragette Alice Paul Book review of Pauline Bonaparte by Flora Fraser Let's Talk About Sex Baby! - The Life of Mae West In Search of the Queen of Sheba Mistress of Louis XIV-Athenais de Montespan Nancy Astor I'll also be off to London for next week to do research but I'll be back loaded down with books! I'll try to check in while I'm away.