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Showing posts from June, 2010

Scandalous Women in Fiction: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

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The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner Ballantine Books, May 2010 From the Publisher: To some she was the ruthless queen who led France into an era of savage violence. To others she was the passionate savior of the French monarchy. The last legitimate descendant of the illustrious Medici line, Catherine suffers the expulsion of her family from her native Florence and narrowly escapes death at the hands of an enraged mob. While still a teenager, she is betrothed to Henri, son of Fran├žois I of France, and sent from Italy to an unfamiliar realm where she is overshadowed and humiliated by her husband’s lifelong mistress. Ever resilient, Catherine strives to create a role for herself through her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer. But in her fortieth year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children as regent of a kingdom torn apart by religious discord and the ambitions of a treacherous nobility. I confess

Talia Weisberg on Ruth Handler and her creation Barbie

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Approximately one billion Barbie dolls have been sold, with two coming off shelves every second. Ninety percent of girls from ages 3-10 own at least one Barbie doll. Some people find these statistics disturbing; groups like NOW and AAUW have objected to Barbie’s stereotypical image of girls. However, Barbie is so much more than a busty blonde. As a positive role model for girls, the Barbie doll impacted girls’ views of a woman’s role and career opportunities. Barbie has her roots in a strong woman: Ruth Handler. Handler was the tenth child of her already elderly mother and was raised by her oldest sister, Sarah. “Sarah…held things together, made the decisions, took care of the money…that’s why I never thought it strange for a woman to take the business lead in a marriage,” Handler once said. Taking after her business-savvy sister, Handler, along with her husband Elliot, cofounded Mattel, a plastics company, in 1944. They soon began manufacturing toys, becoming exponentially successfu

Author Jo Manning on Thomas Gainsborough

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Though Sir Joshua Reynolds was to say of his rival and sometimes-friend Thomas Gainsborough, a co-founder with him of the Royal Academy, that “his passion for his art was much greater than his love of either fame or money,” the reality, perhaps, may not bear this out. Money was a major driving factor in the life of Gainsborough. Although he was a prolific painter, he was never to achieve Reynolds’ great wealth. In fact, no two artists could have been so unlike. And so unlike the third painter I’ve chosen to discuss, one of their greatest rivals, George Romney. Gainsborough, in contrast to the mellow and benign personality of Reynolds, the man everyone seemed to like, was a volatile and prickly individual. It was said of him that he possessed the classic “artistic temperament”, which was not exactly a compliment. Tall, fair, handsome, a lively conversationalist, he was also impulsive, capricious, and could be easily irritated. His language could be vulgar, bawdy and off-color to a sh

Scandalous Women in the News

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Happy Birthday to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.  Recently a copy of the Gainsborough portrait was found and restored by two Syracuse University alumnae (my alma mater). Joyce Dallaportas and Ronald K. Theel found the painting at a Syracuse estate sale and confirmed that it was the lovely Duchess. You can read the article from Syracuse University magazine here Speaking of Duchesses, Sarah Ferguson The Duchess of York has been in the news lately since it was revealed that she involved in a cash-for-access scandal uncovered by the tabloid newspaper The NEWS OF THE WORLD.  The whole thing was a set-up on the part of the newspaper. The Duchess got caught on videotape offered to help a gentleman that she thought was a businessman gain access to her ex-husband Prince Andrew for the tidy sum of 500,000 pounds. Last week, she went on Oprah to explain her actions, saying that she has gotten into financial trouble again, and had hit rock bottom. You can read about it here in HELLO Magazine

Author Carrie Lofty on When Regina Met Mozart

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Scandalous Women is pleased to welcome back Carrie Lofty, author of A Scoundrel's Kiss (Kensington) and her newest release Song of Seduction (Carina Press) to the blog. Some women don't set out to make a scandal, but they do by the very nature of their daring. One such woman was Regina Strinasacchi. On April 29, 1784, a young woman performed with Mozart for Joseph II, the Holy Roman Emperor. But that woman, Regina Strinassachi, did not play pianoforte as most ladies were wont to do. She played violin, with Mozart on piano. Together they debuted Mozart's newest composition, Sonata in B flat for Violin and Keyboard (K. 454), which he had written for her. By all accounts, K. 454 is a very difficult piece, which speaks to Mozart's high opinion of Strinassachi as a performer. He often wrote "puff" pieces for influential patrons' children who had mediocre talent, but this was not one of them. In a letter to his father, Mozart wrote: "We now have here