The Anne Boleyn Files - The Anne Boleyn Collection

Almost two years ago, I had the privilege of being part of the first ever Anne Boleyn Experience, organized by Claire Ridgeway of The Anne Boleyn Files.  I was fortunate enough to get to know Claire and to share our mutual love of Anne Boleyn.  When Scandalous Women came out, Claire did me the honor of reviewing the book.  Now it's my turn to share with my readers that Claire has just published her first book, The Anne Boleyn Collection.  To celebrate she's put together a week-long virtual book tour, where all sorts of goodies are up for grabs, for next week.
Here’s the schedule:-
•5th March The Tudor Tutor – Claire will be answering questions and giving away a signed copy of “The Anne Boleyn Collection” and a Tudor themed prize over at Barb’s Tudor Tutor blog.  A winner will be selected at random from entrants.

•6th March Let Them Grumble – Guest article on Anne Boleyn for Libby over at her Let Them Grumble blog. Claire will also be offering a signed copy of her book and a pair of Anne Boleyn earrings from “The Tudors” range. See Libby’s page on the 6th for details.

•7th March Anne Boleyn: From Queen to History – Over at Sarah’s Anne Boleyn: From Queen to History blog, Claire will be writing a guest article on the Boleyns and offering a signed copy of the book plus an Anne Boleyn B necklace or A necklace. All you have to do to be in the running for this give away is to either like the Anne Boleyn: From Queen to History Facebook page or leave a comment on her guest article on the 7th March.

•8th March Queen Anne Boleyn Facebook page – On the 8th March Claire will be answering your questions and giving away a signed copy of “The Anne Boleyn Collection” plus an Anne Boleyn scarf over at Sylwia’s Queen Anne Boleyn Facebook page. Sylwia is collecting questions at the moment and will be selecting a winner from those who “like” her page.

•9th March On the Tudor Trail – Claire will be rounding up the week with an interview over at Natalie’s On the Tudor Trail blog. She will also be giving away a signed copy of the book and an Anne Boleyn wine stopper.

Here are just a few of the exciting articles that you will find in the collection:

  • Should Anne Boleyn be pardoned and reburied as Queen?
  • Anne Boleyn and "The Other Boleyn Girl".
  • Did Anne Boleyn dig her own grave?
  • The Six Wives' stereotypes - are they right?
  • Did Anne Boleyn commit incest with her brother?

 The book is currently available on but not yet for the Nook.

Scandalous Women Reviews: Anne of Hollywood by Carole Wolper

Title:  Anne of Hollywood
Author:  Carole Wolper
Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication date: 1/24/2012
Pages: 352


“I wasn’t prepared for the enemies. Had I been as gorgeous as a supermodel, or as rich as an heiress, or an actress with an Oscar to my credit, people would still not be happy that I had Henry’s attention, but they’d understand. What they resented was the king coupling with a ‘nobody.’”

Skirts may be shorter now, and messages sent by iPhone, but passion, intrigue, and a lust for power don’t change. National bestselling author Carol Wolper spins a mesmerizing tale of a twenty-first-century Anne Boleyn.

Wily, intelligent, and seductive, with a dark beauty that stands out among the curvy California beach blondes, Anne attracts the attention of Henry Tudor, the handsome corporate mogul who reigns in Hollywood. Every starlet, socialite, and shark wants a piece of Henry, but he only wants Anne. The question is: can she keep him?

Welcome to a privileged world where hidden motives abound, everyone has something to sell, and safe havens don’t exist. With her older sister Mary, a pathetic example of a royal has-been, Anne schemes to win her beloved Henry in the only way that gives a promise of forever—marriage. Success will mean contending with backstabbing “friends,” Henry’s furious ex-wife, and the machinations of her own ambitious family, and staying married to a man who has more options than most and less guilt than is good for either of them will take all her skill. Anne will do anything to hold on to the man—and the lifestyle—she adores, however, even if sticking your neck out in Hollywood means risking far worse than a broken heart. With Henry’s closest confidante scheming against her, and another beautiful contender waiting in the wings, Anne is fighting for her life. Can she muster the charm and wit to pull off her very own Hollywood ending?

My thoughts:  When I first heard about this book, I thought, 'You have to be kidding me! Anne Boleyn in Hollywood?' Still there was something about the idea that intrigued me. Perhaps it was the fact that this mash-up didn't turn Anne into a werewolf, a vampire or a succubus! So I downloaded a sample of the book onto my NOOK, and gave it a quick read. What I read made me want to read the whole book, but I confess, I took the book out of the library instead of buying it. A girl has to economize! 

The idea of translating the Tudors into contemporary Hollywood shouldn't work but it somehow does.  Henry VIII in Wolper's version is Henry Tudor who owns a studio, a web-site ala The Huffington Post, as well as other interests.  He's referred to as "the King" of Hollywood by various characters in the book. But Henry is not content with just being the Kingpin of Hollywood, he's seeking the Governorship of California. All of the usual suspects that most readers will be familiar with are here, Thomas Cromwell as been reinterpreted as Theresa Cromwell, Henry's right hand woman, Cardinal Wolsey is now crooked money manager Carl Wolsey, Catherine is Catherine Aragon, the daughter of a wealthy power-broker Ferdinand, she and Henry have a daughter Maren who is boarding school. As the book opens, they are wrangling not just over the divorce but over the property settlement. Catherine, obsessed with Henry, has become a devout Catholic, who pops pills to get through her day. Mary is a former model turned party girl who failed to snag Henry, so she becomes a pot-smoking hippie. All the Boleyn hopes are now pinned on Anne. See daddy Thomas Boleyn, unlike the successful courtier of Tudor Times, is an entertainment lawyer, who failed when he started his own firm. Now he creeps around the fringes of power with his face pressed against the window, trying to get in. George is a bisexual actor, who gets a job on a cop show thanks to Henry. Jane Boleyn is now Lacy, who hates Anne because George loves her so much. And then there's Jane Seymour who is now a jewelry designer and a friend of Theresa's.

The novel is written in an easy, breezy style from the points of view of various characters, mainly Anne (in the first person), Theresa, and a hanger-on Cliff Craven.  Anne is a likeable narrator, who genuinely seems to love Henry for himself, not just for what he can do for her family. Theresa Cromwell feels threatened by Anne, particulary when she takes over Henry's philanthropic foundation, which was Theresa's pet project.  There are two big weaknesses in this novel, the first is that Wolper fails to make the reader understand why everyone, apart from Catherine and Lacy, hates Anne so much.  She doesn't really throw her weight around, everyone agrees that she is vibrant, sexy, and charismatic. Unlike the real Anne, she doesn't confront Henry with his infidelities, she seems to roll with the punches.  She's a freelance writer, but unlike Lacy, she doesn't use her position as Henry's wife to snag a cushy job. Nor is she really one of those Hollywood wives who spend most of their times lunching.  We don't really see Anne doing much of anything, apart from giving birth to Elizabeth, and hoping to get pregnant with a male heir for Henry.  Apparently even in 2012, a daughter isn't good enough.

The other weakness in the novel is that Henry remains off-stage throughout most of the book. He's a cipher, a Howard Hughes figure but without the OCD. It's unclear how he became so rich, or powerful. After awhile, I began to lose interest in the story, or even care how Anne was going to get her comeuppance in this version of her life. Clearly, she's not going to be executed but somehow banished from her glitzy lifestyle. I've read Jackie Collins novels with more pizzazz and punch than this book which is really a shame because it's an intriguing idea.

Verdict:  Only for real fans of Anne Boleyn, or readers who love reading about Hollywood.

Scandalous Women Radio presents: Mary Seacole (1805 - 1881)

Tune in this Sunday, February 26th to Scandalous Women over at Blog Talk Radio where I will be talking about one of the most remarkable women of the Victorian Era:  Mary Seacole.

The Times of London called her a heroine, Florence Nightingale called her a brothel-keeping quack, and Queen Victoria's newphew called her Mammy. But her name was Mary Seacole, one of the most eccentric and charismatic women of the Victorian era. Desperate to help out in the Crimean War, she was refused, but she traveled under her own steam, to help out. For more than a century after her death, the life of Mary Seacole was forgotten, but thanks to new research and biographies, her story has now been told. In 2004 Mary Seacole was voted top of a list of 100 of the greatest Black Britons and was again recognised by the public for her achievements during the Crimean War.


Jane Robinson - Mary Seacole: The Charismatic Black Nurse Who Became A Heroine of The Crimea (2004)

For more information:

Mary Seacole at the Florence Nightingale Museum
Mary Seacole

Margaret Sanger - Saint or Sinner?

“No woman can call herself free who doesn’t own and control her own body” – Margaret Sanger.

Almost 40 years after her death, Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) is still a subject of controversy in the United States. While some people see her as a savior, the woman who created the first women’s birth control clinic in the U.S., others see her as a racist, a promoter of promiscuity and a killer of unborn babies. Given the political climate in the U.S. where the far right seeks to dismantle her entire life’s work, I thought it was a good time to take a look back at her legacy. Type Margaret Sanger’s name into “Google” and you will find just as many web-sites that revile Sanger as you will those that admire her. The clinic that bears her name on the Lower East Side of Manhattan is picketed daily by anti-abortion activists who completely ignore the good that Planned Parenthood has done in its 80 years of existence, providing free and low-cost healthcare to women who either don’t have health insurance or cannot afford it. From a personal standpoint, when I was unemployed and had no health insurance, Planned Parenthood provided me with a freely yearly gynecological exam, plus they steered me to a clinic where I could receive a free mammogram.

For Margaret Sanger the cause of birth control was a personal crusade. At the age of twenty, Margaret watched her mother Anne die of tuberculosis at the age of 50, worn out after 18 pregnancies in 22 years of which 11 children survived. During her work as a visiting nurse on the Lower East Side in New York, Sanger was asked repeatedly for help by the poor immigrant women she was treating for any way to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Lacking any means of contraception, many of these women, when faced with yet another mouth to feed, resorted to back-alley abortions. After one of her patients died due to a self-induced abortion, Sanger made it her life’s mission to making reliable contraception information available to women.

But there was a huge obstacle to her mission, namely the Comstock Act, a federal statute that made it a criminal offense to send information about contraceptives through the mail, labeling it obscene. In these early years, Sanger considered birth control a free-speech issue. She believed that the only way to change what she considered an unjust law was to break it. In 1914, she started publishing a monthly newsletter The Woman Rebel. She came by her rebellious nature honestly. Her father Michael, an Irish Catholic immigrant turned atheist, was a supporter of unions and education for women. Sanger coined the term "birth control" and began to provide women with information and contraceptives. She was arrested over 8 times during her career, starting in 1915 when she was arrested in 1915 for sending diaphragms through the mail and again in 1916 for opening the first birth control clinic in the country for which she spent 30 days in prison. In 1921 she founded the American Birth Control League, and spent the next three decades campaigning to bring safe and effective birth control into the American mainstream.

But there was still more work to be done as far as Sanger was concerned. She had been dreaming of a "magic pill" for contraception. Tired of waiting for science to turn its attention to the problem, Margaret Sanger found Gregory Pincus in 1951, a medical expert in human reproduction who was willing to take on the project. Their collaboration would lead to Enovid, the first oral contraceptive, in 1960. When Sanger passed away in 1966, after more than 50 years of fighting for the right of women to control their own fertility, she died knowing she had won the battle.

Margaret Sanger is a classic example of an admired public figure who is also a flawed human being. She would probably be the first person to admit it. Sanger devoted her life to legalizing birth control and making it universally available for women. At the same time, her crusade took her away from her children and contributed to the end of her first marriage. No one denies that Sanger had a prickly personality, that she was impatient, and that she often didn’t given credit to women such as Emma Goldman, who were advocating for birth control long before Margaret took up the cause. However, there are several issues that people find hard to overcome when it comes to Sanger.

Problem number one for Sanger admirers: Her support of Eugenics which is nothing short of appalling. Eugenics believed in the survival of the fittest to a certain extent, meaning that the deaf, the mentally or physically handicapped shouldn’t be allowed to breed. This concept got interpreted as a justification for racism, and eugenics was incorporated into the Nazi regime. Sanger believed in what was called “negative eugenics” including compulsory segregation or sterilization for the profoundly retarded, advocating coercion to prevent from procreating. However, Sanger wasn’t an advocate for euthanasia for the unfit. She denounced the lethal Nazi eugenics program.

Then there is the idea that Sanger was an advocate for abortion. From the beginning she advocated contraception rather than abortion. Sanger had seen the damage done to women by back-alley abortions. She believed that birth control should be available to all women; particularly the poor, because limiting the number of children would help mothers provide a better quality of life for their families, especially when resources were limited. She also opposed abortion because she felt that it was the taking of life. In her autobiography she clearly wrote, “We explained what contraception was, that abortion was the wrong way no matter how early it was performed it was taking life; that contraception was the better way, the safer way.” She also wrote in her book, Woman and the New Race, “While there are cases where even the law recognizes an abortion as justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization.” It wasn’t until the after her death, that the reproductive rights movement expanded its scope to include abortion rights as well as contraception.

Was Margaret Sanger a racist? Her critics say a big fat YES. They point to a letter that Sanger wrote a letter to a supporter named Clarence Gamble in the 1930’s when The Birth Control Federation played a supervisory role the Negro Project, which sought to deliver birth control to poor African-Americans. The letter stated “we do not want word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” This single quote has been used by her detractors to prove that she was a racist. Last year, former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, claimed that Planned Parenthood, the visionary global movement she founded nearly a century ago, is really about one thing only: “preventing black babies from being born.” Sanger wasn’t immune to the criticism that birth control would pose a threat to the African American community. From the beginning, she wanted to involve the African American community in the formation of birth control clinics in the South, to make sure the black community didn’t associate The Negro Project with racist sterilization campaigns. In 1930, she had opened a clinic in Harlem where both the staff and the board was made up entirely by African-Americans. The clinic received the approval of many prominent African-American leaders including W.E.B. Du Bois, one of the founders of the NAACP. Her critics also point out that she gave several speeches to women of the Klu Klux Klan (I have no explanation for that one). Does this mean that she was a racist? Only Sanger could tell us for sure.

Did Sanger promote promiscuity? Her work promoting birth control certainly meant that sex was no longer just for pro-creation purposes. Sanger for a time believed in ‘free love’ as did many of the bohemians that she hung around with in Greenwich Village during the pre-World War I period. Sanger adopted the view that sex was a powerful, liberating force. Of course this doesn’t mean that Sanger expected everyone to go out and shag their hearts out. She also believed that both sex and birth control should be discussed openly.

Despite her flaws, Sanger still remains an iconic figure in the struggle for women’s reproductive rights.

For more information on Sanger, take a look at the NYU Margaret Sanger Papers Project

Scandalous Women Presents: The Two Ellens

I had mentioned a few months ago the possiblity of a Scandalous Women podcast or radio show.  Well, on this Sunday, February 19th, will be the first episode of Scandalous Women on BlogTalk Radio. I and my special guest, author Leanna Renee Hieber, will be talking about The Two Ellens of Victorian Theatre, Ellen Terry, and Ellen Ternan. You tune in live to listen at 4:30 p.m. ET or catch up with the show later in the week.

Ellen Terry was one of the most famous actresses in the 19th century; her partnership with Sir Henry Irving thrilled theatregoers for years.  Ellen Ternan, also an actress, was the mistress of author Charles Dickens. Since this February marks the 200th anniverary of Dickens's birth, it seemed fitting to discuss one of the more significant women in his life.

Author, actress and playwright Leanna Renee Hieber graduated with a BFA in Theatre, a focus in the Victorian Era and a scholarship to study in London. She adapted works of 19th Century literature for the stage and her one-act plays have been produced around the country. Her novella Dark Nest won the 2009 Prism Award for excellence in the genre of Futuristic, Fantasy, or Paranormal Romance. Her debut novel, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, landed on Barnes & Noble's bestseller lists, won two 2010 Prism Awards (Best Fantasy, Best First Book), and is currently in development as a musical theatre production with Broadway talent on board. DARKER STILL: A Novel of Magic Most Foul, first in Leanna's Gothic Historical Paranormal saga for teens (Sourcebooks Fire), hit the Indie Next List as a recommended title by the American Booksellers Association. Her books have been translated into several languages. Her short fiction has been featured in anthologies Candle In the Attic Window and Wilful Impropriety: Tales of Society and Scandal. A member of SFWA and RWA, Leanna is a co-founder of Lady Jane's Salon Reading Series in Manhattan and was named the 2010 RWA NYC Chapter Author of the Year. A member of performers unions AEA, AFTRA and SAG, Leanna works often in film and television. A devotee of ghost stories and Goth clubs, she resides in New York City with her real-life hero and their beloved rescued lab rabbit.

Movie Review: W/E

Directed by: Madonna

Written by: Madonna & Alex Keshishian
Produced by: Madonna, Kris Thykier, Colin Vatnes, Sara Zambreno, Scott Franklin & Harvey Weinstein
Distributed by: The Weinstein Company/Studio Canal UK


Wally Winthrop: Abby Cornish
William Winthrop: Richard Coyle
Wallis Warfield Simpson: Andrea Riseborough
The Prince of Wales/Edward VIII – James D’Arcy
Evgeny: Oscar Isaac
The Duke of York/George V – Laurence Fox
The Duchess of York – Natalie Dormer
George V – James Fox
Queen Mary – Judy Parfitt


W.E. tells the story of two fragile but determined women, Wally Winthrop and Wallis Simpson, separated for more than six decades. In 1998, lonely New Yorker Winthrop is obsessed with what she perceives as the ultimate love story: King Edward VIII’s abdication of the British throne for the woman he loved, American divorcee Wallis Simpson. But Winthrop's research, including several visits to the Sotheby's auction of the Windsor Estate, reveals that the couple's life together was not as perfect as she thought. Weaving back and forth in time, the film intertwines Wally's journey of discovery in New York with the story of Wallis and Edward, from the glamorous early days of their romance to the slow unraveling of their lives in the decades that followed.

My thoughts:

I saw this early Sunday morning. So why has it taken me until Thursday to write my review? Because there were so many other interesting things to do with my time; like my laundry, reading, or catching up on my night-time soaps. It’s not that W/E was a bad film; it just wasn’t a particularly good one either. I really wanted to like this film. I’ve been a fan of Madonna from the very beginning of her career, and I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with The Duchess of Windsor. From the first episode of Edward & Mrs. Simpson on PBS, I have been hooked on the story of the King who gave up his throne for the Baltimore Belle. So how can I fault Madonna for her own obsession with the story?

The problem lies in the construction of the film. Madonna frames the story of Edward and Wallis with a contemporary story of a southern belle named Wally Winthrop. In interviews, she has stated that she wasn’t interested in just telling the story of the couple; she wanted to filter their story through a contemporary woman who finds her own way to happiness while investigating the story. Unfortunately, Wally’s story suffers in comparison to the more dynamic story of Wallis. Contemporary Wally wears a lot of chic black outfits that wouldn’t look out of place on the Duchess of Cambridge. Wan and pale, she’s like a somnambulist, sleepwalking through her life. Her rich doctor husband doesn’t want her to work, so instead of volunteering or going back to school, she spends her days obsessing over having a baby, and staring wide-eyed at the objects from the Sotheby’s auction of the Windsor estate. Her husband is an asshole for no other reason than the screenwriters have said he’s an asshole. There’s a lame attempt to equate him with Wallis’s first husband, Earl Winfield Spencer that doesn’t quite come off. At one point, Wally’s identification with her namesake leads her to start wearing her hair like the Duchess.

The film comes alive when the story shifts to the past. Wallis (as played by Andrea Riseborough) is vibrant with a brittle charm that clearly masks the little girl who grew up in genteel poverty. This Wallis is clearly making her way in the world the only way she knows how; by marrying her way through it. This Wallis is a realist; she knows that she knows no beauty, so her only weapon is to dress well. At times Wallis speaks to contemporary Wally as if the past and the present were overlapping. When that happens, the audience realizes just what a drip Wally is. The one intriguing thing in the whole film is the moment when Wally points out to Evgeny, the hot Russian security guard, that no one ever talks about what Wallis sacrificed to marry Edward. I found that interesting and the point of the whole movie sort of crystalized.

The film is sumptuous to look at; no expense was spared on recreating the look of the period, down to recreating some of Wallis actual outfits such as her wedding dress, and a few iconic pieces. However, the film feels hollow at the core, all flash and surface and not enough substance. Another problem is that the continuity is off when the film flashes back to the past, particularly in the events leading up to the abdication. There are events that are captioned 1936 that clearly happened before then.

For the most part, the film is well cast. Andrea Riseborough is picture perfect as Wallis but James D’Arcy, besides being way too tall to play Edward, has none of the charm or the Peter Pan like qualities that made him so attractive. Poor Laurence Fox and Natalie Dormer try in their few scenes but it’s hard not to compare them to Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter who played the same roles in The King’s Speech. Abby Cornish, her hair dyed jet black, spends most of her time fading into the woodwork until her later scenes with Evgeny. Madonna has talent as a director; it’s a shame that she didn’t trust her story.

My verdict:  Wait until it's out on Netflix

The Love Story that Changed History – Richard and Mildred Loving

“When any society says that I cannot marry a certain person, that society has cut off a segment off my freedom,” Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 1958.

"I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about." Mildred's "Loving for All" statement, 6/12/07 - Source:

It seems appropriate on Valentine’s Day to celebrate the life and marriage of Richard and Mildred Loving. The Lovings were two people who never set out to change the law, nor were they activists in any way. They were just two crazy kids in love who wanted to get married. “We both thought about other people,” Richard Loving said in an interview with LIFE magazine in 1966, “but we are not doing it just because somebody had to do it and we wanted to be the ones. We are doing it for us.”

The year was 1958; Eisenhower was midway through his second term in office, Elvis was in the army, Michael Jackson would be born in August, the European Economic Community was founded, 14-year-old Bobby Fischer wins the United States Chess Championship. Artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, the Everly Brothers and Ricky Nelson were climbing the charts. On the Road by Jack Kerouac had been published the year before. In February Ruth Carol Taylor was the first African American woman hired as a flight attendant. It was the twilight of the post-World War II era before the explosion of the Swinging Sixties.

On June 2, 1958, Richard Loving (1933 - 1975), who was white, and his part-black, part-Cherokee fiancĂ©e Mildred Jeter (1939 - 2008) travelled from Virginia to Washington, D.C. to be married. It was a shot-gun wedding, Mildred, 18 years old was pregnant. The young couple had known each other since she was 11 and he was 18 but it wasn’t until years later that their friendship turned to romance. No one in Caroline County, VA thought it was odd. The area was known for friendly relations between the two races, many people were clearly of mixed race. Ebony Magazine in an article published in 1967 reported that black “youngsters easily passed for white in neighboring towns.”

Five weeks after their wedding, the newlyweds were in bed in their house on the morning of July 11, 1958, when the county sheriff and two deputies, acting on an anonymous tip, burst into their bedroom and shined flashlights into their eyes. A threatening voice demanded, “Who is this woman you’re sleeping with?” Mildred replied, “I’m his wife.”Richard then pointed to the marriage certificate that hung on the bedroom wall. The sheriff replied with a sneer, “That’s no good here.”

The couple was arrested, and after several nights in jail, they pled guilty to violating the Virginia law called “The Racial Integrity Act.” The indictment read “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.” At the time, interracial marriage was still illegal in 24 states, including Virginia. The Virginia law had been on the books since 1662, adopted a year after Maryland enacted the first statute against interracial marriage. At one time, 38 states had similar laws against miscegenation. It wasn’t until 1948 that the California Supreme Court became one of the first to overturn the law in their state.

To avoid a jail sentence, the Lovings’ agreed to leave the state; they could return to Virginia, but not at the same time, for a period of 25 years. They paid the court fine of $36.29 each. Living in exile in D.C. with their three children, the Lovings’ missed their families, friends, and their life in the familiar surroundings of the Virginia hills. In 1963, Mildred wrote a letter to the then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy asking for help. He wrote her back suggesting she get in touch with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Richard Loving kissing wife Mildred as he arrives home from work, King and Queen County, Va. ● April 1965 (© Estate of Grey Villet)

Two lawyers from the ACLU, Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop, took the case. Hirschkop was only two years out of law school at the time. Despite their inexperience, they were aware of the challenges they faced at a time when many Americans were still vehement about segregation and maintaining the "purity of the races." A handful of similar cases to the Lovings had come up before in other states and had crashed and burned. However, the 1964 Civil Rights Act was beginning to change all that. The first problem the two lawyers faced was that the Lovings had pleaded guilty and therefore had no right to an appeal. So Cohen filed a motion to vacate the judgment on the Lovings' original conviction and set aside the sentence.

 Local Judge Leon Bazile denied the motion, stating, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” After the Virginia Supreme Court responded with similarly antiquated and racist sentiments, Cohen and Hirschkop seized the opportunity to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although the odds of getting a case heard by the Court were slim, Cohen and Hirschkop learned that Loving v. Virginia would be heard on April 10, 1967. In oral arguments, the State compared anti-miscegenation statutes to the right to prohibit incest, polygamy, and underage marriage, claiming that children are victims in an interracial marriage. Hirschkop argued that laws must treat each citizen equally, and that “when a law is based on race, it is immediately suspect and the burden is shifted to the state to show there is a compelling interest to have that sort of racial differentiation.” And though the Lovings chose not to attend, Cohen may have made the most compelling case by relaying to Chief Justice Warren and his fellow judges Richard's simple message: "Tell the court that I love my wife, and it is unfair that I can't live with her in Virginia."

After a two-month wait, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the Lovings on June 12, 1967, citing that Virginia’s law violated the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. This precedent-setting decision resulted in 16 states being ordered to overturn their bans on interracial marriage. Alabama was the last holdout, finally repealing its anti-miscegenation law in 2000. After the ruling, Richard told EBONY magazine, “For the first time, I could put my arm around her and publicly call her my wife.” June 12 has become known as Loving Day, an unofficial holiday with events around the country to mark the advances of mixed-raced couples. Unfortunately Richard and Mildred Loving didn’t have long to celebrate their landmark victory. Richard was killed in 1975 when a drunk driver hit their car. He was 41. Mildred died of pneumonia in 2008, a year after the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision. She was 68. Although she and the sheriff who had arrested them lived in the same Virginia town for decades, they never exchanged a single word. Mildred never thought she had done anything extraordinary. “It wasn’t my doing,” she told the Associated Press in 2007. “It was God’s work.”

Tonight HBO will honor the story of the Lovings with a documentary entitled “The Loving Story.” And the International Center of Photography in New York City has an exhibit of photographs taken of the couple for LIFE Magazine in 1966. Looking at these photos, it’s hard to believe that anyone would want to keep this couple apart but that’s exactly what almost happened. According to the Associate Press, there are more than 4 million "mixed marriages" in the United States, and roughly one in seven new marriages are between people of different ethnicities. However, there are still people who object to interracial marriage. The sheriff who arrested the Lovings is against interracial marriage, and just a few years ago a justice of the peace in Louisiana refused to marry an interracial couple because he didn't believe in it.

Although we have come a long way in the 45 years since the Lovings took their stand but we still have a long way to go before everyone in this country has an equal right to marriage.

Scandalous Women Celebrates Whitney Houston (1963-2012)

This weekend the world mourned the loss of singer Whitney Houston. I still have a hard time believing that she is gone, that her voice has been silenced. Just like I'll always remember where I was when I heard that John Lennon had been killed, I'll always remember where I was when I heard Whitney died. I was sitting at a bar hanging out with a friend, on Saturday night, when the bartender announced that Whitney Houston had died.


How could that have happened? It didn't seem possible, I had just seen a clip on one of the infotainment shows that she had filmed a role in a remake of the 1970's classic SPARKLE, which she was also involved in producing. Although she'd been absent from the music business since her 2009 album wasn't as successful as her previous efforts, it seemed only a matter of time that she would be back in the studio again. After all, her ex Bobby Brown, had made a comeback of sorts on CMT of all places, and was now back touring with New Edition again. It seemed as if they had both put their tumultuous marriage and their problems with drugs in the past.

I came of age at the same time as Whitney Houston. She was born in 1963, a year before I was. We even shared a name, Elizabeth (her middle name, my first). I can remember so clearly when her first album came out. Her music was so infectious and her voice was so glorious, it didn't seem possible that such a powerful voice could come out of one person. How many of us tried though to sing like her, standing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush, or singing along in the shower? But there was only one Whitney Houston. She was also drop dead gorgeous which didn't hurt.  It seemed as if she was the complete package. And then THE BODYGUARD came out, and she added acting to a long list of accomplishments including 6 Grammy Awards, 22 American Music Awards, and 30 Billboard Awards. There would be no Mariah Carey, no Celine Dion, or Christina Aguilera if Whitney hadn't paved the way for the powerhouse vocalist that dominated the airwaves in the late 80's and early 90's. But she towered over them all. Who else but Whitney could take a Dolly Parton song and turn it into a powerhouse anthem? Dolly's own rendition sounded downright anemic compared to Whitney's version.  Not to mention what she did with the Star Spangled Banner, turning our national anthem into a hit pop record! I still have the cassette tape that I bought of her first album, and I've worn out the CD's of THE BODYGUARD, and her 1998 CD MY LOVE IS YOUR LOVE.

It seemed like Whitney was born to sing, her mother was gospel singer Cissy Houston, her cousin Dionne Warwick and her god-mother Aretha Franklin.  It was like the story of Sleeping Beauty, where the various fairies came and blessed her with many gifts, beauty, talent, poise. Unfortunately the evil fairy also showed up, blessing Whitney with the curse of so many performers, an addiction to alcohol and cocaine.  I remember the early years of Whitney's career, when she appeared to be the quintessential "good girl" of R&B. We all knew that she had grown up singing in the church in New Jersey, she dressed modestly for a pop-star, no plunging necklaces for Whitney! But there were rumors from the beginning that she was not the image that she was made out to be.

The tabloids constantly ran stories that Whitney and her best friend Robin were more than just friends.  Tere were stories that she was a diva, with a trashy mouth (anyone who watched BEING BOBBY BROWN knows that part is true). And then in 1992, she married the bad boy of R&B Bobby Brown.  Brown grew up in a rough neighborhood outside of Boston, had already fathered a string of kids, not to mention arrests for indecency. The tabloid press fell all over themselves chronically their life together, which seemed to consist of Bobby getting arrested and Whitney showing up loyally at his side in courtrooms. Along the way, she managed to continue acting and singing, recording 2 more hit albums. But it soon became clear that the couple had spiraled into drug addiction.  Later on, Whitney blamed Bobby partly for her drug use. The marriage continued to spiral out of control, culminating in a reality TV BEING BOBBY BROWN which chronicled a superstar that was struggling. Since their divorce in 2007, Houston went to rehab, and seemed to have gotten her act back together. 

At times like this, one can't help but wonder "what if?"  What if she had gotten help sooner? Those questions will always go unanswered.

Whitney's voice was the one that we listened to when we were sad, when we wanted to dance, when we got married.

R.I.P. Whitney

Scandalous Women Celebrates Black History Month

February is Black History Month and to celebrate, I thought I share links to all the posts here on Scandalous Women & around the blogosphere that have celebrated the achievements of Black Women over the centuries.

Elizabeth Keckly - Mary Todd Lincoln's dressmaker

Lucy Parsons: An American Revolutionary

Sally Hemings - Dusky Sally: The Controversy over Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemings

Marie Laveau: Voodoo Queen of New Orleans

Josephine Baker

Mary Ellen Pleasant

Ida Wells-Barnett: Crusader for Justice

Bessie Smith: Empress of the Blues

Queen Ranavalona - The Mad Monarch of Madagascar

The Glamorous Garman Sisters

The Garman family

"No other contemporary women had much poetry, good, bad and indifferent, written about them, or had so many portraits or busts made of them." - Roy Campbell

It seems like the Garman sisters have been on the edge of my periphery for ages now. Just recently I read about them in article on Lucien Freud in the February issue of Vanity Fair.  Douglas Garman had a long affair with Peggy Guggenheim, who was the subject of an earlier blog post here at Scandalous Women. Pick up any biography of the Bloomsbury Group and you will see their names. Like the better-known Mitfords, the Garman sisters took center stage in Bohemian London during the first half of the twentieth century. Unconventionally beautiful, flamboyant, and headstrong, they broke away from middle-class conventions, seducing and inspiring a generation of artists. While all of the Garmans were artistic in their own right, it seems that their greatest gift to the world was to inspire other artists. These siblings seemed to possess an uncanny ability to turn heads, break hearts, and spark creative genius.

Like the theme song from The Mary Tyler Moore show, these three women “could turn on the world on with her smile, who can take a nothing place and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile…” As their biographer Cressida Connolly put it in her biography, “People fell in love with them. They were lovely to be in love with, passionate, generous, and beautiful. They sent secret notes at midnight and left their pillows smelling of scent. They gave presents: books of poetry, music, wildflowers. They made dramatic entrances and exits, their arms full of lilies, haunting railway stations throughout Europe, intoxicating their lovers with sudden meetings and long goodbyes.” Seriously who wouldn’t want to know someone like that?

There were 9 children in all, 7 sisters and 2 brothers, in the Garman family but this post will only focus on the three who had the most impact on the world. The eldest sister Mary (1898-1989) married the maverick poet Roy Campbell. Kathleen (1901-1989), an enigmatic artist's model and aspiring pianist, was the lover and, later, the wife of controversial American-born sculptor Jacob Epstein. And the youngest and considered the most beautiful of the sisters, Lorna (1911-2000), was the lover of both the painter Lucian Freud and the poet Laurie Lee.

The children grew up at Oakeswell Hall in what is known as “The Black Country” near Birmingham in England. Their father was a prosperous doctor, a proper Victorian father, twenty years older than their mother. Although the family was not rich, there was enough money for the usual servants that you find in a big house, including a governess. The children lived an idyllic late Victorian/early Edwardian childhood of picnics interspersed with lessons and piano practice. From the beginning, however, Mary and Kathleen showed signs of rebellion against the stultifying conventions of their middle class upbringing. They stole knickknacks from the drawing room, using their younger siblings to fence the goods for cash. With the proceeds, they bought cigarettes and French novels. When their father, Walter, caught them reading Flaubert’s racy Madame Bovary, he snatched it out of their hands and consigned it to the fire. His actions only made them rebel more; there were forays into town to buy drinks at the pub, and excursions to the cinema.

Mary Garman

Kathleen Garman during the early years of her affair with Jacob Epstein

After the war, the two sisters ran off to London. Mary took a job driving a delivery van for Lyon’s Corner Houses while Kathleen took a job working with the horses that pulled the carriages for Harrods.  When their father found out, he was appalled at their behavior, but when he realized that they were serious, he gave them an allowance which allowed them to quit their jobs. Instead they both enrolled in art school. One night in 1921, Kathleen and Mary were having dinner out when they became aware that a strange man kept staring at them. The waiter brought over a note, asking them to join him to dine. Although they were amused and flattered, they declined. The man turned out to be the American-born sculptor Jacob Epstein. When Kathleen went back to the restaurant a few days later, Epstein was there again. This time Kathleen agreed to sit with him. Kathleen was twenty, and Jacob was twenty years older. A few days later, she had agreed to sit for him. Before long, she was not only his model but his mistress, beginning a more than thirty-year relationship, marred only by his wife’s shooting her with a pearl-handled revolver in 1923. It seems that while Mrs. Epstein tolerated her husband’s infidelities, she instinctively knew that Kathleen was different from the other women her husband had been involved with, and she was not happy. When shooting Kathleen didn’t scare her off, she took the tactic of encouraging her husband to pursue other lovers, hoping that his love for Kathleen would fade away. No such luck! The incident left Kathleen with a permanent scar, and unable to wear sleeveless dresses but it didn’t end the affair.  Kathleen was so devoted to Epstein, that she didn’t press charges because he asked her not too. She even went so far as to agree to ride around Hyde Park in an open cab with his wife so that newspaper reporters could see that there was no enmity between them. Kathleen further scandalized society by giving birth to three children by Epstein, Theo, Kitty and Esther (a fourth child died of SIDS while Kathleen was playing piano in the same room). All three children bore their mother’s last name. It wasn’t until after Margaret’s death, and his knighthood in 1954, that Epstein and Kathleen were married, making her Lady Epstein.

A bust of Kathleen by Jacob Epstein

Not to be outdone by her younger sister, Mary soon met and married the South African poet Roy Campbell, despite the fact that he hung her out of a fourth floor window so that she would gain some respect for him. Cressida Connolly has pointed out: "Within three days he had moved into the girls' studio room. Tall and thin, with startlingly blue eyes, he was already writing poetry, living on beer and forgetting to eat - or eating only radishes, their leaves and all, bought from a market stall. The girls decided to fatten him up, and the three of them would lie, arm in arm, in front of the fire while he read them fragments from the poems which would become his first book."

She wore black with a gold veil to the wedding. It was a tempestuous marriage from the beginning. The couple lived on the edge of poverty for years, poetry not being incredibly lucrative. They had two daughters Tess and Annie, but Mary soon fell under the spell, like many before her, of Vita Sackville-West. In Vita, Mary had found the perfect combination of mother figure and lover. But Vita was an all-together cooler customer. While she had many lovers, her marriage to Harold Nicolson provided the perfect escape route when things got too sticky. Campbell’s verse attack on the Bloomsbury group following the affair was the literary scandal of the epoch. Sackville-West’s other lover, Virginia Woolf, was moved to write Orlando in response to the affair. There were threats and tears, until the family finally decamped to the South of France.

Lorna Garman

Lorna, the youngest, was perhaps the wildest of all. “She was amoral really,” her daughter Yasmin later said. “But everyone forgave her because she was such a life-giver.” She wore exotic clothing, rode her horse at night, and swam naked in the lake. At the tender age of 14, she seduced her brother’s college friend Ernest Wishart who was 9 years her senior, and should have known better. When she turned 16, they were married. Of the three sisters, while Kathleen bagged the great artist, Lorna bagged herself a member of the landed gentry. She would be the only one of the three sisters who was financially well-off (during the Spanish Civil War, she sent Laurie Lee pound notes soaked in Chanel No. 5). By the time she was 21, Lorna had given birth to two sons, Michael and Luke. Because she was so young when they married, her husband turned a blind eye to her affairs, even raising her daughter Yasmin by Laurie Lee as his, until she asked if one of her lovers could move into a cottage on their estate. Even that was too much for her forgiving husband. Her relationship with the much younger Freud (she gave him the Zebra head that appears in several of his paintings) ended when she discovered that he was also involved with a younger actress. She told him, “I thought I was giving you up for Lent but I’m giving you up for good.” Both of her former lovers married her nieces, Lucien to Kitty Garman (Kathleen’s daughter) and Laurie Lee to her sister Helen’s daughter Kathy Pologe.

There is a tragic side to the Garman’s story. Mary’s husband Roy died in a car accident in Spain in 1957. Although they inspired great love and affection from their lovers, they were not the best mothers. Mary pretty much expected her daughters to raise themselves. “We were never told how to sit and a table….or how important it was to change our knickers every so often,” Anna later said. Her neglect led Tessa to suffer for years from anorexia. Kathleen spent most of her time at Epstein's beck and call, which left little time to be a mother. She sent her two daughters to live in the country to be raised by their grandmother while she kept her son Theo with her. A promising painter, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia while in his twenties. He died unexpectedly at the age of 29. Her daughter Esther, distraught over her brother’s death and the suicide of a young man whose marriage proposal she had rejected, committed suicide less than a year later. Lorna and her children basically grew up together.

Later in life, both Lorna and Mary became devout Catholics. Kathleen, after Epstein’s death, became the keeper of his flame, donating many of his works to museums in Israel as well as becoming a collector in her own right. Her collection forms part of the Garman/Ryan Collection at the Walsall Library.


Cressida Connolly - The Rare and The Beautiful: The Lives of the Garmans

Happy Birthday Nell Gwyn!

Today is Nell Gwn's birthday, born February 2nd, 1650 which would make her 362 years old this year if she were a vampire. Nell has always been my favorite of Charles II's mistresses, probably because apart from his Queen, Catherine of Braganza and his sister Minette, I've always felt that Nell was the only one of his mistresses who truly loved him as Charles the man, not Charles the King. She seems to have been relatively undemanding compared to Barbara Palmer, and she wasn't a spy for the French like Louise de Keroualle. With her, the King could pretty much be himself.

Called "pretty, witty Nell" by the diarist Samuel Pepys,  Nell has long been seen as a living embodiment of the spirit of Restoration England. She's become something of a folk heroine over the years, her story echoing the rags-to-royalty tale of Cinderella. Elizabeth Howe, in The First English Actresses, calls she was "the most famous Restoration actress of all time, possessed of an extraordinary comic talent." Despite her great success on the stage, she gave it all up to be the King's mistress.

The details of her early life are a bit sketchy.  Some historians believe that she was born in London, some in Oxford, and some point to Hereford, near Wales, since Gwyn is a Welsh name. Most historians do agree that her father, Thomas Gwyn, was probably a Captain in the Royalist army during the English Civil War.  What happened to her father is unknown, whether he died, or deserted the family.  What is clear is that he was soon out of the picture, and Nell, her older sister Rose, and her mother had to fend for themselves.  There are stories that Nell's mother ran or worked in a bawdy house, and that Nell, herself might have been a child prostitute. By the time she was 12, she had a protector named Duncan who kept her for about 2 years. After the relationship was over, Nell became an orange girl at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. By the time she was 16, she was appearing on the stage instead of selling oranges to the audience in front of it.

Because she was illiterate, she learned her lines by rote. She was taught her craft of performing at a school for young actors developed by Thomas Killigrew and one of the finest male actors of the era, Charles Hart,
who became her lover. She was famous for her roles in breeches parts, where she could dance, sing and show off her legs, which were apparently quite good. It was the Duke of Buckingham who allegedly introduced the King to Nell, looking for a way to supplant his cousin, Barbara Palmer, as the King's mistress. Apparently Nell asked for 500 pounds initially which was considered too much, so Buckingham went to plan B, which was the actress Moll Davis. Whatever the story, by 1688, Nell was the King's mistress. Since she'd been the mistress of both Charles Hart and Charles Sackville, she jokingly titled the King "her Charles the Third".

Unlike his other long-term mistresses Barbara Palmer and Louise Keroualle, Nell never received a title of her own, although her oldest son Charles was made first Earl of Burford and then Duke of St. Alban's with an allowance of 1,000 pounds a year. Her younger son James died while in school in Paris in 1681. In 1671, she had a house of her own at 79 Pall Mall, however the house was the property of the crown.  It wasn't until 1676, that the freehold of the house and land were given to Nell.  The King also gave her Burford House in Windsor, where she lived whenever the King was at Windsor Castle. She also had a summer residence near the area that was known as Bagnigge Wells Spa. In 1685, King Charles died. His dying wish was that, "Let not poor Nelly starve." The new King, James II, paid Nell's debts off and gave her a pension of 1,500 pounds a year. Nell only lived two more years. She had a stroke in 1687, at the rather young age of 37, which left her paralyzed on one side. She soon suffered another stroke, and finally passed away on November 14, 1687.

Nell has long been a popular subject for novelists because of her rags to riches story. In honor of her birthday, I thought I would highlight a few of the most recent novels and biographies.

This biography was written by Charles Beauclerk, the Earl of Burford, who is a direct descendant of Nell. I haven't read it, but it's supposed to be very good.

This novel by Priya Parmar really focuses on Nell's early years and her career as an actress. Filled with juicy backstage gossip, I highly recommend it.

The Darling Strumpet, by Gillian Bagwell. I had the privilege of getting to hear Gillian read one of the naughtier scenes from this book last year at the Historical Novel Society conference.

Another excellent novel about Nell by Susan Holloway Scott, a frequent guest here on the blog.

Book of the Month - Sister Queens by Julia Fox

Title: Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile
Author: Julia Fox
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 1/31/2012
Pages: 480

From the back cover:

The history books have cast Katherine of Aragon, the first queen of King Henry VIII of England, as the ultimate symbol of the Betrayed Woman, cruelly tossed aside in favor of her husband’s seductive mistress, Anne Boleyn. Katherine’s sister, Juana of Castile, wife of Philip of Burgundy and mother of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, is portrayed as “Juana the Mad,” whose erratic behavior included keeping her beloved late husband’s coffin beside her for years. But historian Julia Fox, whose previous work painted an unprecedented portrait of Jane Boleyn, Anne’s sister, offers deeper insight in this first dual biography of Katherine and Juana, the daughters of Spain’s Ferdinand and Isabella, whose family ties remained strong despite their separation. Looking through the lens of their Spanish origins, Fox reveals these queens as flesh-and-blood women—equipped with character, intelligence, and conviction—who are worthy historical figures in their own right.

When they were young, Juana’s and Katherine’s futures appeared promising. They had secured politically advantageous marriages, but their dreams of love and power quickly dissolved, and the unions for which they’d spent their whole lives preparing were fraught with duplicity and betrayal. Juana, the elder sister, unexpectedly became Spain’s sovereign, but her authority was continually usurped, first by her husband and later by her son. Katherine, a young widow after the death of Prince Arthur of Wales, soon remarried his doting brother Henry and later became a key figure in a drama that altered England’s religious landscape.

Ousted from the positions of power and influence they had been groomed for and separated from their children, Katherine and Juana each turned to their rich and abiding faith and deep personal belief in their family’s dynastic legacy to cope with their enduring hardships. Sister Queens is a gripping tale of love, duty, and sacrifice—a remarkable reflection on the conflict between ambition and loyalty during an age when the greatest sin, it seems, was to have been born a woman.

This is the first historical non-fiction book that I have downloaded to my Nook, and I just started reading it. I reviewed Fox's earlier book on Jane Boleyn, I didn't accept her theory that poor Jane Boleyn was misunderstood and was totally innocent of helping to send her husband, George, and Anne Boleyn to the block. Nor that she was completely blameless in her part in helping Katherine Howard secretly meet Thomas Culpeper later in Henry VIII"s reign. However, when I heard that she had written a dual biography of Juana of Castile and Katherine of Aragon, I was intrigued enough to download it yesterday while browsing through Barnes & Noble. I've been wanting to learn more about Juana ever since I saw the film Juana La Loca and then read C.W. Gortner's wonderful novel, The Last Queen. On a side note: one of the great things about the Nook is how easy it is to buy books, which is also the downside of the Nook.

Having read the first 60 pages of the book, I'm sold. It's evident that Fox has really done her research.  There's none of the speculation which ruined both her first book, and Alison Weir's book on Mary Boleyn for me. Fox grounds her book with an overview of Juana and Katherine's mother Isabella of Castile (check out the portrait of Isabella on Julia Fox's web-site!).  I don't think it's possible to understand either of these two women without really getting to know Isabella, who is fascinating.  Queen of Castile in her own right, she sidestepped her older brother, to choose her own husband, picking Ferdinand of Aragon who was King of Sicily at time, when she was only 18 and he was 17. It was a dynastic marriage that turned into a love match, but frankly, Isabella must have been a pain to live with. Her determination to rid Spain of the Moors and unite the country is admirable but her religious intolerance against Moors and the Jews, kind of sticks in my craw. Expelling the Jews who refused to convert and and then inviting the Inquisition to set up shop before she even got rid of the Moors! You have to wonder if Ferdinand ever felt a bit emasculated. The kingdoms of Aragon and Castile were never officially united, and Castile was the larger, more prosperous country.

The book is filled with wonderful little details like a letter from Henry VII, where he asks that Katherine's attendents be beautiful, or at least not ugly! I can't wait to dig in to continue reading the book.  This was definitely worth the price of the download!

Mary at The Burton Review has a more in-depth review here.

You can find out more information about the author, Julia Fox, here. I must say that I prefer the cover for the US edition over the more staid UK cover.