Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guest Author Paty Jager on The Nez Perce Indians

Nez Perce Camp
Today I'd like to welcome guest author Paty Jager to History Undressed! Paty is the author of riveting western tales set in numerous time periods. I'm excited to have her here today!

Eliza and Michelle, Thank you for having me here!

Spirit of the Lake is the second book of a trilogy set among the Nez Perce Indians of NE Oregon. The Lake Nimiipuu as they called themselves wintered and summered in the Wallowa Valley where I grew up.

To write this trilogy I had to study and research the Nez Perce Indians in the 17 and 1800's.

The children of Nez Perce families were taught by their grandparents. The grandfathers taught the boys how to make weapons, hunt, fish, track, and fight. Grandmothers taught the girls how to take care of their families, do the chores, and help their men. The elders passed down the stories of the trickster coyote and how "The People" came to be. By reading books of their legends I learned how the legends taught the children basic truths about life and how to conduct themselves to be good Nez Perce.

Grandmothers also taught the girls about the coming of age and were by their sides during marriages and the births. When a girl began her menstrual cycle she would stay in the menstrual lodge for the duration of her bleeding. It was believed the women carried strong powers during this time and were susceptible to getting pregnant. They also thought this strong power would overrule the man's power.

This isolation served a purpose. They held private discussions about personal problems and conditions of health, exchanged views on herbal medicine, and composed songs. They cooked their own meals in the lodge and didn't touch anything outside nor could they attend any ceremonies during this time.

They used buffalo hides with the fur still on for menstruation pads or buckskin and milkweed. The pads were put in a hole in the middle of the dwelling and buried.

After puberty girls were no longer allowed to play with boys and stayed in a lodge with their grandmothers and aunts and taught the ways of women.

In Spirit of the Lake, Dove, a young maiden who becomes pregnant from an attack by a Whiteman, is sent to live with the old woman to keep her from speaking of the incident and causing trouble. The story takes place after the treaty of 1863 that took away the Wallowa Nez Perce's land but wasn't signed by the Wallowa Nez Perce. Because they could be removed from their land at any time against their will, the leader's worked hard, sometimes too hard, to keep peace between their people and the Whitemen moving into the valley.

Here is the blurb and an excerpt.


Two generations after his brother became mortal, Wewukiye, the lake spirit, prevents a Nimiipuu maiden from drowning and becomes caught up in her sorrow and her heart. Her tribe ignores Dove's shameful accusations—a White man took her body, leaving her pregnant, and he plans to take their land.Wewukiye vows to care for her until she gives birth, to help her prove the White man is deceitful and restore her place in her tribe.

As they travel on their quest for justice, Dove reveals spiritual abilities yet unknown in her people, ensnaring Wewukiye’s respect and awe. But can love between a mortal and a spirit grow without consequences?


Wewukiye tugged her hand, drawing her closer. His warm breath puffed against her ear.

"You need only think of me and you will have strength."

His soft silky voice floated through her body like a hot drink.

Dove swallowed the lump in her throat and asked, "When will I see you again?" The thought of sleeping on the hard ground next to the fire in Crazy One's dwelling didn't sound near as inviting as using his lap to rest her head.

The days and nights grew colder; to be wrapped in his arms would warm her through and through.

"You will find me at the meadow every day when the sun is directly overhead." He brushed his lips against her ear.

She closed her eyes, relishing the silky feel of his lips and the heat of his touch.

"Think of me," whispered through her head.

Dove opened her eyes. She stood alone. Her palm still warm from their clasped hands, her ear ringing with his whisper.


This post is part of a blog tour. Leave a comment on as many of my guest blogs at you can and the person who travels with me the most will receive an autographed copy of Spirit of the Lake, a sweatshirt, and cowboy chocolate. To find all the places I’m visiting go to my blog: www.patyjager.blogspot.com The contest runs from May 18th – May 29th covering thirteen blogs. I'll notify the winner on May 30th. In the event of a tie, I will draw a name.

To read more about the spirit trilogy or my other books visit my website: www.patyjager.net

Thank you for having me here today!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Guest Author Kris Kennedy on Undressing the Heroine: Medieval Girls

Today I'd like to welcome back guest author Kris Kennedy to History Undressed!  Some of you may have read the Medieval Cookery blog, which Kris did with me a couple years ago. Since it published on HU, its been the most popular blog to date, and still gets hundreds of readers a week.  She's the author of sizzling and intriguing medieval romance--which I recommend you read, her books are awesome! Today, Kris is back to tantalize us with one of my favorite topics: historical clothing! 

Undressing The Heroine: Medieval Girls
By Kris Kennedy

A few weeks ago, Mia Marlowe came by and chatted about women’s dress in the Victorian age. I, though, write sexy stories set in the middle ages.

It’s difficult to imagine two eras more dissimilar. But there were still find important commonalities. Trappings change, technology advances, but what was important to people in 1215 was important in 1857 and is still important today: food, friendship, family…sex.

You knew that was coming, right? Clearly, one of the most important similarities shared among all time periods is this: heroes still have to undress their heroines.

Today we’re going to chat about this pressing issue, and I’ll run through what, exactly, our intrepid medieval hero will encounter as he attempts to do what romance heroes do so well: undress their heroines.

As with Victorian era, there were many fashion changes over the era considered ‘medieval,’ from gowns to headgear to footwear, from eye loops to buttonholes. So let’s focus on . . . oh, say the early 13th century, around the year 1215, the year of Magna Carta and, why, look at that, coincidentally the year Defiant is set.

First, our medieval hero is going to have a much easier job getting to the object of his desire than the Victorian hero.

copy of image permitted
credit to: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart

Assuming he is dealing with a lady of some means, he’s going to first have to remove the girdle, the gilded belt. It hung off the hips, circling the waist, dipping to a V low, usually over the abdomen, and cascading in a decorative fall to the knees or below. Made of hammered metal and precious stones, it would be gorgeous and lush. Often, suspended from it would be the keys to the home or castle. Nothing would be coming off until that did.

This is where the hero is going to begin his assault.

After that, his job gets a lot easier. He has two layers of tunics to get through, starting with an outer tunic, originally called a bliant, which came simply to be the surcoat. By the mid-century, there was even the daring sideless surcoat for women, cut to be form-fitting. It was laced up the back or sides. A brightly colored chemise would be worn, sweeping to the ground, and would show through the places on the sides.

Our hero is so getting in that way.

Sleeves were long, often beyond the wrist, to the knuckles or covering the entire hand. They were stitched tight at the wrist so the hands could still be used. (Buttons and buttonholes made their appearance in the West from about 1200 on, but probably weren’t used on wrists in 1215.) The hero would have to battle his way past these. Let’s hope he’d be gentle.

The sleeves of the outer tunic, on the other hand, began to hang quite long and wide, falling almost to the ground as time went on, creating a billow, luxurious look. Much later, they became mere thin bands of fabric, called tippets.

Once he’s through these, the hero’s job is pretty much done. Women wore hose, generally to the knee, either woolen or silk, held up by garters. No need for a Victorian-style slit in the pantlets; the entire skirt could just be flipped up at need, should the occasion require, ahem, quicker action.

And don’t be fooled in thinking the hero is flinging aside drab layers of linen and burlap as he works his way in. Women were highly decorated. (So were men and walls and food and saddles and sword hilts and…well, you get the picture) Ornamentation was the rule, not the exception. Valuable stones, precious metals, embroidery, and above all, color.

Gems decorated anything to which they could be affixed, including girdles and hair, brooches and purses. Fabrics were dyed bright, rich hues. Metalwork was intricate and expensive. Soft wool and silk, silk gauze and satins were dyed brightly, tempting and beguiling the hero.

So, remember to admire the romance hero in every era who has the determination and persistence to work his way through all the layers required to finally achieve the object of his desire.

Kris Kennedy writes sexy medieval romances for Pocket Books. Her latest, DEFIANT received a starred Publishers Weekly choice, and is out now. Her previous release, THE IRISH WARRIOR (Kensington, 2010), won RWA’s 2008 Golden Heart Award for Best Unpublished Historical Romance. You can find exclusive excerpts, newsletter sign-up, and more at the website: http://kriskennedy.net


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Guest Author Kate Dolan on Reenacting

Kate and her daughter at the Colonial Craftsman
Weekend at Jerusalem Mill Village
Today on History Undressed, I'd like to introduce you to our guest author Kate Dolan, who also happens to be a historical reenactor. I can not think of a more fun hobby! 

by Kate Dolan

My packing list includes a basketful of petticoats and a sugar axe—not what most people typically bring when they go camping, but this is not a typical camping trip. I’m headed to the Ft. Frederick Market Fair, an event which evokes the atmosphere of an 18th Century colonial village. I’m a reenactor without a gun.

We’re not attempting to recreate a past battle or specific historical event. Rather we’re trying to recreate, as much as possible, a bit of everyday life in the 18th Century. This includes cooking over an open fire, sleeping in shelters or barracks that were used during the time period, and avoiding modern conveniences as much as possible. And we do it all wearing 18th Century clothing, which isn’t that big of a problem unless you have to get somewhere in a hurry.

My family and I only camp at a couple of such events each year, so I’m not the most experienced “primitive” camper on the block, but we’ve been doing this for eight or nine years so I generally know what to expect at an event.

I know that if we’re cooking, we’ll need a lot of firewood. And that means I’ll need someone to collect it, replenish the supply, and most importantly, to split the big hunks into small chunks about the size of a small box of spaghetti. Those small chunks start to burn quickly and help keep a fire at an even temperature. This is really important when cooking things like pancakes and bacon. (The pancake recipe is period-correct; the modern bacon really isn’t but we like it too much to leave it off the menu!) By contrast, baking something like an apple pie requires a big, long-burning fire that produces lots of red-hot coals. Then even after cooking, you need to keep the fire going to heat water to wash the dishes. Over the course of a day, it’s a lot of wood.

The registration fee at most events includes firewood, and there’s usually enough for everyone, but there’s no guarantee that it’s dry or that it will stay that way, so some people will start to hoard wood as soon as they set up camp. Sometimes roving gangs of oversized children go around trying to sell firewood, but we try to steer them to more honorable pursuits like stealing laundry (more about that later).

My son learned to split wood pretty well when he was nine, so he’s a big help with that. My daughter spends a lot of time bringing water into camp, one pitcher at a time. In addition to water for drinking, cooking and doing dishes, we need it for washing hands, faces, and occasionally, hair. At one event, I thoroughly grossed out a visiting fifth grade class by washing my hair with lard-based soap and then rinsing it with vinegar. (The vinegar restores the ph balance which is left too alkaline from the soap. The first time I used soap I ended up with hair that felt greasy and dry at the same time. Pretty counter-productive!)

So did I notice my hair smelling like vinegar? Well, no, because it smelled too much like smoke to notice any other smell. Words cannot really describe how pervasive the smell of wood smoke is after a day of living right by the fire. Wool clothing in particular absorbs the scent like a sponge, but it seeps into everything. I imagine back in the colonial era that was quite a blessing, as the smoke could cover up a great many less pleasant aromas. But it can be quite a shock when we return home and bring things in the house. Sometimes we turn right back around and leave them outside again for a few days to air out.

Most of my colonial wardrobe doesn’t get washed much, if at all. My basic undergarment, a shift, is like a thin white nightgown and those do get washed. Over that I wear a pair of stays (like pants, this pair is actually just one garment). They lace up around my ribcage and force me to sit without slouching. If I lace them tightly, they can make it difficult to take in a deep breath, but usually if I’m working I don’t make them tight so they’re fairly comfortable. Stays are similar to a corset, but they’re shaped differently and don’t come down as far so they don’t cinch in the waist as much.

Over the stays, I wear two petticoats, which are not undergarments but outer skirts. Sometimes they are worn under a gown, but they are meant to show and be pretty full. Women who are trying to dress in a more fashionable manner will make their skirts even more bulky with padding (bum rolls) or cage-like devices called panniers.

Not me. I find using the porta-potty challenging enough with two simple petticoats.

Anyway, back to getting dressed because it does take about twenty times longer than it does on a regular camping trip. Over the shift, stays, and petticoats I wear a short gown or or jacket of some kind. That is held together with pins and tied closed with an apron. I use the apron as if it were a giant paper towel, so it’s pretty dirty by the end of the day.

Unless it’s really hot, I wear period stockings that come up past my knees and shoes like loafers with about a two-inch heel. If I’m lazy, I’ll wear modern clogs. If I’m trying to be more authentic, I’ll put on (briefly) a pair of straight-lasted reproduction colonial leather shoes. Apparently, the 18th Century fashion for symmetry even carried over to footwear for a time. All feet were considered equal. In other words, no right or left shoes. This has to have been one of the dumbest fashions of all time. The only dumber decision was the idea to recreate the ridiculous fashion two hundred years later for the sake of authenticity.

If the day is cool, I wear a neck kerchief and possibly a cloak. And then I put my hair up in a bun and cover it with a white cap. Again, the more fashionable women in camp may be wearing fancy decorated straw hats or silk bonnets but I hate wearing anything on my head so I usually wear the lightest cap I can find. And if I need to keep the sun or rain out of my face, I wear a man’s plain felt hat over my cap.

So after a couple of days, my hair is either dirty or pickled, everything I own smells like it’s been stored up a chimney, soot and grease from the fire have stained my hands black and my face is red from sun and wind. That means I had a good time.. It means the weather was nice enough for me to stay out all day. It means I had fun cooking outside where it’s a challenge. Or if my hands are clean, it means that I was probably doing laundry demonstrations and my kids got to take turns stealing the clothes laid out to dry. (One group of “bad” kids are the laundry thieves and the other “good” kids chase them through camp yelling at the top of their lungs. This is done ostensibly to show visitors how valuable clothing was in the past. But really I think my kids like to have an excuse to chase each other with weapons.)

When they’re not stealing laundry, chopping wood or carrying water, the kids can usually be found at one of the many tents offering goods for sale. Their favorite purchase is maple sugar, and they like to hack it to pieces with a sugar axe before eating it. Again, the use of weaponry undoubtedly figures heavily in the appeal.

At the end of the day, I don’t know how close we’ve come, if at all, to recreating the colonial atmosphere we sought. But it’s a great excuse to avoid email for a few days. And it’s one vacation when I don’t mind coming home, because then my ordinary house seems miraculous. Running water! Electric lights! A washing machine! And pizza delivered while we put away the 66 lb canvas tent, baskets full of smoky clothing and the sugar axe.


Kate Dolan writes historical fiction and romance under her own name and contemporary mysteries and children’s books under the name K.D. Hays. Her most recent historical release, The Appearance of Impropriety, won the 2010 Written Art Award for humorous fiction. You can learn more about her misadventures with history by visiting www.katedolan.com.