Sunday, June 30, 2013

Meet Mary Bowser, Your New Girl-Crush

Mary Bowser is cooler than you; and not just a little, but infinitely cooler! I’m sorry. You’re my friend and I like you bunches, but I have to give it to you straight. Here, let me explain.

Mary Bowser was born a slave. Her master, John Van Lew, was a prosperous hardware merchant in Richmond, Virginia. Following his death, Van Lew’s daughter Elizabeth set the family’s slaves free. Though Mary was free, she continued working for the Van Lews. When Elizabeth realized Mary’s cleverness, she financed her education at the Quaker School for Negroes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Episode #7: Bessie Stringfield (Mini-cast)

She rode solo coast to coast eight times during the peak of racial discrimination in the U.S, established the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club, and owed 27 Harleys. Bad mamma-jamma? You bet your ass! Tune-in to discover more about the original “Easy Rider,” Bessie Stringfield.

Episode #7: Bessie Stringfield (Mini-cast) Show Notes

Regularly, I stumble across women in history that are fascinating, but there’s not enough information to create a full-length podcast. So was born the “mini-cast,” a five minute version of the show. The first mini-cast subject is Bessie Stringfield, the “Motorcycle Queen of Miami.”

Friday, June 21, 2013

H.B. Fieldtrip #3-Leonardo da Vinci’s Ginevra de' Benci (National Gallery of Art)

This May, we brought our students to the National Gallery of Art to see Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Ginevra de' Benci; his only painting on display in the Americas. Though just as captivating as the Mona Lisa, scholars understand more about Ginevra than Leonardo’s most legendary subject. Born around 1457 or 1458, she was a member of the prosperous and cultured Benci family of Florence, Italy. Ginevra herself was a celebrated poet, though none of her work survives.

Leonardo painted Ginevra’s likeness in 1474, perhaps to commemorate her marriage to Luigi di Bernardo Niccolini; she was 16 years old, and Leonardo just 22! The front of the portrait shows her seated before a juniper (ginepro in Italian), supposedly a pun on her name. On the reverse (it’s double-sided!) is a second juniper twig encircled by a garland of laurel and palm and the Latin inscription VIRTVTEM FORMA DECORAT (Beauty Adorns Virtue). Watch the YouTube video below for some commentary on the symbols’ possible connotations and unlikely “scandal” regarding them.

It’s a gorgeous piece of art (and you can actually see Leonardo’s fingerprint in the branches) celebrating a fascinating woman. Check it out if you're in DC!

Check out for a close-up of Leonardo’s fingerprint.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

H.B. Movie Review: I Watched "The Iron Lady," So You Didn't Have To!

I’m guessing that based on the post’s title, you can deduce that I didn't enjoy watching “The Iron Lady” (2011). Starring Meryl Streep, the biopic spans from Margaret’s early days as grocer’s daughter to her last years grappling with dementia.

My main problem with the movie was that it didn't employ a linear narrative, and seems to hopscotch back and forth in time. Maybe, it feels disjointed because the story unfolds via a series of remembrances. Taking place around 2008, the audience finds Maggie in the grips of dementia. Though her husband Denis is dead, his ghost interacts with Maggie throughout. It’s these hallucinations, or sometimes a home movie, old photograph, or news story that sparks the flashbacks which depict the important episodes in her life. These memories are juxtaposed with Maggie trying to navigate her way through everyday life as she tries desperately to grasp reality.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Margaret Thatcher, Part 2 (Show Notes)

The victorious end of the Falklands War designated the start of Great Britain’s stormy romance with Margaret Thatcher. Though it culminated with a surprising betrayal and angry tears, she governed longer than any 20th century Prime Minister. Undoubtedly, Maggie’s first years were troubled; but, during her second term she realized many of the concepts that became synonymous with her name.

Helped by Nigel Lawson, Chancellor of the Exchequer, she led the country out its slump. Though Britain’s bourgeois boomed, critics observed that her government persistently disregarded underprivileged citizens. Ultimately, those who’d gained from Maggie’s economic proposals would scorn her, too.

Besides stimulating economic growth, Maggie concentrated on bolstering her relationship with U.S. President Reagan. Together, with Mikhail Gorbachev, these super friends shut-down the Cold War. She courted global censure by refusing to sanction apartheid South Africa, professing it would harm Britain, neighboring African countries, and black South Africans. And, she went head-to-head with China, negotiating Hong Kong’s “special status” after the conclusion of British governance.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Episode #6: Margaret Thatcher, Part 2

Reactions to her death included requesting, “Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead” be played in her memory. Ouch! But, conversely, she was ranked # 16 in the BBC’s survey of the 100 Greatest Britons. So, who’s right? Tune-in to discover why Margaret Thatcher’s legacy is so contentious.