Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Monday, March 2, 2015

Female Spies During the Civil War by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Belle Boyd, a Civil War spy.
Welcome back to History Undressed, guest author and blogger, Kathleen Bittner Roth. She'll be posting here with us every first Tuesday of the month, and I couldn't be more thrilled! 

Female Spies During the Civil War

Female spies have been known throughout the centuries in royal court, eavesdropping on conversations held at balls and in corridors, but did you know that the use of women as spies was commonplace in both England and America during the 19th century? In England, the brunt of spying took place in industry, while in America, the greatest use of female spies took place during the Civil War.
I find this particularly interesting because the Civil War occurred during the morally repressive Victorian era. Every action, dress codes, even education for women were so constricted that even the language back then became repressive – one must never have referred to a table leg or piano leg. Instead, they were called table limbs, or a piano’s limb. Every action a woman took was governed by the repressed Victorian mores, yet this era became a high season for female spies.
While some women took over teaching jobs, farming, and managing shops in the absence of their men gone off to war, some women moved close to the troops in the form of nursing, or raising supplies for the troops. But there were women who supported their country in a far more dangerous manner—they became spies. Many of these brave souls baked messages in bread or pies, and carried them across enemy lines with nary a blink of an eye. All of them carried weapons or spying devices of one kind or another. Had they been caught, they’d have been hanged by the neck until dead.

Belle Boyd was one of these bold spies. She would often show up at her father’s hotel and eavesdrop on Union officers registered there. Bold as they came, she would deliver her information to General Stonewall Jackson himself, moving through Union lines, so close to battle that it’s been said she’d returned more than once with bullet holes in her skirts.  
Scandalous was not even the word for what these women were doing. If found out, they were considered no better than a common prostitute. Some of these women who performed a great service to their country were born into wealthy families, yet after the war, they were shunned by polite society, despite their heroism. 
Some of the spy paraphernalia these valiant women carried was quite clever—as shown below:

Victorian spy camera hidden inside a pocket watch

A ring gun with extra bullets carried in a bullet necklace

A one-shot pocket watch pistol

Take a look at the daggers in this ladies fan!

Kathleen Bittner Roth thrives on creating passionate stories featuring characters who are forced to draw on their strength of spirit to overcome adversity and find unending love. Her own fairy tale wedding in a Scottish castle led her to her current residence in Budapest, Hungary, considered one of Europe’s most romantic cities. However, she still keeps one boot firmly in Texas and the other in her home state of Minnesota. A member of Romance Writers of America®, she was a finalist in the prestigious Golden Heart® contest. Find Kathleen on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest and www.kathleenbittnerroth.com.
Check out Kathleen's list of books on Amazon!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

February 21st thru February 27th

What Happened this Week in History?
  • February 21, 1842- The sewing machine was patented by John J. Greenough
  • February 22, 1751- Edward Willet displayed the first trained monkey act in the US
  • February 23, 1896- The Tootsie Roll was invented
  • February 24, 1821- Mexico gains independence from Spain
  • February 25, 1859- First use of "insanity plea" to prove innocence
  • February 26, 1977- The Eagles' "Hotel California" was released
  • February 27, 1908- Star #46 was added to the US flag for Oklahoma


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Medieval Douching and Fumigation by Karen Harris

Welcome again to History Undressed, guest authors, Karen Harris and Lori Caskey-Sigety! Here is another great article that Harris and Caskey-Sigety have recently penned from their new non-fiction book, The Medieval Vagina: An Hysterical and Historical Look at All Things Vaginal During the Middle Ages, now available on Amazon. Please enjoy another one of their fascinating articles--guaranteed to entertain!

Medieval-Style Douching

We have textual evidence that tells us women have douched since ancient times. This we must balance with the idea that women in medieval times bathed infrequently…very infrequently! Does that tell us that medieval maidens were concerned about the not-so-fresh feeling in their nether regions? Did they want to please their lovers with perfumed vaginas, while turning a blind eye (or nose) to sweat, body odor, and stinky breath? Probably not. Women in the middle ages douched, but they did it for different reasons than women today. And, of course, they used whatever douching agent was handy, rather than douching with store-bought, pre-packaged, applicator-included products.

First, we will tackle the “why” questions. Ancient medical texts tell us that women were advised to douche to cure vaginal infections. But folk remedies and word-of-mouth medical advice handed down by wiser, older women told us that they douched to wash away their lovers’ pus in hopes of preventing sexually transmitted diseases, which we know ran rampant in the pre-antibiotic Middle Ages. Medieval prostitutes and women of loose morals were even advised to douche after sex to “wash away” the semen and prevent pregnancy…sort of an early version of the morning-after pill.

Next, the “what”.  Ancient Egyptian scrolls revealed that women used a mixture of garlic and wine to douche. Of course, the old standby of vinegar and water was used as well. It was discovered early on that any type of mildly acidic liquid could be an effective douching agent. Olive oil, pomegranate pulp, tobacco juice, ginger water, acacia could all double as a douching agent. As could honey, lemon or lime juice, cedar oil, and frankincense.

Lastly, the “wow” factor. En vogue in the Middle Ages was vaginal fumigation. This treatment was often medically prescribed and assumed to be a means of curing yeast infections, cervical cancer, urinary tract infections, and menstrual cramps. Water mixed with herbs was boiled in a special vessel with a long tube protruding from it. The hot steam was forced through the tube which was inserted into the vagina of the patient. Vaginal fumigation is a perfect example of the cure being worse than the disease. Women no doubt suffered from burns and damage to the delicate skin of their vaginas, which could easily lead to more infections. And when we remember that medical instruments like vaginal fumigators were not sterilized between each use, we can see how easily infections might spread.

            To sum up, medieval women personally (and professionally, if you were a prostitute) went to various lengths, ranging from home remedies in the kitchen to prescribed vaginal fumigation, in futile attempts to cure venereal diseases and prevent pregnancy. These “cures” were all ancient and medieval women had to rely on before cleanliness and personal hygiene came into being.

Author Bios:

Karen Harris is a college instructor by day and a writer by night. Writing offers Karen a chance to dabble in her other areas of interest, including history and science. She has written numerous freelance articles and feature stories for publication. She is a hobby farmer, environmental volunteer, and advocate for volunteer firefighters. 

Lori Caskey-Sigety started writing in 1991. She hasn’t stopped. Her writing includes blogs, book reviews, essays, lyrics, plays, poems, and puppet shows. Lori has authored two poetry books, and her other works have appeared in Wildfire Magazine, Orlo, Indiana Libraries, and Public Libraries. She is an artist, college instructor, librarian, and musician.

Book Description:

In the Middle Ages much like today, the vagina conjured fear and repulsion, yet it held an undeniable allure. In the Medieval Vagina, the authors explore this paradox while unearthing medieval myths, attitudes and contradictions surrounding this uniquely feminine and deeply mysterious organ.

What euphemisms did medieval people have for the vagina? Did medieval women use birth control? How was rape viewed in the Middle Ages? How was the vagina incorporated into literature, poetry, music, and art? How did medieval women cope with menstruation? The Medieval Vagina delves into these topics, and others, while introducing the reader to a collection of fascinating medieval women – Pope Joan, Lady Frances Howard, Margery Kempe, Sister Benedetta Carlini, and Chaucer’s Wife of Bath – who all shaped our view of the medieval vagina. 

The Medieval Vagina takes a quick-paced, humorous peek into the medieval world; a time when religious authority combined with newly emerging science and medicine, classic literature, and folklore to form a deeply patriarchal society. It may have been a man’s world, but the vagina triumphed over oppression and misogyny.

Website: snarkpublishing.weebly.com

Monday, February 23, 2015

Teaser Tour: The New Novel by Susanna Kearsley

Teaser Tour: RITA-Award Winner Susanna Kearsley's New Novel, A Desperate Fortune!

Sourcebooks is offering 10 readers the chance to attend a LIVE online event with Susanna Kearsley. To enter, find the excerpt below and break the code: 16.13. Email the correct word to publicity@sourcebooks.com. Winners will be announced on March 20th

Excerpt from A Desperate Fortune:

Her hands would not stop shaking.
It was left to Madame Roy to tie the tapes of Mary’s petticoat and fit the second gown over the one she wore already. They’d been told in no uncertain terms they could bring nothing with them but the little they could carry in their hands, or wear, and having been allotted but five minutes to prepare themselves they’d had to work at speed, a thing that Mary was incapable of doing in her current state.

“He killed a man,” she said again. She’d said it twice already but Madame Roy only nodded as she’d done before, with patience.
“Yes, I know, dear. Put your gloves on.”

“He” was in the chamber next to theirs, with Jacques. No, Mr. Thomson. Mary found the change of names confusing, and her brain was having difficulty holding to the details. Mr. Thomson. And the man in gray was Mac…MacSomething. He was Scottish, then. Her father had been Scottish, though this hard man’s voice was nothing like her memory of her father’s voice. Her father’s had been pleasant, even soothing, but this man’s was—
“Are ye finished?” He was standing in the doorway.

Madame Roy spoke back to him in English, only Mary was surprised to hear her accent and her intonations sounded much like his. “We’re nearly done, aye.”

“Where’s your book?” he asked, and Mary stared at him uncomprehending until he repeated with more emphasis, “Your book. The one ye write in.”
When she still could not reply he muttered something that she took to be a curse and crossing to the bed began to shift the bolster and the pillows. Frisque, who until now had been content to sit amidst the blankets and observe the bustle and confusion, rose to bark a protest. The Scotsman swung his gaze towards the little dog, and Mary found her voice.

“Do not harm him!”
Madame Roy had finished with the fastening of Mary’s cloak and let her hands drop lightly onto Mary’s shoulders as if she would hold her back from interfering, but the potent rush of terror and protectiveness would not let Mary hold her tongue. “The book is in the clothespress.”

It was underneath the linens but the Scotsman found it easily and slipped it with the penner into one of his coat pockets before turning once again towards the bed, where Frisque was barking still. “The dog,” he said to Mary, “cannot come.”

“I will not leave him.” She could feel her chin lift even though she was afraid, and for a moment they stood staring at each other.
He was not a handsome man. His face was formed of stubborn angles, none of which was even, and his mouth at one end slanted up and downward at the other, and his eyes held not a hint of warmth. They measured her impatiently. He said, “It will be trouble.”

She did not back down. “You said that we could bring what we could carry,” was her argument. “And I can carry him.”
With a frown the man reached down and scooped the barking dog into his one large hand with no apparent effort. Frisque, whether from prudence or his love of being held, wisely fell silent, though his feathered tail began to wag. The Scotsman exhaled tightly in what could not quite be called a sigh, and turning from the bed closed the small distance between him and Mary, thrusting Frisque into her hands. “But nothing else,” he said. “And we go now.”

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

9781492602026 * $16.99/TP * ON-SALE: April 7, 2015
 For nearly three hundred years, the cryptic journal of Mary Dundas has lain unread. Now, amateur code breaker Sara Thomas has been sent to Paris to crack the cipher.

 Jacobite exile Mary Dundas is filled with longing—for freedom, for adventure, for the family she lost. When fate opens the door, Mary dares to set her foot on a path far more surprising and dangerous than she ever could have dreamed.
 As Mary’s gripping tale is revealed, Sara is faced with challenges that will require letting go of everything she thought she knew—about herself, about loyalty, and especially about love. Though divided by centuries, these two women will be united in a quest to discover the limits of trust and the coincidences of fate.

 Author Bio:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Susanna Kearsley is known for her meticulous research and exotic settings from Russia to Italy to Cornwall, which not only entertain her readers but give her a great reason to travel. Her lush writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. She hit the bestseller lists in the U.S. with The Firebird (a RITA winner) as well as, The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden (both RITA finalists and winners of RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards). Other honors include National Readers' Choice Awards, the prestigious Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize, and finaling for the UK's Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Her popular and critically acclaimed books are available in translation in more than 20 countries and as audiobooks. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February 14th thru February 20th

What Happened this Week in History?
  • February 14, 1929- Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin
  • February 15, 1879-A bill was signed by President Hayes allowing female lawyers to argue cases before the Supreme Court
  • February 16, 1914-First airplane flight from LA to SF
  • February 17, 1817-Baltimore is the first city to lit by gas
  • February 18, 2001-Dale Earnhardt died in crash during the Daytona 500
  • February 19, 1985-Cherry coke was introduced by the Coca-Cola Company
  • February 20, 1997-Named after the rock group Phish, Ben and Jerry's introduce their new ice cream flavor Phish Food.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Highland Romance Giveaway!

Win a paperback copy of Lachlan's Revenge, by R.L. Syme, releasing today! 

My friend Becca has a new book out today--a Highlander, of course--and she is giving away paperback copies to two commenters who answer the following question.

What is your favorite romance plot or trope? Do you love arranged marriage, secret identity, friends-to-lovers? What's your favorite?

Lachlan's Revenge is a medieval Scottish romance novella. They took his family, they took his freedom... but he's back to reclaim it all!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

February 6th - February 13th

What Happened this Week in History?
  • February 6th, 1685- Duke of York becomes King James II of England and VII of Scotland upon the death of his brother Charles II
  • February 7, 1984-Space shuttle astronauts Bruce McCandless II and Robert L. Stewart made the first untethered space walk
  • February 8, 1952-"The Dukes of Hazzard" ended its six and a half year run on CBS television
  • February 9, 1983-Prince's "Little Red Corvette" was released
  • February 10, 1933-The Postal Telegraph Company of New York City introduced the singing telegram
  • February 11, 1531-Henry VIII of England is recognized as supreme head of the Church of England
  • February 12, 1870-The Utah Territory granted women the right to vote
  • February 13, 1866-Jesse James holds up his first bank in Liberty, Missouri and gets away with $15,000
And Soon to Make History....
February 10, 2015

The release of Kissing the Highlander
 by Eliza Knight, Terry Spear, Vonda Sinclair, Victoria Roberts, and Willa Blair.