*Check out my modern fairy tale “Frog Boy” in Issue Zero of Mystic Illuminations!*
I love podcasts. Podcasts have helped me enjoy cross-country drives and what would normally have been excruciating traffic jams. They have enabled me to run longer than I ever thought possible (for me that’s 3 miles) and actually made me look forward to my evening commute. Generally, I listen to This American Life and Radiolab, with some Moth, Risk, and Serial thrown in there.
I also started listening to Stuff You Missed in History Class a few years ago. This is an odd choice for me because history was always one of my least favorite subjects. Oh sure, I liked learning about Henry the VIII and his wives, or how the ancient Egyptians mummified their corpses, but the history I learned in school tended to be about war, and I don’t understand war. Literally, I cannot comprehend it. We kill people? To solve problems? We still do this today? My brain refuses to wrap itself around that concept, and therefore whenever anyone starts talking about war, my brain shuts down and I retain nothing.
Luckily for me, Holly and Tracy, the plucky hosts of Stuff You Missed in History Class, do war-related topics only occasionally (and I usually skip those). Instead they discuss topics such as the history of makeup, or narcolepsy, or Spam. They have episodes about historical mysteries, crimes, tragedies, and hoaxes. (Around Halloween they do gruesome stuff, such as the Dyotlov Pass Incident and the Villisca Ax Murders.) And they have many biographical episodes about fascinating historical figures such as Bela Legossi (star of the Dracula films) and Victor Lustig, the con man who “sold” the Eiffel Tower.
And these biographical episodes are often about fascinating women. History is notoriously a boys’ club, so it’s awesome to hear about women of the past who truly made history.
Yesterday was manuscript wish list (#MSWL) day on Twitter, when literary agents tweet about the types of books they’d like to represent. Well, I’m creating my own reader’s wish list. I like to read historical fiction every now and again, and I’m putting out the word that if good novels exist about any of these women, I want to read them. And if you are a writer of historical fiction, you should seriously consider writing a novel about one of these intriguing ladies. I would totally read it. Their stories provide the jumping off point for some incredible fiction.
So, without further ado…
I Would Totally Read a Historical Fiction Novel About…
Hetty Green, “The Witch of Wall Street”: A businesswoman in a time when only men did business, Hetty was regarded as the richest woman of the late 1800’s. She was more miserly than Scrooge McDuck and went to insane lengths to save money, such as wearing the same black dress every day and washing only the dirtiest parts of it (the hems) to save on soap.
Sister Aimee Semple McPherson: The most publicized Christian evangelist in a time when most preachers were men, Aimee founded her own church in 1927 and led large faith-healing demonstrations all around the country. There was also her strange disappearance and rumors of adultery…
Katie Sandwina, “The Glamorous Strongwoman”: Born in 1884, Katie was a six-foot tall circus strongwoman who could lift 300 pounds over her head — something the leading strongman of the time couldn’t do, making her literally the strongest person in the world. She married an acrobat, and her performances often included lifting him and their two children over her head.
Edna St Vincent Millay: A playwright and poet who won the Pulitzer in 1923, Millay was openly bi-sexual and known for her feminist activism and many love affairs. She had an open marriage and a drinking problem.
Princess Alexandra of Bavaria: Most likely suffering from a mental illness (she had a fixation with cleanliness and would only wear white), the princess believed that she had swallowed a glass piano and had to move carefully so it wouldn’t break inside of her. As it turns out, she is not the only person in history to suffer from a “glass delusion.” She never married, and in 1850 she began a prolific literary career. She later became an Abbess.
And of course, there are many more amazing women of history that I would happily read about. In the meantime, be sure to check out the Stuff You Missed in History Podcast episodes on the women above!