Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Episode #17-Nancy Wake, "The White Mouse"

She parachuted out airplanes, bicycled 500 km. through opposition-held territory, and killed Nazis using just her bare hands! But, what led this spunky, teenage run-away to become an “Inglorious Bastards”-style Nazi killer? Check-out, Nancy Wake, “The White Mouse,” to find out.

Episode #17-Nancy Wake, "The White Mouse" (Show Notes)

She parachuted out airplanes, bicycled 500 km. through opposition-held territory, and killed Nazis using just her bare hands! But, before Nancy Wake, nicknamed “The White House,” became landed on the Gestapo’s most wanted list, she was a spunky girl from a broken home, growing-up in New Zealand.

Nancy Grace Augusta Wake was born August 30, 1912 in Roseneath, Wellington, New Zealand. After the collapse of her parents’ marriage, and a childhood lacking maternal affection, she ran-away to explore the globe. Residing in London, Nancy smooth-talked a newspaper executive into employing her, and was dispatched to Paris as a roving correspondent.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Episode #16-Mata Hari

From disenchanted, favorite child she escaped to become a hopeful, teenage bride. From business-savvy show woman and courtesan she fell to become a convicted spy. From birth to death, Mata Hari’s life was defined by transformation. Charged with aiding Germany while deceiving France, Mata Hari was executed for her supposed crimes at 41. But, was she guilty?

Episode #16-Mata Hari (Show Notes)

From disenchanted, favorite child she escaped to become a hopeful, teenage bride. From business-savvy show woman and courtesan she fell to become a convicted spy. From birth to death, Mata Hari’s life was defined by transformation.

Born Margaretha Zelle in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, her girlhood was characterized by wealth and extravagance, until her spendthrift father went bankrupt, throwing the family into poverty. She was pawned-off to relatives following her parents’ divorce and mother’s death, and trained to become a kindergarten teacher. But, after her first brush with scandal, she was again sent packing. Now residing in the Hague, Margaretha met Rudolph MacLeod, her future husband. Engaged after just 6 days, the pair became acquainted via a matrimonial advertisement he’d taken out in a newspaper. Yet, despite his aristocratic pedigree, Rudolph was no gentleman. His drinking and womanizing, and Margaretha’s free-spending, overtaxed the marriage, and they eventually divorced.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Three Cheers!

Congratulations, Michelle Janine Howard, the U.S. Navy’s 1st female four star admiral, the service’s highest rank! Likewise, this makes her the 1st African-American woman to earn a four-star ranking in the history of the U.S. military. Michelle is also notable for being the 1st African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy vessel. For more, check-out:

Female four-star admiral: Adm. Michelle Janine Howard makes Navy history (The Christian Science Monitor)

Michelle Howard Becomes 1st Female 4-Star Officer in the Navy (The Root)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Episode #15-Phillis Wheatley (Mini-cast)

She overcame her subjugated status to become America’s first black published poet, yet she died in abject poverty. How could Phillis Wheatley soar to such great heights, only to plummet so far? Tune-in, and find out.

Episode #15-Phillis Wheatley (Mini-cast)

She overcame her subjugated status to become America’s first black published poet, yet she died in abject poverty. How could Phillis Wheatley soar to such great heights, only to plummet so far? Tune-in, and find out.

Episode #15-Phillis Wheatley (Mini-cast) Show Notes

The Phillis Wheatley Monument
in Boston, Massachusetts
You've probably heard of Phillis Wheatley, but chances are you’re not quite sure who she is, or why she’s famous. If you’re nodding your head, keep reading…

Phillis Wheatley, the first African-American to publish a book of poetry, was probably born in 1753 or 1754, somewhere in western Africa. At roughly 7 years old, captured by slave-traders.
 Considered too sickly for hard labor plantations in the Caribbean or Southern U.S. colonies, she became a domestic servant for the Wheatley family in Boston.  Though they kept slaves, the Wheatley’s were relatively progressive; after witnessing Phillis copying the alphabet in chalk, instead of punishing her, they decided to cultivate her academic interests. During a period when some states outlawed teaching slaves to read, Phillis was studying Alexander Pope and John Milton. Actually, the education she received from the Wheatley’s was superior even to most Caucasian males’.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dude, Where's My Womb?

Bitches, let’s rap. We need to discuss a subject that’s a bit…well, serious. Sit down. Do you now, or have you ever, felt anxious, short-tempered, or emotional?  Have you perhaps experienced insomnia or a loss of appetite? Do you have a general “tendency to cause trouble?” I suspected you might. Ladies, it’s time you learned about a rampant “disease” that’s been plaguing women for thousands of years, Female Hysteria (or as George said, “More like her-steria!” High-five, buddy!). Don’t be afraid; I'm here to answer each and every one some of your questions. First up…

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Fake It 'Til You Make It

Anna Anderson
Some historical mysteries, regardless of how persistently we might try, can never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. As morning dawned on July 17, 1918, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, and their five children, Alexei, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, were executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries. Just two years later, a woman calling herself Anna Anderson turned-up in Berlin claiming to be Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, the youngest of the tsar and tsarina’s daughters. She professed that she had escaped from the basement where her family was slaughtered with help from two brothers named Tchiakovsky, and fled to Romania. She perpetrated this fraud until 1991, when the previously lost remains of the royal family were unearthed. Posthumous DNA testing proved Anna was not a member of the Romanov dynasty. Some have postulated that she was actually a Polish factory worked named Franziska Schanzkowska who had a history of mental illness.

Monday, March 3, 2014

“Because of Them, We Can”

Searching for possible images for my series of Black History Month blog-posts, I came across some pictures from “Because of Them, We Can.” Their mission is to share/celebrate African-American’s “rich history and promising future through images that would refute stereotypes and build the esteem of our children.” 
To hear more about creator Eunique Jones Gibson’s inspiration and aspirations for the campaign, check-out the video below:

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Black Portia

Charlotte E. Ray

January 13, 1850/New York City, New York

January 04, 1911/Woodside, New York

Lawyer, educator, African-American civil and women’s rights activist

What Makes Her Bitchin’:
In 1872, Charlotte E. Ray graduated from the Howard University School of Law, subsequently becoming the first African-American female lawyer. The first woman admitted to the District of Columbia Bar, Charlotte struggled against persistent discrimination due to her gender and race. Unable to draw a steady stream of clients, she practiced law for only a couple of years. Charlotte eventually relocated to New York City where she became a teacher.

Betcha’ Didn’t Know:
Charlotte was the first woman permitted to argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

For more about this litigating lady, check-out :

Charlotte E. Ray (biography.com)

Ray, Charlotte E. (1850-1911) (BlackPast.org)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Black Fashion’s Fairy Godmother

Zelda Wynn Valdes

June 28, 1905

Jun September 26, 2001

Fashion designer and costumer

What Makes Her Bitchin’:
A designer and costumer, Zelda created the original Playboy Bunny outfits and costumes for the Dance Theater of Harlem. Among her superstar clientele were entertainers like Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, and Joyce Bryant. Reflecting on her decades of success, Zelda summed up her career thusly, “I just had a God-given talent for making people beautiful.”

Betcha’ Didn’t Know:
Zelda became the first African-American to own a store on Broadway in New York City when she opened her boutique, "Chez Zelda," in 1948.

For more about black fashion’s fairy godmother, check-out :

Fashionable Game-Changer: Zelda Wynn Valdes

Zelda Wynn Valdes: Black Fashion Designer Who Created The Playboy Bunny Outfit

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Novel Novelist

Harriet E. Wilson

March 15, 1825/Milford, New Hampshire

June 28, 1900/ Quincy, Massachusetts

Novelist, Spiritualist

What Makes Her Bitchin’:
Considered the 1st African-American female novelist, Harriet was also the 1st Black-American, woman or man, to publish a book in North America. Though, in 1859, Harriet’s work, Our Nig, or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black was published anonymously in Boston, Massachusetts, it was not widely distributed. Over a century later, it was rediscovered by the scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in 1982.

Betcha’ Didn’t Know:
Harriet was also part of the Spiritualist tradition, popular in America during later 19th and early 20th centuries, and was recognized in Spiritualist circles as “the colored medium.” In the Boston Spiritualist newspaper, Banner of Light, she advertised herself as a trance reader and lecturer.

For more about this novel novelist, check-out:

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Bronze Blonde Bombshell

Joyce Bryant

October 14, 1928/Oakland, California,

Singer, actress

Nickname/Alias/ Nom de guerre:
The Bronze Blonde Bombshell”, “the black Marilyn Monroe,” “The Belter,” and “The Voice You'll Always Remember”

What Makes Her Bitchin’:
One of the earliest African-American sex-symbols, Joyce became famous during the late 1940s and early 1950s performing at theaters and nightclubs. Besides her sterling silver hair and body-hugging mermaid dresses, she became noteworthy for crooning the popular standards “Love for Sale” and “Drunk with Love.” Both were prohibited from radio because of their provocative lyrics.

Betcha’ Didn’t Know:
Joyce left show business at the zenith of her career, choosing instead to dedicate her life to spirituality. She re-emerged a decade late, becoming a vocal coach for entertainers like Jennifer Holliday and Raquel Welch.

Hear “The Voice You'll Always Remember” sing Love for Sale:

For more about this "lost diva," check-out:

Joyce Bryant: The Lost Diva, A Documentary

Joyce Bryant: The Black Marilyn Monroe

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Audacious Aviatrix

Willa Brown

January 22, 1906/Glasgow, Kentucky

July 18, 1992/Chicago, Illinois

Pilot, African-American civil rights activist, educator

What Makes Her Bitchin’:
Maybe you've heard of Bessie Coleman, but do you know about Willa Brown? She was the first African-American woman to receive her commercial pilot’s license in America AND the first black female to become an officer in the U.S. Civil Air Patrol. She also earned her MBA from Northwestern, and co-founded the Coffey School of Aeronautics to help train African-American pilots. What have you done lately? Yep, that's what I thought...

Betcha’ Didn’t Know:
Willa successfully lobbied the U.S. government to integrate African-American pilots into the “separate-but-equal” Army Air Corps and the federal Civilian Pilot Training Program. Having cultivated a taste for politics, she later ran unsuccessfully for Congress.

For more about this audacious aviatrix, check-out:

Masterful Willa Brown (1906-1992)

Brown, Willa (Oxford African American Studies Center)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Pioneering Playwright

Angelina Weld Grimké

February 27, 1880/Boston, Massachusetts

June 10, 1958/New York City, New York

Educator, journalist, poet, playwright

What Makes Her Bitchin’:
A member of the Harlem Renaissance, Angelina was one of the first African-American women to have a play performed publicly. Premiering in 1916, Rachel was also one of the first theatrical productions to protest racially-motivated violence against Black-Americans.

Betcha’ Didn’t Know:
Examining her personal correspondence and published prose, numerous modern literary critics believe that Angelina was either bisexual or a lesbian. This would make her our first LGBT History Bitch!

For more about this literary luminary, check-out:

Angelina Weld Grimkè (1880-1958) (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Angelina Weld Grimkè (The University of Minnesota)

The Counselor

Eunice Hunton Carter

July 16, 1899/Atlanta, Georgia

January 25, 1970/New York City, New York

Lawyer, women’s rights and anti-racism activist

What Makes Her Bitchin’:
She was the first African-American women to earn a law degree from Fordham University, one of New York's first black female lawyers, and one of the United States’ first district attorneys of color. Oh yeah, AND she helped take down mobster Lucky Luciano. Basically, Eunice Carter was a BOSS!

Betcha’ Didn't Know:
Besides wielding manila folders of evidence like Thor’s hammer, Eunice was on numerous United Nations that championed women’s rights, and served on the Executive Committee of the International Council of Women.

For more about this kick-ass crime-fighting heroine, check-out:

Eunice Hunton Carter, Mob Buster

Remembering Eunice Hunton Carter '32 (Fordham University School of Law)

Carter, Eunice Hunton (1899-1970) (BlackPast.org)

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Unsung Soprano

Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones

Nickname/Alias/ Nom de guerre: Sissieretta Jones, "The Black Patti" (a reference to celebrated 19th-century Italian soprano Adelina Patti), Madame Jones

January 5, 1868 or 1869/ Portsmouth, Virginia

June 24, 1933/Providence, Rhode Island

Opera star

What Makes Her Bitchin’:
Though largely forgotten today, this once world-famous soprano was the first African-American to perform at what is now Carnegie Hall. Similarly bitchin’, throughout her singing career, Sissieretta’s vocal stylings were showcased at the White House during the administrations of four consecutive U.S. (Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt). Oh, and she performed the British royal family, too (NBD).

Betcha’ Didn't Know:
Around 1896, Sissieretta established Black Patti’s Troubadours. One singer/dancer to perform with the group early in their career was “History Bitches” podcast subject, Aida Overton-Walker.

For more, check-out:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Black Garbo

Nina Mae McKinney

Nickname/Alias/ Nom de guerre: 
"The Black Garbo" (a reference to international movie star/ icon Greta Garbo)

June 13, 1912/Lancaster, South Carolina

May 3, 1967/New York City, New York


What Makes Her Bitchin’: 
Dubbed “The Black Garbo” for her smoldering good looks, Nina got her start on Broadway before heading to Hollywood. Recruited by MGM, she became the first African-American actress cast in a leading role in a mainstream motion picture, and the first black movie star to sign a long-term contract with a major studio.

Betcha’ Didn't Know:
Later, during the 1930s and post-war era, she performed internationally in theatre, film, and television. In Great Britain, Nina became one of the first African-Americans to appear on T.V.

To watch Nina struttin’ her stuff, check-out:

For more about this forgotten leading lady, visit:

“The Black Garbo,” Nina McKinney

Nina Mae McKinney (Matinee Classics)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Pistol-Packin' Mama

Mary Fields

Nickname/Alias/ Nom de guerre: “Stagecoach” Mary


c. 1832/ Tennessee


1914/ Cascade, Montana


Entrepreneur and stagecoach driver

What Makes Her Bitchin’: 

She’s described in the African American Registry as a “gun-totin' female in the American Wild West who was six feet tall, heavy, tough, short-tempered, two-fisted, powerful, and…carried a pair of six-shooters and an eight or ten-gauge shotgun.” At roughly 60 years old, Mary became a mail-coach driver, the first African-American woman to hold the position in the United States. She earned the nickname “Stagecoach” for her deathly serious commitment to delivering letters and packages regardless of treacherous weather or unforgiving terrain.

Betcha’ Didn’t Know: 

Mary spent roughly the first thirty years of her life as a slave. After gaining her freedom, she headed first to Toledo, Ohio, then Cascade, Montana, working for a group of Ursuline nuns at St. Peter's Mission. Mary was ultimately let go because, as Ben Thompson of Badass of the Week explained, she literally popped a cap in someone’s ass.

To learn more about this hard-drinkin’, no guff takin’ bad-ass, check-out:

Mary Fields, Rough Exterior with a Giving Heart

STAGECOACH MARY: A gun-toting black woman delivered the U.S. mail in Montana

Badass of the Week: Stagecoach Mary

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Happy Black History Month!

February is Black History Month, and to celebrate, I'm writing a series of blogposts spotlighting 10 African-American heroines whose triumphs and legacies are less widely recognized today. First up, is a hard drinkin’, gun totin,’ nun lovin’ (wait, what?) bad-ass chick who made history after becoming the first African-American woman mail coach driver employed by the U.S. government! Check-out her profile and those for 9 other history-making bitches throughout February. Happy Black History Month!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Episode #14: Aida Overton-Walker (Mini-cast)

She was the first African-American female entertainer to achieve international stardom, but there’s a good chance you've never heard of her. Check-out the first episode of “History, Bitches” Black History Month mini-cast series to learn more about “Queen of the Cakewalk,” Aida Overton-Walker.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

This Day in History, February 8th

Kate Chopin
Noteworthy Birthdays:

Kate Chopin 

(February 8, 1850-August 22, 1904), American novelist, author of short stories (1, 2)

Elizabeth Bishop 
(February 8, 1911- October 6, 1979) American Pulitzer Prize recipient for poetry, writer of short stories (1, 2)

Lisa Perez Jackson 
(February 8, 1962-), the first African-American to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (12, 3)

Mary, Queen of Scots
Noteworthy Deaths:

Mary, Queen of Scots (December 8, 1542-February 8, 1587), queen regnant of Scotland, queen consort of France (1; for additional sources, see Noteworthy Events entry below)

Noteworthy Events:

1587: Found guilty of scheming to assassinate her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England, Mary, Queen of Scots was executed by beheading. Her last words were, “In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum” (“Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit”). (1, 2)

The beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots
1925: The 1st all-female U.S. state supreme court is appointed by Texas Governor Pat Neff. The 3 women- Hortense Sparks Ward, Hattie Leah Henenberg, and Ruth Virginia Brazzil-were selected to hear the appeal of a case concerning the Woodmen of the World (WOW), an all-male fraternal organization. (1, 2

1952: After her father King George VI's unexpected passing on February 6th, Elizabeth II was officially proclaimed Queen and Head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith (1, 2).

1988: Debi Thomas wins the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Denver, Co. That same year, became the first black-American woman to earn a medal during the Winter Olympics. She received the bronze. (1, 2,3)

2011: U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was critically injured as she met with constituents in Tucson. Though his assassination attempt was unsuccessful, shooter Jared Lee Loughner nevertheless killed 6 people and wounded 12 others. (1, 2)

Olympic Dreams

Gold medalist high jumper Alice Coachman wasn't the only black woman to make Olympic history. Check-out a few more groundbreaking achievements by kick-ass/inspiring African-American ladies below:

Friday, February 7, 2014

She's Going the Distance

Since tonight is the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics, I thought I’d kick-off History Bitches’ Black History Month series with a blog-post on Alice Coachman, the first African-American woman to earn an Olympic gold medal. Considering the overwhelming obstacles black and female athletes were forced to overcome, Alice’s victory was truly remarkable. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

This Day in History,January 15th

Marie-Fortunée Lafarge
Noteworthy Birthdays:

Marie-Fortunée Lafarge
(January 15, 1816-November 7, 1852), French murderess (1,2)

Marie Duplessis
(January 15, 1824-February 3, 1847), French courtesan (1,2)

Mary Helen MacKillop
(January 15, 1842-August 8, 1909), Catholic religious leader, teacher, social activist (1, 2)

Sofia Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya
(January 15, 1850-February 10, 1891), Russian mathematician (1,2)

Emma, Lady Hamilton
Noteworthy Deaths:

Emma, Lady Hamilton
(April 26, 1765-January 15, 1815), mistress of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, artistic muse of British painter George Romney (1,2)

Frances Anne "Fanny" Kemble 
(November 27, 1809-January 15, 1893), British actress, author (1,2)

Rosa Luxemburg
(March 5, 1871-January 15, 1919), German revolutionary (1,2)

Noteworthy Events:

1559: Queen Elizabeth I of England is crowned at Westminster Abbey. The last Tudor monarch, Elizabeth reigned from November 17, 1558 to March 24, 1603 (1,2)

Queen Elizabeth I's coronation portrait

1908: Alpha Kappa Alpha becomes the first Greek-letter sorority founded and incorporated by African-American women. The original chapter, launched at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University, was pioneered by a group of 20 students headed by Ethel Hedgeman Lyle (1,2)

1947: The dismembered and mutilated body of Elizabeth Short, subsequently dubbed “The Black Dahlia,” is found in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, California. The “Black Dahlia” murder is one of the oldest unsolved homicides in Los Angeles history (1,2)

The Jeannette Rankin Brigade
1968: The 5000 strong Jeannette Rankin Brigade marched on Washington, D.C. to protest America’s military campaign in Vietnam. Jeannette Rankin, the first U.S. congresswoman, was a life-long pacifist. In 1917, she voted against U.S. intervention during the First World War. Later, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, she became the only member of Congress to vote against entering the Second World War (1,2)

1976: Sara Jane Moore is sentenced to life imprisonment for her attempted assassination of U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore’s failed conspiracy awarded her the notorious distinction of being one of just two women that have sought to assassinate a U.S. President (1,2) 

1997: While visiting Angola, Diana, Princess of Wales, spoke out in encouragement of an international ban on anti-personnel landmines. Diana’s remarks concerning the issue angered some government ministers and prompted Junior Defense Minister, Earl Howe, to dub her a "loose cannon”  (1,2)