Write About it Wednesday: Carry A. Nation

“You put me in here a cub, but I will go out a roaring lion, and I will make all hell howl.”

I love podcasts. I subscribe to anything from history to crime and books in between. Two different podcasts covered Carry Nation and peaked my interest. Most would say that listening to two episodes about a woman would be thorough enough, but leave it to me to have more questions. I had never heard of Nation before listening: first to Stuff You Missed in History Class, and second Criminal with Phoebe Judge and I wanted to know more. I’m a sucker for strong female leaders.

Carry was a trouble maker in her youth until she fell ill and found God. She devoted her life to religion and saw fit to improve the lives of others with HER opinions. She was very reserved until a doctor who was boarding at her home stole a kiss in the dark. She soon found herself in love. Carry married Dr. Charles Gloyd, a well-known to everyone (except Carry) alcoholic, in her early 20’s that set her path in life. He was drunk at the ceremony and she never saw him sober again. Her father came to check on her a few months into the marriage and decided she had to return home immediately and leave her husband. Dr. Gloyd died 6 months after she left from complications due to alcohol abuse. No shock there. Carry was now responsible for her daughter and mother-in-law and needed a career. She became a teacher until she was fired for refusing to change the pronunciation of the short and long a. As a teacher myself, this excuse is so ridiculous that it’s comical. They just wanted her gone.

Her only plan was to marry. When she ran into David Nation she believed it was divine intervention. They were married a few weeks later and moved to Texas. This would be one of many moves as Nation faced disaster everywhere they attempted to settle. Their eventual move to Kansas started the famous saloon smashing and prohibition speeches. Carry noticed that several saloons were still fully operating under laws that forbade the sale of alcohol. She started with warnings but then began to throw bricks into saloons, carry a hatchet which she is well known for, and call out bar owners to close shop. It was her divine calling. She had visions that directed her behavior and many saloons were forced to close after Nation swept into town. Not everyone agreed with her behavior. In 1901, she was beaten by a group of women. She was jailed numerous times and during one of the stays, she began publishing a newsletter that eventually turned into a newspaper called “The Hatchet,” which supported prohibition and women’s rights.

I could talk about Carry Nation all night, but I’m going to save you time. Why in the world is this woman famous? If I decided to walk into a bar, tear it apart and break everything in sight and then tell everyone how they should be living…I’d be in jail for a very long time. Should you be honored for breaking the law because it doesn’t hold true to your own way of thinking? Her visions from God sound almost like Andrea Yates, the woman who drowned her children in the bathtub because she had a vision. Believer or non-believer, do we get to use a vision as an out for committing crimes? My research left me with only one thought: Carry Nation was a stubborn, semi-crazy woman in a network of prohibitionists who blamed alcohol for all the problems in the world. I don’t see her as a leader, but as a woman who is just as bad as the people she is trying to stop.

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Write About it Wednesday: The Mystery Queen

“Grant a great age to Queen Nefertiti, long years may she keep the hand of the King.”

Have you ever made it to the last page of a book and wondered what you just read? It is no secret that my reading list is a mile long and therefore my reading time is precious to me. I am curious by nature and walk the nonfiction aisles of my library with a purpose. I have things that I want to know and my hope is the books that I choose will feed that curiosity. I make stacks and lists of topics and try to tackle them in a semi-organized fashion (let’s be honest though, the stacks and lists are so long I may never get to them all).

I decided to start on Egyptian history and found a short biography of Nefertiti. I own a copy of Michelle Moran’s Nefertiti but haven’t found the time to start it yet. It’s buried between A Guide to Serial Killers, a pictorial history of Hurricane Katrina and a biography of Andrew Jackson. (My reading knows few limits.) I thought the biography would be a great introduction but it was a major disappointment. Although the book is titled for the Queen, much of the time is spent reading about her husband. I should have thrown the red flag when I read the author’s note that the story would be told from Nefertiti’s point of view in current time. The short version:

Nefertiti came from a family who was close to the King and Queen, so she was destined to marry the prince. They marry at 15 and 16 and have children. The prince who is now King decides that there is only one god, the sun itself. He wants everyone to believe this and angers his people. Bad luck comes knocking and everyone dies.

Does that answer all your questions? Mine either. I know that I signed up for a short biography but I think there might be more to the story… How do you select your nonfiction titles? Do you read reviews prior to selecting? If you have any Egyptian books to recommend, please reach out so I can add them to my list!

Write About it Wednesday: Winifred Bodkin and New York’s Most Unusual Address

“It’s a grand old building. In the old days, this building was New York.”

Life at the Dakota by Stephen Birmingham is a lovely guide to New York’s Most Unusual Address: The Dakota. I had never heard of this building until receiving a copy of The Address by Fiona Davis. Architecture and building design fascinate me. I think the buildings themselves embody history and allow us insight into life in a previous time. There have been so many celebrities, guests, and workers in and out of this building that if only the old saying were true, “if walls could talk…”

I chose to focus on Winifred Bodkin in my research. She came to the Dakota in 1930 not long after her arrival in America. She started as an elevator girl and promoted to the front desk where she remained for the rest of her working years. She was loyal to the Dakota far beyond a regular employee. During the strike of 1976, she chose not to participate (the only worker to do so) and continued her regular duties. She packed her bag the night before so she would not have to cross the picket line but would still be available to the occupants. I thought it was very interesting that during this strike, all of the occupants chipped in and compared the event to an adventure at summer camp. The women loved sorting the mail, the men volunteered to take out the garbage, and everyone learned how to run and staff the building. Winifred left memories of this event along with other tales of occupants working out of their apartments, announcing callers, and helping famous people avoid the paparazzi such as John Lennon. She noted the security changes through the decades and the renovations that pained her to watch. Some of the residents described Winifred as more than the building’s concierge, she was the heart and soul of the operation. Her scrapbook of the time she spent at the Dakota is one of the only remaining documents of the building’s history. Most of the building’s eighty year history was destroyed in one single day by a porter “throwing all this old stuff out.”

It is hard to imagine a person working decades in the same job. We bounce around and change careers more than any generation before us. I think that is what drew me to Winifred. Can you imagine what you could see and document if you spent your entire working career at one company? My parents both had this luxury (that might be a stretch) of working for the same company and watching it evolve, seeing the highs and the lows and all the in between. I think this is a new way to look at history. We all hear the stories of the John Lennons, Joe Namaths, and Judy Garlands of the world, but what about the workers that watch them pass through each day? How would the Dakota compare today from let’s say 1960, 1970, 1980? One woman can tell us that story. We just have to look in the right places. 

Write About it Wednesday: Valkyrie, the Plot to Kill Hitler

“’The Nazis are destroying the heart of the true Germany! When the war is over, it will be people like us who will have to act!”

It doesn’t happen very often that I pick up a book, read the entire thing, and still have little clue of what is happening. I will be the first to admit that I do not come from a military background. Battle plans, defense tactics and flanking locations are a bit over my head. I swear I read all 170 pages and still can’t tell you with any form of certainty that I understood even half of it. Sadly, I had to look up some terms using Google to make sure I was understanding the “lingo.” Embarrassing right?

The book is written from Philipp von Boeselager’s perspective with emphasis on his and his brother’s role in the conspiracy. The first 50 pages or so detail the casualties and concerns of war that led them to join against Hitler. They both grew up with military aspirations, and their father was a member of the Nazi party. The soldier’s perspective on what was occurring versus the reality lends a different view of events. They didn’t know all of the evil going on around them until later in the war when their top priority had to be keeping their men safe and returning home. Philipp was officially tipped over to the resistance movement after reading military documents stating that special treatment was being given to Jews and gypsies. After further research the treatment was cold blooded murder and the goal was complete liquidation. The group grew to upwards of 30 committed conspirators with Philipp occupying the role of chief explosive expert. There were several failed assassination attempts, and a gradual evolution of the mission. It was no longer just an isolated assassination but the beginning of complete overthrow of the regime. Unfortunately all attempts failed.

I did not like this book, but not because it was challenging. I wanted understanding instead of battle facts, dates, locations, and additional details that take up the majority of pages. In fact, this may be the one case where the movie is actually better than the book. (Yes, I said it) I have such a heart for research but this has turned me completely away from looking into the conspiracies further. Maybe I will get a second wind eventually, but for now: Goodbye Valkyrie!

Book Review Saturday: The Great Trouble

“We don’t know enough to stop the course of the disease. I can only hope to save those who have not fallen ill.”

The Great Trouble is a young adult novel about the Cholera Epidemic of 1854 in London. It is narrated through the eyes of Eel, an orphan mudlark who is on the run from Fisheye Bill Tyler. Eel has to find odd jobs to keep him and his brother fed and sheltered because his mother has passed away. His luck seems to be turning around because he is working at Lion Brewery which provides a roof over his head, money in his pocket and the opportunity to work other side jobs as well. He manages to hide from Fisheye and continue paying for his brothers boarding until he is accused of stealing from the Lion by a bratty nephew of the owner. On his way to prove himself by locating one of his side employers he discovers that cholera has begun to pass through the neighborhood. The first victim appears to be the tailor that can vouch for him and save his job at the Lion. With the tailor on his deathbed he must turn to Dr. Snow, but the doctor is busy and his case seems hopeless to prove. Once he locates the doctor, he decides to ask him to help the neighborhood with its current cholera epidemic instead and they embark on a journey of discovery to find the root cause behind the disease. The reader can’t forget Fisheye because he makes his appearance at the most inopportune time. Will they be able to make the discovery and save lives? Will the girl he likes fall victim to cholera and survive? The story has no gaps for action and keeps the reader entertained throughout.

This book is a fantastic work of historical fiction for younger audiences. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Dr. Snow and Eel’s discoveries. The book is well researched and blends fictional and historical characters together with ease. I think the narration from a younger perspective allows kids to relate to a time long ago when things were hard and children were often forced to fend for themselves. I could picture myself drinking from the Broad Street Pump or breathing in the foul air that hung over London. The descriptions and story line show a mastery of writing. I enjoyed the opening to each part containing a quote from the past, and the author’s note containing real information about the epidemic and characters. I would have done the research on my own and this saved me from another round with Google.

What is your favorite young adult book? I have been looking for more historical fiction for this age group but the choices seem to be narrow. I enjoy a book that takes me back in time and allows me to experience something on a large scale. I would never have known about the Cholera Epidemic that plagued London without this story, and that is why I read. To know everything. Maybe one day right?

Write About it Wednesday: The Race to Fingerprints

“I look forward to a time when every convict shall have prints taken of his fingers by the prison photographer, at the beginning and end of his imprisonment, and a register made of them; …”

Why do all great inventions have a battle ongoing between who invented or created something first? It’s fascinating but only extensive research leads us to the “right” answer. I have taken quite a few criminal justice classes and fingerprinting is covered quickly and without historical significance. My need to know brain can’t accept that. Every time I dive into the history of crime there are fifteen new questions or ideas to look into further.

In my opinion (aka this blog post), four people are key to the background of fingerprinting. William James Herschel was given charge of a subdivision in Bengal, India during British rule. In an attempt to prevent contract disputes, he demanded his contractors to stamp their hand on contracts to ensure the signature could not be denied. It was common in this time period for workers to declare their signatures fraudulent in order to get out of work for the British. He also introduced the idea of using two fingerprints on leases for authenticity. This was not a new concept nor widely accepted.


The second is Henry Faulds. He was a doctor, lecturer and missionary who stumbled upon ancient pottery with minute patterns of parallel lines. This peaked his interest in fingerprints and he began inking thousands of subjects’ fingers, requiring all ten for research. He used the fingerprints to prove the innocence of two of his staff members for separate crimes where a fingerprint was found at the scene. He set out to prove that fingerprints a) stay the same throughout your life and b) are unique to the individual. Fauld wrote a letter to the scientific magazine, Nature, and it was the first scientific literature to suggest the basic concepts of fingerprints for identification. It was not well received and his letters to police departments across the world were left unanswered.

Thirdly, we have Alphonse Bertillon who was eager to see his method of identification rule the world. He had a woman to impress and that seems to lend motivation to most men. He used eleven separate body measurements for identification of habitual criminals. His original proposal was refused because it was poorly written and the police had little faith in new scientific discoveries. He was given a three month window of opportunity to show that his system could work. He was successful and the success continued to grow as time went on. His identification system aided the new Relegation Law in France that focused on increasing the punishment for repeat offenders.


In walks our fourth key player, the man that takes credit for all of it. A person that I will be researching more thoroughly because I hate when men steal credit from others. I will not outright bash the man before I’ve done my research but what little I have found does not bode well for his character. Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin, wants to build a genetically superior race of men. Did this instantly make you think Hitler? Because I did. He decides to utilize Bertillon’s measurements for his new race and stumbles upon the research of Faulds to assist in identification. Instead of corresponding with Faulds (he believed him to be of lower class) he worked with Herschel to develop his lecture, “Personal Identification and Description.” He had worked with the Herschel family previously on his research of heredity, and believed him to be of the elite class of thinkers. He did mention Faulds but only in passing and after he quoted several descriptions of Herschel’s research. Galton published his comprehensive book, Finger Prints, in 1892. Galton did not relish in his success though because of the lack of relevance of prints to his eugenic studies. The promotion for identification fell to Herschel who wrote to the Chief Secretary to the Government of Bengal along with a copy of Galton’s book.

This story is going to stay with me for quite some time. I do not understand why I’ve never heard of Galton and how this could have unfolded with so little credit to Faulds. And yet again, India is brought into the mix. India under British rule seems to be following my every move. There is a story for me to write if I will just sit down and do it. I know this is only a short overview but what are your opinions? Do you think Faulds was cheated? Would you like to hear more of the story? 

Write About it Wednesday: Versailles 

“It’s truly one of the wonders of Europe and a place you’ll want to explore, either in person or as an arm-chair traveler with a good book.”

I have read a tremendous amount of work on the French Revolution. I could be considered somewhat obsessed, but I have never taken the time to find out information about Versailles. I ran across this short overview that has helped answer a few questions and led me to some interactive tours online. I wanted to share a few things with you in hopes that you may become as obsessed as I am and add a visit to your bucket list. Most importantly you will get a prelude before my review of Where the Light Falls by Allison and Owen Pataki. The novel is set during the French Revolution and the prologue is an instant trip to the guillotine.

Louis XIV wanted to build a palace to preserve his father’s favored hunting cottage. A grand palace and elaborate gardens were commissioned to be built surrounding the current cottage, but the land was a mosquito infested swamp. It took approximately 40,000 laborers working day and night without care for their safety to construct the palace and gardens. The king moved his entire court to live permanently in 1677 and began hosting elaborate celebrations and festivals. After Louis XIV’s death, the seat of government was moved back to Paris until Louis XV, now king, returned to Versailles at the age of 12. Louis XV ignored the advice of his great grandfather and began entering into numerous wars at the expense of the poor of his own country. The aristocracy were not required to pay taxes and the burden fell solely on the lower class. At Louis XV’s death, Louis XVI took control of a kingdom in debt and on the verge of revolution with a wife that enjoyed spending on designer fashion and elaborate parties. It was not a great combination.

Louis XVI was advised to begin taxing nobility. This was obviously not a popular solution and the massive debt reached its peak in 1778 when he agreed to help Americans in the war for their Independence. This decision led to his downfall and the seeds of their own revolution. The French wanted freedom from taxation like the Americans and a republic instead of a monarchy where their voices would be heard. Revolutionaries storm the Bastille and begin the reign of terror known as the French Revolution. Versailles is raided by an angry mob on October 6, 1789. I did not find a detailed account of the amount of damage that occurred, but it would be an interesting topic to research. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are executed in 1793 and France is in a mass upheaval. The bloodshed and terror that occurred are featured in numerous books and movies still being released today.


In 1833, Versailles was turned into a museum that is still open for tours. It is the 39th most popular place in the world and approximately 5.9 million people visit each year. You can tour the different rooms and gardens online at their website: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/. The Hall of Mirrors seems to be the favorite choice amongst guests boasting more than 578 mirrors. It is the site where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 ending World War One.

Have any of you visited Versailles? Is it on your bucket list? I would love to hear from you!