Edith/Maddie here, excited to kick off Women’s History Month with a series of Wicked Wednesdays celebrating the ladies who went before. We’re also going to have a slew of impressive authors who write historical mysteries visiting us on other days.
The Wicked Authors wanted to call this month’s theme, “Badass Bi***es of the Before Times.” One of our faithful readers and frequent commenters found that middle word offensive, and we aim to please. So, Wickeds, today let’s dish on one real-life impressive woman from 1950 or before who is not related to you – some other badass woman you admire. Go!
Jessie: I really admire Victoria Woodhull. She had a varied career as a patent medicine huckster, a psychic medium, a stockbroker (which is a sort of psychic huckster, I suppose) a birth control advocate, a suffragist, and a presidential candidate. She did all of these things in the 1800s, well before women had won the right to vote. If she interests you, I commend to you the book The Scarlet Sisters by Myra MacPherson.
Edith/Maddie: Woodhull sounds amazing, Jessie. I know Amelia Earhart is well-known and widely admired as a female aviation pioneer, but as I researched her over the last year, I learned so much I didn’t know. She was a a true badass advocate of educating girls, of teaching science to women, of women’s rights. She wrote poetry. She worked as a teacher and social worker to immigrant women in Boston. And, sixty years before I arrived in the city, she lived only a mile from my first apartment in the Boston suburb of Medford.
Liz: I recently came across Vera Atkins, a British intelligence officer, while doing some research, and she’s definitely badass! She was born in 1908 and emigrated to Britain in the 1930s. Edith, she was a linguist! She joined the Special Operations Executive Branch of British Military Intelligence, the branch that trained and sent agents overseas. After WWII, she worked on the British War Crimes commission and went on a journey to find 118 missing officers. She tracked all but one and was awarded a medal for those efforts.
Julie: Do you all listen to the podcast The History Chicks? I was driving my niece home from college in December, and we listened to an episode about Sarah Berhardt. I thought I knew about her, but it turns out I didn’t. She was born in 1844, we think. There’s a lot about her life that’s a little hazy. She figured out how to make her way in the world–not easy for a woman back then. Best known as an actor, she did tours in England and the United States that sold out, despite the fact that she performed in French. Mark Twain said of her: “there are bad actresses, fair actresses, good actresses, great actresses – and then there is Sarah Bernhardt.” There are some early movies of her, but she was a stage actor. I wish I could go back in time and see her perform. She was also a very gifted sculptor. This week’s History Chicks episode was about another sculptor, Edmonia Lewis, who was also born in 1844. Well worth the listen to both episodes.
Sherry: Rosa Parks. She had more courage in her little finger than I do in my entire being. Thanks to Julie I know about The History Chicks podcast and the one about Rosa Parks fascinating.
Readers: Who is the badass woman from the past you admire?